Poet laureate and a hidden history of the Durham coalfield

The words of the poet laureate exploring a hidden history of the Durham coalfield is among the highlights of this year’s BRASS Festival

Simon Armitage and his band LYR will premiere new music at Durham Cathedral inspired by the incredible story of Durham’s ‘Category D’ villages.

The work is the result of a commission for the festival in partnership with the Durham Miners Association (DMA) and the Redhills charity.

In 1951, settlements across County Durham – mostly mining villages – were deemed by the local authority not to have an economically viable future. These ‘Category D’ villages would not receive any further public funding in the expectation that people would leave then their communities, enabling their demolition. 

Simon and the band have worked closely with the DMA and the Redhills charity to explore the story, visiting some of the communities and people affected by the category d story. 

Based on this, the critically acclaimed three piece  - Richard Walters, Patrick Pearson, and Simon –  have created new music called “Firm As A Rock We Stand: Commemoration and Celebration of County Durham’s ‘Category D’ Villages.”

It will premiere live at Durham Cathedral on Friday 15 July accompanied by Easington Colliery Brass Band. 

The festival will also feature the premiere of new music inspired by the history of the coalfield by Field Music and a headline performance by Richard Hawley accompanied by the NASUWT Riverside Brass Band.

"We are delighted that the culture and heritage of Durham’s mining communities, in all its depth and richness, is at the heart of this year’s Brass Festival. One important chapter of our story will be told in the words of the poet laureate, accompanied by brass band music in the setting of Durham Cathedral. It’s sure to be a powerful experience that raises awareness of the Category D story.”

– Nick Malyan, Redhills chief executive

Field Music’s new work ‘Binding Time – Songs and Stories from the Durham Coalfield’ was commissioned by BRASS in partnership with the DMA and the Redhills charity. The Sunderland duo – brothers Peter and David Brewis – will perform at the Gala Theatre on Sunday 10 July. 

BRASS Festival, one of the summer highlights of Durham County Council’s annual events programme, also features a host of community workshops, free concerts in communities, schools and care homes around the county, and a full programme of lively street bands.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the festival was postponed in 2021 but returns bigger and better than ever, with some of the UK’s finest artists booked to perform in iconic locations during the event.

Redhills, Durham Miners Hall, is currently closed for a major programme of restoration and renewal and is due to reopen in 2023. 

Tickets for all BRASS Festival events are on sale at 10am on Friday 18 March.