A Hetton band who draw inspiration from their colliery heritage will take to the stage at Glastonbury after being hand-picked by Billy Bragg.
Nine-piece Dennis caught the ear of the singer who asked them to perform on the stage he curates at the world’s most famous festival.
Now the band, who fuse folk with rock and colliery band music, are gearing up for their biggest gig to date on the Left Field stage on Sunday, June 25.
Made up of lead singer Dan Gibson, guitarist David Smith, bass player Jez Dickey, drummer Stuart Gibson, euphoniumist James Wright, trombone player Craig Hissett, Ella and Toby Renwick on cornet, horn and keyboard and trumpeter Steve White, the band honed its sounds in the region’s colliery bands.
So inspired are they by their brass band heritage, that they’ve coined the phrase ‘pit pop’ to describe their unique fusion sound.
David Smith said: “It was pretty special getting an email from Billy Bragg to appear at Glastonbury. We released our album, Open Your Eyes, in October and had sent him a copy. I think he connected with what we do because of the Miners’ Gala.”
They’ll be following in the footsteps of Frank Turner, Badly Drawn Boy and Kate Nash and speakers such as Ricky Tomlinson, Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn who have all appeared on the Left Field stage, which combines pop and politics in a bid to inspire activism.
Ahead of Glastonbury, which is headlined this year by Radiohead, Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran, the band has a busy summer of gigs.
One of particular importance to the band is a fundraiser for actor David Whitaker, from Hetton, who suffered a severe stroke while on stage in London’s West End in 2012.
The band will play Live Theatre in Newcastle on May 26 as part of a fundraiser for the actor - who made numerous TV, radio and stage appearances across the UK and in New York, including starring in The Pitmen Painters on Broadway - which it’s hoped can raise money to give him a better quality of life.
David Smith, who is the actor’s nephew, said: “He is currently in a care home in Fence Houses and is still in a wheelchair. Carers have to visit him and he needs vital therapies, which aren’t funded by the NHS. But we are doing all we can to keep him stimulated, such as with musical therapy.”
The band have also been signed up to play this year’s Durham Miners’ Gala Marras Festival, which also features Frankie & The Heartstrings and The Lightening Seeds, on July 7-8, as well as a performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, amongst many others.