Brassed off Grimethorpe Colliery Band appeal

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SOUTH Yorkshire’s Grimethorpe Colliery Band was made famous around the world after being immortalised in the film Brassed Off.

But one of the most historic musical ensembles in South Yorkshire could soon be forced to put down its instruments for good.

The band has been running in Barnsley since 1917, with generations of miners and amateur musicians passing through its ranks.

After the closure of the local pit 20 years ago, the band relied on sponsorship from a private mining firm headed by entrepreneur Richard Budge.

But in 2011 the company went bust, meaning the 27 musicians had to fill their calendar with bookings to generate cash to survive.

The group played 62 concerts around the world last year, including an appearance at the Olympic opening ceremony – a workload that manager Nigel Dixon said was impossible to maintain.

“Bearing in mind we’re all employed and we only do this as a hobby, it’s not sustainable,” he said. “We need an influx of cash to help us move forward. Once we’ve done all our concerts and recovered from that all our paid expenses, there’s a black hole of between £20,000 and £30,000.

“The average band only does two or three concerts a year, but we’re at the forefront worldwide. We went to Australia last year and did 11 concerts in 12 days.”

Nigel said the funding covers education and a youth band, as well as the cost of running the operation.

“If we don’t get kids playing brass instruments the movement doesn’t have a future,” he added. “It’s not just about Grimethorpe, it’s about the movement globally.”

Nigel said he felt the band was ‘taken for granted’ and added: “I don’t think people in general appreciate what they have – it’s like people who live in Sheffield and never go to the Peak District. When it’s there on your doorstep you perhaps take it for granted.

“We can help local people, that’s why we’ve put the education programme in place. People think we’re always going to be here, but I can foresee a day when brass bands no longer exist if we’re not careful.

“To me, the brass band is a tool to bring about social change in young people’s lives in deprived areas – as well as entertaining people.”

Michael Dugher, MP for Barnsley East which includes Grimethorpe, said brass bands were ‘undervalued and under appreciated’ in Britain.

“More resources are being committed but it is a drop in the ocean compared to other arts,” he said.

“The Government must re-examine its priorities and look at how it can distribute funding more fairly.”

Brassed Off was released in 1996, starring Ewan McGregor and Pete Postlethwaite in a story inspired by Grimethorpe’s struggles around the time of the pit closure.

* Visit Grimethorpe Band or call 01226 780981 for information or to help.