Songs of War

An offshoot of The Durham Hymns project, Songs of War was a highly successful workshop programme with men in Frankland high security prison.

The men at Frankland prison were given access to the same material that inspired Carol Ann Duffy’s lyrics for The Durham Hymns followed by a workshop session with Gill Parkes of Durham Record Office to put the material in context. They then worked in turn with four outstanding singer-songwriters: Barry Hyde, Elizabeth Corney, Lindsay Hannon and Bethany Elen Coyle, to create the lyrics and music for four new songs. 

The performers Photo credit: Alison Lister

Composer Steve Robson took the material and arranged each of the new works for brass. At all stages the work produced was a collaborative effort with a free exchange of ideas from prisoners, support staff, composers, arranger and the twelve brass musicians.

On the 25 February Songs of War was premiered at St Brandon’s Church Brancepeth with the four musicians backed by Durham Miners Brass Ensemble and conducted by Steve.

Barry Hyde Photo credit: Alison Lister


Elizabeth Corney, Lindsay Hannon, Bethany Elen Coyle Photo credit: Alison Lister

"I was very impressed at the immense amount of thought that every stage of the song had; there was nothing throwaway about any of the ideas, each had a strong meaning behind it and always a well thought out intelligent reason for each aspect of the song and the lyric."

Lindsay Hannon 

"I was hugely impressed by the knowledge of the subject matter that the group had and how well they worked together – it can be hard to create something as a group, as everyone has different ideas, but they were able to navigate those challenges and create some really beautiful melodies and lyrics."

Elizabeth Corney

Durham Miners Brass Ensemble Photo credit: Alison Lister

Songs of War was a County Durham Libraries project supported by: Arts Council England, Durham Prison Service and the Northern Regional Brass Band Trust.