The annual BRASS festival is well underway in County Durham, with a variety of world-class musicians visiting the county to get toes tapping and everybody swaying along.

BRASS began on Friday, with New Orleans street band Shake Em Up doing their stuff in Durham Market Place.

Friday also saw the Women and Brass concert at Durham’s Gala Theatre. The concert celebrated the legacy of band leader Ivy Benson, whose all-girl band became one of the most popular groups of the Second World War and the post-War period.

Drummer Crissy Lee – who played alongside Ivy – led the tributes. The audience were also treated to a display from Swedish trumpeter Gunhild Carling, whose performances have racked up millions of views on YouTube.

One of the aims of the BRASS festival is to get more young women playing brass instruments. Durham Music Service has noted an 8% increase in girls playing such instruments since 2015. At a recent UK university brass band championship, 55% of those taking part were female.

On Sunday, Durham was treated to BRASS Goes to Hollywood. This show involved West End star and local boy Matthew Gent getting together with the Scottish Swing Orchestra and the BRASS Hollywood Chorus to belt out a number of well-known tunes from musicals.

BRASS 2018
Street band Shake Em Up at BRASS 2018

Monday saw the festival’s first outdoor Big Brass Bash event at Shotton Hall, which featured the street bands Mrs Wilson’s Second Liners and Back Chat Brass, as well as the emerging female musicians of Breakout Brass.

Big Brass Bash events will be taking place in parks across County Durham until 20th July.

Today (18th July) will feature Brass for Sir Bobby – dedicated to swing lover Bobby Robson – at Durham Miners’ Association.

20th July will see the Bach and Brass event in the stunning surroundings of Durham Cathedral. This event will feature Durham Cathedral Choir and include two pieces showcasing Bach’s brilliant use of Brass instruments.

On Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd July, Streets of Brass will return to Durham City, with street bands from Spain, Serbia, France and the UK determined to have everyone up and dancing.

To find out more about BRASS 2018, and to book tickets for the remaining events, please visit

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