Many brass bands in the UK originated in industrial workplaces, either set up by the employer or by the workers themselves raising the money for instruments. They provided recreation for the workers and prestige for the company, provided music for community events and rallies, and often played a role in the trade union movement.
In the North East, many brass bands started life as Colliery bands. It is noteworthy that many of our volunteer tutors play for Colliery Bands: Backworth Colliery Band, Ashington Colliery Band, Easington Colliery Band and Ellington Colliery Band. Originally these bands consisted of working miners (all men of course) but over time, especially as the collieries declined and closed, people from other walks of life joined. Now, Colliery bands have a high percentage of women players, and include teachers, office workers, engineers, builders, cleaners, bar staff, children and students, retired people, etc. Nonetheless, they remain rooted in the communities they come from, and proud of the heritage and tradition they represent.
The plight of colliery brass bands during the pit closures of the 1990s is famously portrayed in the film “Brassed Off“. As Grimley Colliery faces closure, the band also faces its end but rallies round the dying conductor Danny Ormondroyd (played by Pete Postlethwaite) to win the coveted Championship Trophy at the Royal Albert Hall and starts to look forward to life after the pit has closed.
What sort of music do brass bands play?
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