Producers 'naive' over brass band struggles

Darlington and Stockton Times: BRASSED OFF: Darlington Civic Theatre BRASSED OFF: Darlington Civic Theatre

PRODUCERS of a theatre show about the demise of the coal industry have been accused of naivety following the withdrawal of a police band amid political sensitivities.

Last week, Durham Constabulary Brass Band pulled out of a forthcoming production of Brassed Off, to be staged at Darlington Civic Theatre in March.

Although the police band is made up of civilians, its involvement with the play ended when members of the mining community protested.

It was felt the involvement of a police band in a play about mining communities was insensitive and inappropriate, given the role of the police in the 1984 Miners’ strikes.

There were fears that members of the mining community could have protested outside the theatre if the police band had taken part.

The Touring Consortium Theatre Company (TCTC), which is producing the show, swiftly replaced the police band with the Durham Miners’ Association Band so they show could continue.

It has come in for criticism from John Steel, chairman of Cockerton Prize Silver Band, which was approached before the police band, but declined to take part because a fee was not on offer.

Mr Steel said: “If these shenanigans have done nothing else, they have unashamedly exposed the production company’s naivety of how many brass bands struggle to survive.

“The brass band movement is such an important constituent within the fabric of the social, political and industrial heritage of this country, not least the North-East.

“Whereas at one time every colliery and works would have its own band, over the last 50 years we have seen the demise of so many industries, with their bands vanishing because of lack of financial support.

“For the theatre company to expect to get a brass band on the cheap is, I think, demeaning to those bands who strive to keep the brass band genre alive.”

TCTC said it could not pay a fee to amateur musicians without getting into hot water with the Musicians’ Union.

The show runs at Darlington Civic Theatre from March 18 to 22. To book, visit darlingtoncivic.co.uk

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