Edinburgh Fringe director takes on top job at Durham Brass Festival

One of the world's leading festival directors, who ran the Edinburgh Fringe for eight years, is taking the top job at Durham's BRASS Festival ahead of its 10th birthday.

Monday, 9th May 2016, 11:30 am
Updated Monday, 9th May 2016, 12:31 pm
Dead Victorians on Framwellgate Bridge. 7th Durham International Brass Festival. Streets of Brass: Best of British.

Developed and delivered by Durham County Council, the annual celebration of the county’s musical culture and traditions returns to the region for 2016 from July 14 to 17.

And in a coup for the city, Paul Gudgin, who is sought worldwide for his festivals expertise, has been recruited as the event’s new artistic director.

Paul Gudgin

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Coun Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, arts and culture said: “BRASS is a fantastic event for Durham, attracting tens of thousands of music fans to the area and bringing hundreds of thousands of pounds into the local economy.

“It helps to keep the county firmly on the cultural map and by recruiting a festival director who brings such a wealth of experience we hope it will grow and go from strength to strength.

“BRASS has a well-deserved reputation and I’m looking forward to seeing this year’s festival once again really raise the bar and build on the success of previous years, bringing together an absolutely cracking line-up of big names and local talent and showcasing the very best music from around the world.”

Founded in 2006, BRASS celebrates its 10th anniversary this July, once again bringing together music from around the world alongside elements from Durham’s musical heritage.

Paul Gudgin

Paul Gudgin - himself a trombone player - joined the team in April and this summer will be visiting the festival before beginning the process of planning 2017’s event.

“Durham is an extraordinary place,” said Paul. “It’s a perfect festival destination and with the success of Lumiere, and now with the BRASS festival too, the city is really flexing its festival muscles.

“From pit bands to northern soul, there is such a strong tradition of brass music in the area and I feel it is important for the festival to maintain and enhance that reputation.

“Building on that tradition while developing new and innovative ideas to get even more people interested and involved in brass music will be key to the festivals success.”

The role of artistic director is a first for BRASS, which has grown to attract an audience of almost 40,000 people a year.

Paul has more than 25 years of experience, including the Bury St Edmunds Festival, City of London Festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and work as a

consultant on festivals and for festival cities all around the world, from New Zealand to Canada.

“One of the joys of the Fringe is that the programme includes almost everything you could imagine,” said Paul. “BRASS has a much tighter focus but for me the challenge will be how far it is possible to push the boundaries to get the broadest possible range of people and organisations involved in the festival in innovative and creative ways.”

BRASS aims to demonstrate the breadth and creativity of brass music, with a strong focus on new commissions and collaborative work, and performances across a range of genres including jazz, blues, rock, pop, indie, traditional and classical.

The festival, which is once again supported by Arts Council England’s National Portfolio, also brings together brass musicians and actors, theatre makers, dancers, and technology.

Paul said: “Brass music has always been about spectacle - and Durham lends itself to the visually spectacular.

“I am looking forward to creating events on a grand scale that will hopefully take the breath away.”

This year’s festival will welcome acts including the Grammy nominated Hot 8 Brass Band, the multi-award winning Fairey Brass Band, Oompah Brass, New York Brass Band, Funky Style Brass, Beat ‘n Blow, Always Marching Band and Les Traîne-Savates.

It will also, on July 16, see the premiere of the Durham Hymns. Written by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, with music by leading contemporary composers Orlando Gough, Jessica Curry and Jonathan Bates, the hymns have been inspired by the events and personal experiences of Durham soldiers and families during the First World War.

While one of the most popular aspects of the festival, the Streets of Brass, will return – with Paul hoping to develop it into something of international significance.

Paul said: “Streets of Brass is developing a strong reputation as a platform for international street bands and there is a real opportunity here for Durham to develop an international reputation as a significant showcase and launch pad for the world’s best street bands.”

For more information about the festival, and to book tickets, visit www.brassfestival.co.uk.