What's On

Your guide to everything in North East

Brassed Off heads to Darlington to mark 30th anniversary of The Miners' Strike

Barbara Hodgson reports on a rousing production of Brassed Off heading to Darlington to mark the 30th anniversary of the Miners' Strike

Photo credit: Nobby Clark John McArdle as as Danny in Brassed Off
John McArdle as as Danny in Brassed Off

Next month marks the 30th anniversary of the start of the 1984–85 miners’ strike that proved a defining point in the history of the country’s coal industry as well as in industrial relations.

The decimation of a proud industry and knock-on effect on local communities which were left forever changed after the near-year-long struggle was lost by the NUM, then one of the strongest unions in the country, was highlighted on the big screen in 1996 in the film Brassed Off, co-starring Teesside actor Stephen Tompkinson.

Written and directed by Mark Herman, the film, set in the fictional village of Grimley – based on the real South Yorkshire pit village of Grimethorpe – featured the fortunes of a colliery brass band after the closure of the pit. It was an examination of a fracturing community in close-up but had as much comedy and drama and its heart-warming humour lightened that grim reality starkly shown on screen.

With Ewan McGregor, Tara Fitzgerald and the late Pete Postlethwaite, and a soundtrack played by the real-life Grimethorpe Colliery Band, it was an enormous hit and now a stage musical adaptation, to commemorate the strike three decades on, is set to stir the passions and memories of former mining areas once again.

The production of Brassed Off, directed by Damian Cruden who was at the helm of the Olivier Award-winning The Railway Children, comes to Darlington Civic Theatre next month.

And to set the tone in readiness, the theatre is collaborating with Darlington Film Club to first screen the film next week.

Top Brass: Brassed Off Film Night will take place at The Forum, Borough Road, on Monday at 8pm.

And there will be a guest speaker at the screening with some personal insight into striking families of the time.

Lindsay Sykes, who grew up in Barnsley and whose father worked in Grimethorpe Colliery, will be taking part in a question-and-answer session with the theatre staff who have already seen the show.

Those who don’t know Brassed Off can expect an engaging multi-layered story which centres on a blossoming romance between colliery band member Andy and new starter and flugelhorn player Gloria.

It’s 1992, with Grimley Colliery under threat of closure and the brass band’s future uncertain.

But a national brass band competition at the Royal Albert Hall in London is looming and, for band leader Danny, winning is all important.

The stage show, produced by York Theatre Royal, Touring Consortium Theatre Company and Bolton Octagon, then comes to Darlington Civic Theatre from March 18-22.

Featuring rousing live music including Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez and Jerusalem, and a locally-cast brass band playing in the final scene, it will see John McArdle, best known as Billy Corkhill in Brookside, leading the cast as Danny.

There will be a free post-show cast talk on the Wednesday (no booking necessary) and a Brassed Off Theatre Open Morning on March 22, from 10.30am to 12.45pm when visitors can enjoy tours of the stage and set, a cast Q&A and arts and crafts activities. This is exclusively available to Brassed Off ticket holders.

For tickets to the show visit www.darlingtoncivic.co.uk or call 01325 486 555, and for tickets to see the film on March 3, which cost £3 and include free popcorn, contact darlingtonfilmclub@gmail.com.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer