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Arts development

We are responsible for co-ordinating arts activities across the county.

Our current programme

The arts festival programme is supported by a three year national portfolio funding agreement awarded by Arts Council England. The funding has been awarded to Gala Durham to create a festivals hub which supports key events in the cultural calendar. 

Brass: Durham International Festival

We develop and deliver BRASS: Durham International Festival.  BRASS is an annual celebration of musical culture that takes place across the whole of County Durham. The festival has firmly established a reputation for presenting a diverse and adventurous programme packed with music, spectacular outdoor performances, international collaborations, opera, dance and pioneering community and education work. This vibrant and hugely accessible festival is a testament to the strength of our brass tradition and the many excellent brass ensembles and bands that County Durham produces.

The festival is delivered through a number of strands, which include: 

  • headline programme of touring and newly commissioned work at venues across the county, and spectacular outdoor performances in towns and communities
  • BRASS: Pitch, a suite of specially commissioned projects, selected through an open call process, which create unique experiences for audiences
  • BRASS: Crescendo, the festival's outreach and learning programme, which ensures children, young people and the wider community have the opportunity to engage with world-class musicians and artists
  • Streets of BRASS, creating a festival atmosphere in Durham City with 'pop-up' performances from the very best international street bands, plus a showcase of collaborative work with local brass bands 

Durham Book Festival

We commission New Writing North to programme and produce Durham Book Festival.

Durham Book Festival is the North East's biggest annual celebration of books, bringing world-class speakers and a varied programme of unique events to venues throughout Durham. Durham Book Festival is the North East's biggest annual celebration of books, bringing world-class speakers and a varied programme of unique events to venues throughout Durham. A varied programme of unique events are presented at venues throughout Durham City and across the county. The festival is supported by Durham University, as well as the funding from the county council and Arts Council England.

Wider arts development programme

Public art

We provide information, advice and guidance to support public art projects in the county. Public art is defined as work produced by artists within the natural or built environment, encompassing a wide range of art forms and practices. We aim to encourage the highest quality of creativity and innovation in public art projects in County Durham. 

A highlight was the Apollo Pavillion restoration project. We worked with the local community in Peterlee to secure £336,000 of Heritage Lottery funding to restore Victor Pasmore's iconic piece of public art. This project is supported by an ongoing management and maintenance scheme and a community arts and education programme. The Apollo Pavilion was awarded a prestigious Civic Trust Award in 2010.

Creative industries

We want to support creative industries in County Durham to thrive. We working with partners to determine and implement the best ways of supporting the sector. There are several artists' networks operating in the county:

Filming Friendly

We also lead and co-ordinate the council's Get permission to film or photograph Partnership, which encourages more film and TV companies to use the county as a location for filming. Filming Friendly is supported by a network of contacts across other council services and partners such as Northern Film and Media, the police and other external organisations.

Children and young people

As part of the county's drive to support young people and to improve educational attainment, the role of the arts and creativity in education and community settings is important. We work in partnership with a range of organisations including The Forge to increase opportunities for children and young people to take part in high quality cultural activity.

Rural work

County Durham is a large, rural county and getting chances to experience the arts can be challenging for those living in more remote areas. We support Highlights Rural Touring Scheme to work with communities in the rural Durham Dales area to programme and promote live arts events of their choice.

Our aims

Our aims are: 

  • to support great art: encouraging and supporting arts activity that is both innovative and excellent
  • to increase the opportunities for people to take part in arts activity
  • to support arts activities that help to deliver the council's vision of an 'Altogether Better' Durham: Council Plan and service plans.

We work in partnership with a wide range of organisations to achieve these aims.

Useful links

We would like to acknowledge and thank our partners for helping us to deliver such a valuable and broad programme. You can find links to many of the organisations that we work with below:

Contact us
Arts Development
03000 265 552
Our address is:
  • Durham County Council
  • Northumbria House
  • Aykley Heads
  • Durham
  • County Durham
  • United Kingdom
  • DH1 5TS
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