Brass and bacchanalia

 The Big Meet in Durham, which takes place each year on the second weekend in July, is a characteristic North-Eastern blend of sweet music, serious drinking, sentimentality and the odd bout of fisticuffs.

This year’s guest speaker was Ken Livingstone and I was disappointed to miss it, not least to see how Ken’s nasal Lambeth twang went down with the Mackem crowd. I did make it last year whenI went to the one hundredth Miners’ Festival Service. It was a moving spectacle as brass bands from Layburn, Easington, Huddersfield, Dobcross, Westoe, and the National Union of Miners led their banners into the most beautiful cathedral in the world.

Tonight and tomorrow night, as part of the Durham International Festival, a new film about the history of coal mining in the north-east – and the important role of the brass bands – will be shown in the cathedral. Created by Bill Morrison, and Jóhann Jóhannsson, the film contrasts the harsh realities of pit work with the transcendental beauty of the music. The evening will include a live performance by both classically trained brass musicians and brass band players from the NASUWT Riverside Band.

Here is the NASUWT band playing at the G20 March in 2009:

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