In News

From Blackhall to Cheltenham

Posted by on Apr 16, 2020 | No Comments

The Story of the original Blackhall Youth Brass Band by David Peel

On the 12th March, just before the National Championship Regional Contest weekend, Durham Miners’ Association Brass Band held a joint concert with Blackhall Youth Band, and ensemble players from Durham University Brass Band. The youngsters from Blackhall showed amazing promise and the players from Durham University entertained the audience enormously. DMA band played a selection of pieces, including the test piece for the 2020 regional contest, The Golden Sabre. This joint concert lead one of our current players to look back on his time playing in the original Blackhall Youth Band.

Blackhall Youth Brass Band was formed in the late 1960’s and was conducted by Gerard Gregory. Soon after it amalgamated with the Easington Colliery youth section and conducting duties were taken over by Albert Haswell.

Back Row: Christine Hardman, Melanie Knowles, Karen Price, Paul Vickers, Phillip Martin, David Collingwood, Stephen Wears, Ann Emerson, Pamela Jones, Mark Aitchison.
Middle Row: Valerie Ord, Margaret Johnson, Nick Dufton, John Thirkell, Brian Martindale, George Major, David Peel, Tommy Haswell, Kathryn Martindale, Pamela Davies, Les Measor, Gary Hardman, Nicholas Crocker, Alison Haswell.
Front Row: David Aitchison, Graeme Ward, John Martindale, Trevor Knowles, Stuart Cockerill, David Bruce, Harry Greenwell, Peter Forster, Ian Lowes, Paul Carruthers, Jeff Wright.

The band rehearsed at Blackhall Middle School and quickly grew in membership, and soon began contesting with Albert at the helm. In 1972, the band entered its first contest at the Teesside International Eistedfodd playing Indian Summer, but didn’t win. In 1974, the Band returned to the Eistedfodd (just after I joined on Solo Trombone) and played Rule Britannia, achieving victory over Hebden Bridge Junior Band, with Harry Mortimer adjudicating.

The band then competed at a number of contests and prestigious events over the following years:


  • Butlins National Youth Competition.
  • National Festival of Music for Youth. Fairfield Halls, Croydon 1st Place playing Petite Suite de Ballet and Adagio from Spartacus.
  • Stockton on Tees Music Festival, Brass Bands, Schools. 1st Place.


  • Butlins National Youth Competition
  • National Festival of Music for Youth, 2nd Place
  • Rastede International Music Festival, Konzert Section, 1st Place playing Slavonic Rhapsody by C. Friedmann.


  • Durham League Contest, Thornley, 4th Section. 1st Place.
  • Northern Area, Newcastle City Hall, 4th Section. 1st Place playing Hungarian Fantasy.
  • National Festival of Music for Youth. Queen Elisabeth Hall, South Bank. 2nd Place playing Little Suite for Brass No. 1 by Arnold & Hootenanny.
  • Visit to Rastede, Germany, from 6th to 15th August:
    • Rastede International Music Festival. 1st Place playing From The New World Symphony. The band was also awarded the most points ever given at the festival!

The visit of “Sounds Fanfare” on an exchange visit with BYBB in April 1980 coincided with the last days of Albert’s life and he died during their visit. Just one month later, after a very poignant funeral, the band was gaining a creditable seventh place in the Senior Cup at Belle Vue with Albert’s successor, Cecil Peacock. A real tribute to Albert’s training of the Band.

Cecil introduced the band to the ways of the championship section, with the acquisition of sponsorship from AMOCO, the name of Blackhall Youth Brass Band disappeared.

During the AMOCO years the Band played at many prestigious events including:

  • The Town and Country Fair (3 times)
  • The Royal Show (the first civilian band to do so)
  • Ascot Racecourse
  • Doncaster Races (over 20 times)
  • Burleigh Horse Trials
  • Lincoln and Coventry Cathedral
  • National Ploughing Championships (twice)
  • Stoke Mandeville Hospital, which was attended by the late Diana Princess of Wales

During a visit to play at the East of England Show in Peterborough, the band were approached by a Rolls Royce Bentley dealership from Cheltenham called Broughtons Motors.  They asked us to play for them at the Cheltenham Gold Cup Festival on their stand selling Rollers and Bentleys.  It was a marvellous experience and were playing Love Changes Everything when Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber came over to ask us if he would receive any royalties!  However, he did sign the score for us.

The AMOCO sponsorship came to an end shortly afterwards but following negotiations between Broughtons, Cecil Peacock and Dick Quinn, Broughtons decided to sponsor the band.

The Band continued to play at the Gold Cup Meeting for another 3 years and also at many other functions for Broughtons including a concert in their car showroom surrounded by brand new Rolls Royces & Bentleys and a vintage Rolls Royce/Bentley rally at the company heads house at Courteen Hall, Northamptonshire.  The Band were ferried to the job from their hotel in a fleet of brand new Rolls Royces.

In 1994, Cecil left the band to return to Easington Colliery Band and I decided to go with him. After a few years with Easington, followed by a period of not playing, in 2018 I returned home to where it all began, the re-named Durham Miners Association Brass Band.

In Memory of Albert Haswell