Record-breaking numbers of people have enjoyed County Durham’s BRASS festival this year.

The festival – a 10-day celebration of a diverse range of brass-based music – attracted over 42,000 music fans.

BRASS – which ended with a free concert in Durham City’s Wharton Park on Sunday – also saw free events taking place in villages and towns across County Durham.

The festival featured ticketed concerts in venues such as Durham Cathedral, Durham Town Hall and the Gala Theatre, as well as events in care homes and schools.

16,000 pupils at 82 schools got to take part in activities and enjoy performances as part of BRASS.

The music on offer included swing, salsa, big band, choral classics and afrobeat, as well as brass-tinged dance music. One gig, by Mr Wilson’s Second Liners, merged New Orleans sounds with dance beats and was held – 1990s-rave-style – in a secret venue.

Streets of Brass saw street bands from across the globe playing outdoors in Durham City. Thousands of locals and visitors congregated in Durham Market Place and other spots to enjoy acts like Loud Noises, Back Chat Brass and Oompah Brass.

Brass 1 Streets of brass
Performers at Streets of Brass pose in front of the Big BRASS Bus

The Big BRASS Bus ferried musicians around the county, enabling performances in Bishop Auckland, Newton Aycliffe, Crook, Stanhope, Chester-le-Street, Spennymoor, Lanchester and Shildon.

An extra-special performance in Peterlee, meanwhile, celebrated the 50th birthday of the town’s Apollo Pavilion, a brave piece of modernist architecture named in honour of the moon landings.

The 50th anniversary of Durham’s twinning with the German university city of Tubingen, on the other hand, was celebrated with a beerhall-style evening of German music and food in Durham Town Hall.

Other incredible performances were delivered by Austrian eccentrics Mnozil Brass and the championship-winning Brighouse and Rastrick Band.

The Global Brass Live event used state-of-the-art technology to enable two bands 560 miles apart to deliver a joint concert while Strictly Come BRASSing combined dancing with big band music.

The theme of BRASS 2019 was brass and health, and a day of workshops and discussions explored the benefits music can bring to people’s physical and emotional wellbeing.

Durham County Council’s community arts team, Beamish Museum and the Alzheimer’s Society participated in a project called Dance Hall Days. This involved people with dementia and their carers looking through old photos, listening to records and discussing how music had enriched their lives.

The memories Dance Hall Days brought back inspired a concert at Beamish’s new 1950s Welfare Hall.

Durham County Council’s cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, Cllr Joy Allen, said, “Over the last ten days, the excitement and magic of brass has spread to towns and villages across the county and I have been blown away by the response we have had.”

“It has been wonderful to see people of all ages – from young school children to older care home residents – being uplifted and inspired by brass music.”

“The free parties in streets and parks brought communities together while also attracting visitors and boosting the economy.”

“That is why investing in the arts is so important; it raises aspirations, creates a sense of civic pride and builds on County Durham’s reputation as a cultural destination.”

You can see highlights from BRASS 2019 on Facebook at ‘BRASS International Festival’ and on Twitter and Instagram @DurhamBRASS.

For more information about cultural and sporting events in County Durham, please visit https://www.thisisdurham.com/19.

(This article’s main image shows Mr Wilson’s Second Liners performing at the Big Brass Bash in Crook.)


Get Durham Magazine direct to your inbox

* indicates required