A POLICE band has withdrawn from a theatre show about the decline of the coal industry after its involvement stirred up ill-feeling among the region’s mining community.
Durham Constabulary brass band had been lined up to play a major role in Brassed Off, at Darlington Civic Theatre, next month.
It has pulled out amid fears objectors could set up picket lines outside the theatre.
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Many members of the region’s mining community felt the involvement of a police band, albeit one made up of civilians, was insensitive in the context of the force’s role in the 1984 miners’ strikes.
That has left producers with just over three weeks to find a replacement so the show can go on.
Their task has been complicated by the fact that brass bands from across the North will take part in a demanding competition in Darlington the week before Brassed Off is due to open.
Producer Jenny King said a brass band is integral to the show, which is based on the 1996 film telling the story of a band in a fictional Yorkshire mining town where the pit is facing closure.
Durham Miners' Association, which objected to the police band’s involvement, is helping to find a replacement.
A post on the Facebook Durham Mining Communities, which has more than 2,000 followers, said the use of a police band was ‘inappropriate and insulting’.
Durham Miners’ Association said it was pleased the police band had pulled out, while stressing its support for the production.
A spokesman said: “We don’t want to embarrass [the production company] any more – we would like to help as much as possible to make [the production] a success.
“We will be encouraging people to go along and see it.”
The band said it was disappointed that a ‘small but vociferous’ number of people campaigned against its involvement.
Honorary secretary Neil Ibinson said: “Members were delighted to get the invitation and were looking forward to the production.
“However, due to the strength of feeling, we feel the only option is to withdraw.”
Mr Ibinson, 55, who plays solo euphonium in the band, said the band has a number of young members and he did not wish to expose them to potential protests.
He added: “There are no police officers in the band, we are all civilians.
“Many of us are from mining backgrounds and several, including myself, also used to play in colliery bands.
“We hope the producers are able to find a replacement band.”
Some of the band’s fee for performing in Brassed Off would have gone to local charities, Mr Ibinson said.
Assuming another band can be found, the show will run from March 18 to 22.