AN award-winning brass band that united a mining community is embarking on a year of celebrations to mark its 60th anniversary.

On January 26, 1954, representatives from Fishburn and District Workmen’s Social Club and Fishburn Colliery Federation Board signed an important document.

Within it, the club agreed to lend the board £250 to set up the Fishburn Colliery Welfare Band.

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Sixty years later, and 30 years after the colliery itself closed, Fishburn Band is still going strong, delighting people across the country with its musical prowess.

The signed document remains in the band’s possession, along with several photographs and old recordings from the early days.

For as much as the brass band is always looking forward, it is keen to honour its heritage and its diamond anniversary celebrations reflect both these aims.

Band manager Scott Meikle has planned an exciting programme of events to mark the major milestone - from a joint concert in Yarm, with Egglescliffe Comprehensive School; to performing at the Titanic museum in Belfast.

Plans are also being drawn up for a winter ball, a modern photo shoot, a special edition bottle of whisky and a new CD called Diamond Classics, featuring tunes from the 1950s to the present day.

“It is all about raising Fishburn Band’s profile and widening our audience,” said Mr Meikle.

“The band has been through some tough times like all bands but now it is stronger than ever. There is a real sense of camaraderie between our members.”

In July, the band will once again march in the Durham Miners’ Gala, which is the highlight of the year for dedicated supporter Billy Elliott.

The 66-year-old former miner, whose father George was one of the founding members of Fishburn Band, said: “There are not many bands still functioning and very few have their own banner.

“It is such a privilege to march through Durham with a champion section band.”

The band, which is a registered charity, has 35 members, aged 17 to 62, who attend rehearsals on Wednesday and Sunday nights at the former miners’ medical centre on Fishburn Industrial Estate.

New members of all ages are always welcome.

For more information about the band and the concert with Egglescliffe School on Friday, February 7, contact Mr Meikle on 07891944107.