Brassed Off

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Brassed Off
BrassedOff G1 C234.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mark Herman
Produced by Steve Abbott
Written by Mark Herman
Music by Trevor Jones
Cinematography Andy Collins
Edited by Michael Ellis
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 1 November 1996 (1996-11-01) (United Kingdom)
  • 23 May 1997 (1997-05-23) (United States)
Running time
107 min.
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget £2.8 million[1]
Box office £3 million[1]

Brassed Off is a 1996 British-American comedy-drama film written and directed by Mark Herman and starring Pete Postlethwaite, Tara Fitzgerald and Ewan McGregor.[2]

The film is about the troubles faced by a colliery brass band, following the closure of their pit. The soundtrack for the film was provided by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, and the plot is based on Grimethorpe's own struggles against pit closures. It is generally very positively received for its role in promoting brass bands and their music. Parts of the film make reference to the huge increase in suicides that resulted from the end of the coal industry in Britain, and the struggle to retain hope in the circumstances.


Gloria Mullins has been sent to her old hometown of Grimley to determine the profitability of the pit for the management of British Coal. She also plays the flugelhorn brilliantly, and is allowed to play with the local brass band after playing Concierto de Aranjuez with them, the band is made up of miners from whom she must conceal her purpose. She renews a childhood romance with Andy Barrow, which soon leads to complications. It is later revealed during a confrontation between Gloria and the management of the colliery that the decision to close the colliery had been made two years previously, and that this was to have gone ahead regardless of the findings of her report; the report simply being a public relations exercise to placate the miners and members of the public sympathetic to their plight.

The passionate band conductor, Danny Ormondroyd, finds he is fighting a losing battle to keep the rest of the band members committed. His son Phil is badly in debt and becomes a clown for children's parties, but fails to prevent his wife and children walking out on him. As Danny collapses in the street and is hospitalised, Phil suffers a mental breakdown while entertaining a group of children as part of a harvest festival in a church. Eventually he attempts suicide by trying to hang himself, but is taken to the hospital. Phil reveals to Danny that in light of the colliery's closure, the band has decided not to continue playing.

With the intention that it will be their last performance, the band, (in full uniform, and wearing their miner's helmets and cap lamps) play "Danny Boy" late at night outside the hospital. Andy, having lost his tenor horn in a bet, whistles along with his hands in his pockets. After they finish, they all switch off their lamps.

Meanwhile, as the colliery itself is finally closed, the band finds success in the national brass band competition. Andy wins his tenor horn back in a game of pool, and having forgiven Gloria, after she gives them the money she was paid to compile the report, (saying she does not want it because it's "dirty money") the band travel to the final at the Royal Albert Hall in London, (Birmingham Town Hall was used to film these scenes)[3] where they are amused by the woman on the P.A. system in the dressing room's inability to pronounce colliery. Before departing, Phil leaves a note for Danny saying that they are going to the finals. Danny arrives just in time to see the band win the competition with a stirring rendition of "The William Tell Overture", during which Phil notices his wife and children are in the audience. Danny refuses to accept the trophy stating that it is only human beings that matter and not music or the trophy and that "...this bloody government has systematically destroyed an entire industry. OUR industry. And not just our industry – our communities, our homes, our lives. All in the name of 'progress'. And for a few lousy bob". However, despite this moving gesture, another band member takes the trophy. The band celebrates their victory as Andy and Gloria kiss on the upper deck of an open-topped bus travelling through London, while the rest of the band play Land of Hope and Glory conducted by Danny.


Cast Characters Instrument
Ewan McGregor Andy Barrow Tenor Horn
Pete Postlethwaite Danny
Tara Fitzgerald Gloria Flugelhorn
Stephen Tompkinson Phil Trombone
Jim Carter Harry Euphonium
Philip Jackson Jim Bass
Peter Martin Ernie Bass
Melanie Hill Sandra
Sue Johnston Vera
Mary Healey Ida
Stephen Moore McKenzie (the colliery manager)
Peter Gunn Simmo


The film is set in "Grimley" in the mid-1990s which had been named as the poorest village in Britain two years earlier by the European Union. The nearby areas of the Dearne Valley and the Hemsworth area were also identified as in need of serious aid. The soundtrack for the film was recorded by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, the story roughly reflects Grimethorpe Colliery Band's history, and the film was largely shot in Grimethorpe.[3]


The film score for Brassed Off is composed by Trevor Jones[4] although some titles existed before Jones' commission as original compositions for brass band or arrangements, for example "Death or Glory" and "Floral Dance" respectively.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Death or Glory" – Robert Browne Hall[4]
  2. "A Sad Old Day"[4]
  3. "Floral Dance" – Katie Moss[4]
  4. "Aforementioned Essential Items"[4]
  5. "En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor" – Joaquín Rodrigo[4]
  6. "Years of Coal"[4]
  7. "March of the Cobblers" – Bob Barrett & Edrich Siebert[4]
  8. "There's More Important Things in Life"[4]
  9. "Cross of Honour" – William Rimmer[4]
  10. "Jerusalem" – Hubert Parry[4]
  11. "Florentiner March" – Julius Fučík[4]
  12. Danny Boy[4]
  13. "We'll Find a Way"[4]
  14. "Clog Dance" – John Marcangelo[4]
  15. "Colonel Bogey" – Kenneth Alford[4]
  16. "All Things Bright and Beautiful" – William Henry Monk arranged Simon Kerwin[4]
  17. "William Tell Overture" – Gioachino Rossini arranged G.J. Grant[4]
  18. "Honest Decent Human Beings"[4]
  19. "Pomp and Circumstance" – Edward Elgar arranged Ord Hume[4]

In popular culture[edit]

A sample of a monologue performed by the main character Danny (Pete Postlethwaite) is used in the opening of the song Tubthumping, on the 1997 Chumbawamba album Tubthumper: "Truth is, I thought it mattered; I thought that music mattered. But does it bollocks! Not compared to how people matter".[5] The album also ends with the final lines of the same monologue: "Oh, aye, they can knock out a bloody good tune, but what the fuck does that matter? Now I'm going to take my boys out onto the town. Thank you."[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Walker, Alexander (2005), Icons in the Fire: The Rise and Fall of Practically Everyone in the British Film Industry 1984–2000, Orion, p. 280 .
  2. ^ Holden, Stephen (23 May 1997). "Brassed Off (1996) Sentimental Coal Dust With a Brass Band". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ a b "Brassed Off filming locations", UK on screen .
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Brassed Off" (listing for the soundtrack). Amazon. Retrieved 4 January 2010. 
  5. ^ Vallance, Tom (4 January 2011). "Pete Postlethwaite: Distinctive, prolific actor, acclaimed by Spielberg as 'the best in the world'". The Independent. 

External links[edit]