A GALA eve concert is being dedicated to the man who worked tirelessly to keep his village band going.

Billy Elliott was known as Fishburn Band’s biggest supporter and spent decades working to make sure it did not fold and to maintain the village’s pride in its mining roots.

This year’s gala eve concert, which takes place in Fishburn Working Mens Club, is being dedicated to Mr Elliott, following his death last year.

Mr Elliott, who was 71 when he died last November, was a passionate supporter of the gala.

John Elliott, his son, said: “The gala was massive for my dad. He lived for it.

“He was the one in the village who kept Fishburn supporting it and continuing with the brass band and the tradition of the banner going in.”

Known for his sense of humour, Mr Elliott retired as a result of ill-health following the closure of Vane Tempest Colliery, Seaham, in 1993 and dedicated the rest of his days to keeping afloat Fishburn Band - co-founded by his father George Elliott.

Arranging sponsorship for the band, he also led the banner into the gala for about 30 years until poor health meant he was no longer able to do it.

Since 2011, his granddaughter Leonie Hobson, 20, has taken up his place and will continue the tradition on Saturday.

Mr Elliott will he honoured at this year’s event, following Fishburn Band’s annual rendition of Gresford – The Miners’ Hymn.

Ross Forbes, from the Durham Miners’ Association, said: “He is a very important man in the history of the gala.

“He was absolutely one of mainstays of the gala and the banner group movement.

“Without Billy Elliott and many others, it’s possible the gala would not be here. It’s the effort and commitment of the banner groups that is the core of the gala.”

Anne-Marie Gavin, Mr Elliott’s daughter, said: “My dad was a big supporter of Fishburn Band. It was his dad that started it and I think it was because his dad died down the pit when he was five-years-old that he wanted to do it. It was his way of getting close.

“Now it’s the tradition of the family. We’ve always loved and supported the band.”

The concert on Friday starts at 6.30pm. On the night, money raised at Mr Elliott’s funeral will be handed over to the band as his final sponsorship of it.