The DMA Band's journey to 'The Big Meeting'

The Durham Miners Association Brass Band will launch their new CD at a free concert celebrating the music of the Miners' Gala on Saturday 21 May. The project developed during lockdown. Ahead of the launch, flugelhorn player Philippa Smith shares the band's story...


Bringing a musical soundscape of Durham Miners' Gala to those near and far …

The initial concept of “The Big Meeting” CD came from the enjoyment and entertainment the Miners' Gala brings to the thousands who flock the streets of Durham City on the second Saturday in July. Therefore, our next band project became the planning, recording and production of a CD filled with Miners’ Gala classics, immersing those from far and wide to enjoy the sounds of the iconic, heritage filled day.

With the devastating global COVID-19 pandemic locking down the UK in March 2020, plans for the CD initially halted. Although we were unable to rehearse or perform together for many months, we remained a strong support group for one another through regular Zoom quizzes and chats. During these virtual gatherings, it did not take long for the wheels to set in motion again as ideas for the CD became a new focus for the band.

Due to minimal fundraising opportunities in 2020, producing this CD would use a substantial amount of the band’s funds. However, with thanks to Crowdfunder’s free fundraising platform and the support of Brass Bands England #SaveOurBrassBands campaign, promotion online and through radio broadcasting, over £3000 towards our CD project was raised throughout 2020/2021 thanks to the generous donations of supporters.

Making music again

Lockdown restrictions began easing in England by spring/summer 2021, and the brass band movement was slowly reviving itself into a new ‘normality’. We were more than ready to get the next phase of the project started.

The band are always honoured to begin our gala day journey outside the gates of Redhills – The Pitman’s Parliament, and the next stage to bring the CD to life was no different. 

Marches, crowd favourites, hymns and reflective melodies filled the rafters of this historic and heritage filled building over two recording sessions in the summer and autumn of 2021.

With the disappointment of the cancellation of 150th The Miner’s Gala for the second year running due to COVID-19 concerns, the brass sounds reverberating around Redhills during the recording, reminiscent of bands marching up Silver street and Saddlers street, or echoing through the nave and transepts of Durham Cathedral, were spine-chilling and evocative.

A community project

Our community, like many others, saw a rise in unemployment and a lack of available work during the pandemic, especially for those in the arts and entertainment sectors. The band always receive great support from the community, and we wanted to ‘give back’ and try to make a difference to some of our local entrepreneurs through this project. This was fulfilled by offering the opportunity for a local artist and poets to win the chance to be a part of the project. There was a tremendous response, with numerous pieces of artwork and poetry submitted. From this, an artist and three poets feature on the CD. Not only that, but a local sound technician and production company were selected to help us achieve the final product.

Enjoy the music

“The Big Meeting” is a CD full of carefully selected pieces, chosen to reflect the journey of the bands and crowds through Durham City at the Miners’ Gala. Start the journey at Redhills, then onto the city with rousing marches, entertain the crowds in Durham Market Place and at the County Hotel with good old sing-alongs, then remember those who worked and died in the mines in the reflective Miners Service in Durham Cathedral.

Thanks to the support of The Durham Miners’ Association and The Marras, the CD release will be celebrated on Saturday 21st May 2022 at Elvet Methodist Church, Durham, with a free concert from the Durham Miners’ Association Brass Band.

Come along to the concert and enjoy an evening full of music and entertainment.

Your free tickets can be purchased here -

Purchase a copy of the CD and immerse yourself in the sounds of The Big Meeting all year round.

For more information about the band or this project contact – [email protected]

The author, Philippa Smith, pictured marching with the band at the most recent Durham Miners Gala, on Saturday 13 July 2019.