Strange & Quirky

Well most of you know, we are both partial to some musical entertainment, and, our tastes are quite varied.  From rock concerts to opera and bluegrass to folk festivals we have had great experiences...but this would be an all new thang for us!

Sunday 17 July, 2017, - Venue - The Market Square, Durham, England, The Big Brass Bash Festival.

The Blonde - Durham is just 10 miles down the road from our overnight stop at Washington, Tyne & Wear. As we drove into the city I recognised the area where I lived as a very small girl before moving to Halifax. In fact a number of places seemed quite familiar which is pretty surprising seeing as I was only 6 years old when we moved from the area.

Our plan today is to visit the Cathedral, take breakfast at an organic riverside cafe followed by a riverside walk and then the Big Brass Festival. The last part is the highlight and we will follow the bands across the city as they play in different locations - yards with Pop Up bars, riverside locations, outside the theatre and in the lovely Market Place where my brother pulled out one of my teeth when I was 6!

The Bear - This is MY day!!  Yesterday The Blonde had me wandering around looking for Pictish Stones (another blog coming soon!), and in search of LS Lowry paintings at the sites they depicted located in and around Berwick-On-Tweed. Lowry is not my thing! Philistine that I am! But today....

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For Durham this is the 11th year celebrating the best of brass, from soul to jazz to traditional and classical, across ten days in one of the North East's most special cities. From the online search we had done on the Festival it was hard to know just what to expect.

The Blonde - The costumes that some of the bands wear are definitely not gold brocade and epaulettes. But the name of the festival certainly evokes images of the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band and a bit of oompah-pah from the movie Brassed Off. So when we heard the first sounds of music from Fowler's Yard alongside the river we raced along and we're delighted to find a group of 9 young musicians with grubby brass instruments, wearing some colourful little skirts and definitely not paying oompah!

The "Artistas del Gremio" from Spain played and cavorted, jumped and twirled and were funny and entertaining as well as being great musicians. Just how they managed to find enough breath to play their instruments with all the dance routines is hard to believe - even though they all had great, gym-toned bodies....mmmmm, eye candy!!

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We watched their entire performance and then followed them to their next location and watched a whole different set - this time outside the Whisky Bar on the riverside with easy access to alcoholic refreshments for The Bear!

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Next was the Mr Wilson's Second Liners dressed in captains hats and neon colored tie-dye shirts, deck shoes and white trousers with the exception of the percussionist whose long hair was wrapped in a turban and he sported a white kilt, with matching white boxing boots.

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His array of drums, cymbals and cowbells is on a frame over his shoulders and balanced on a wheel so he can move around like the rest of the band. I'm fascinated by him. He's quite a character as well as an indefatigable musician. What energy behind that beard and sly look under his turban!

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The name of this band comes from New Orleans where funerals are celebrated in real musical style, with noisy brass bands processing through the streets. The main section of the parade is known as First Line, but the real fun starts with the Second Line, those who follow the band to enjoy the music, marching with the musicians and twirling parasols or waving handkerchiefs.

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To hear and see Mr. Wilsons....go to:

The third band, The Ooz Band from France also had their own distinctive dress - leather motorbike helmets and goggles, orange and black assorted singlets, workman trousers and leather motorbike salopettes. The Bear said that technically this band was probably the best. I loved them all.

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The OOZ Band - click here to see them loud and live:

We stood up for hours but it didn't matter. (I did find some delicious fish and chips to sustain us about 3pm!). In the finale all the bands marched into the Market Place and then played a James Brown number together in front of the big pink festival bus.

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It was a fantastic end to a brilliant day. The crowd was huge and the day was really hot and sunny. Perfect. Thank you to the Durham County Council and the Arts Council and various sponsors for making such a superb event free. And as yesterday was all about me, today was much more to The Bear's liking!

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BRASS sets out to change perceptions about brass music and develop new audiences through demonstrating the breadth and creativity of brass in music. The Festival has a strong focus on new commissions and collaborative work, and encompasses brass-inspired performances from a range of musical genres including jazz, blues, rock, pop, indie, traditional and classical. BRASS also brings together creative collaborations between brass musicians and actors, theatre makers, dancers, and technology. Since April 2012, BRASS has been supported by Arts Council England’s National Portfolio. The festival is run by Durham County Council. If we have the chance to be in this area another year for the festival we will definitely take the opportunity to attend as many of the week long events as we can.

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Amanda & David Wood

Explore, Dream & Discover

For the next five years or so we will become true earthroamers as we drive around the world.

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