How music builds a sense of community

Brassed Off: Coliseum Theatre Oldham until October 1st.
Brassed Off: Coliseum Theatre Oldham until October 1st.

I think by now everyone knows the plot of Brassed Off, writes Pippa Munro Hebden.

Grimley Colliery Band faces being disbanded if Grimley pit closes and the effect this has on band leader Danny (Ged McKenna), his debt ridden son Phil (Paul Barnhill) and Phil’s wife Sandra (Natalie Grady) as well as Harry (Howard Chadwick) and Jim (John Elkington) plus wives Vera (Una McNulty) and Vera (Isabel Ford).

It also affects young Andy (George Brockbanks) who meets his childhood sweetheart Gloria (Rachael Garnett) who has returned to Grimley as part of a “management” project.

Foxton’s design helps the action to move seamlessly from pit head to Phil’s house, the neighbourhood and the band room. Thomas Weir plays Shane, the narrator and also a boy of 10. Kevin Shaw’s direction is well paced.

Of course, Brassed Off gives a wonderful opportunity to highlight local brass bands and four are participating in the run. Clearly brass bands didn’t disappear along with the pits. The music is splendid. Brass bands and mining are not my history. Bagpipes, drums and shipbuilding are more familiar.

However, this story, first written as a screenplay in 1996 still has relevance. It is funny, poignant and at the end overtly political.

The decline of some of our industries still affects communities. We only have to think of the steel and oil industries today. I have been enjoying The Great Orchestra Challenge on television and so I understood why Danny is so passionate about the brass band. Music really does help build a sense of community as does art (The Pitmen Painters was one of the Coliseum’s great successes) and let’s not forget theatre and Drama.

The Oldham Coliseum theatre does have a real sense of community, a very friendly place. Their next production sounds terrific fun. Jumpers for Goalposts (October 7th to 22nd) follows the attempts of an LGBT footie team to win a few matches driven on by their bossy new manager coach. Another way of creating communities?

Brassed Off: Coliseum Theatre Oldham until October 1st.