July 8, 2008

Band’s Booking Leaves Some Brassed Off

ORGANISERS of a music festival which aims to bring pride back to a deprived Yorkshire community should have had no trouble finding performers with a world-famous brass band practising on the doorstep.

But they have brought in some of the village's biggest rivals to play during this week's show, as their home-grown musicians will not be taking part.

The Grimethorpe Colliery Band and the village where it was formed became famous after the 1996 film Brassed Off, which told the story of struggling pit musicians during the demise of coal mining. The band provided the soundtrack to the film.

Since then, the band's star has risen, but now it has emerged it will not be playing at the first celebration of Grimethorpe's musical heritage since the pit shut.

Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Brass Band, which has historically faced Grimethorpe in bitterly contested competitions, has now been booked instead - causing what organisers called "much muttering".

Vicar Peter Needham, who is behind the music festival, said the Grimethorpe band had been invited.

"Obviously we were very disappointed that the Grimethorpe Colliery Band couldn't come and play.

"One of the former members of the band asked me how I had dared to invite the Carlton Main Frickley Colliery band to Grimethorpe, and told me that nobody in the village would come and hear them.

"But when I asked my congregations in both Grimethorpe and nearby Brierley they told me that they would be interested in hearing the band and encouraged me to go on with the idea."

When Mr Needham arrived in Grimethorpe six years ago, the community was on the verge of collapse following the colliery's closure, with even the cricket club unable to mow its pitches without use of pit equipment.

The substantial red brick church of St Luke the Evangelist, which was built at the heart of the village in the 1900s, was ruined. The parochial church council was so overwhelmed it was considering demolition and sale to a developer.

Mr Needham said he was set a fundraising target of Pounds 1.5m to bring the church back up to a decent state of repair and make it the cultural and

spiritual heart of the village as well as its geographical


Initially he had massive success, securing a Pounds 288,000 donation to repair the exterior and raising Pounds 70,000 with a pilgrimage to Padua where St Luke's remains are said to buried, and a barefoot

walk from Grimethorpe to York.

But the church was recently refused a lottery grant, and the music festival, which centres on St Luke's, was designed to raise more cash and lift spirits following the setback.

Grimethorpe Colliery Band's manager Terry Webster said there was no "non-allegiance to Grimethorpe" and claimed that he had not even heard of the music festival plans.

He added: "To the best of my knowledge we have had no invitation. The leader of the Frickley band contacted me last week after they were booked to ask me why we weren't playing. He thought it was strange.

"We played at the opening of the medical centre a few weeks ago and we are happy to support the village. But when you don't get asked you take other bookings and we are playing in Southend next weekend."

The festival begins on Thursday at Brierley Church with a concert by local schoolchildren. The Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band appears on Friday night at St Luke's and an event starring rock band The Skollies will also be hosted on Saturday.

The Grimethorpe and District Band, which was historically the junior band to Grimethorpe Colliery, will also take part in a service at the church on Sunday night. After the mass there will be a concert by Wakefield Gospel Choir.

Tickets cost Pounds 15 for the whole weekend, with a concession rate of Pounds 13. Tickets are also available for individual events. For more details call 01226 717561.

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