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Tale of Elvet circus train revived at Brass festival.

Byline: Will Metcalfe Reporter

THE story of a train passing through a long-defunct Durham station has inspired one of the country's best-loved poets to create a multimedia masterpiece. Now an almost legendary story in some corners of County Durham, the Elvet station circus train is set to be brought back to life with a little bit of help from poet Ian McMillan, composer Luke Carver Goss and Private Eye cartoonist Tony Husband.

The trio will perform as part of Durham Brass Festival on July 18 with a fictionalised account from the Barnsley FC poet in residence, Ian McMillan.

After being contacted by Luke, Ian began to research ideas for the project and turned to his love of trains and railways for inspiration.

"I'm interested in trains and I was looking up lost stations and I found Elvet - it seemed so weird that more or less the last train that they know about there was a circus train," he said.

"This excited Luke, because of the circus type music - it just seemed the perfect match."

After a workshop with local schools the duo composed a song, a version of which Luke says will feature in the final performance.

Though based on fact and the story of a 1953 train carrying circus performers at the now closed Elvet Station, Ian admitted he had taken a fanciful turn with the plot.

After the circus train leaves the station some carriages separate and on arriving at the next stop on the tour, circus staff have to devise a way of finding the missing carriages and ensuring the show goes on.

Luke, who composed music used during the London 2012 Olympics, said the challenge of keeping the soundtrack fresh while ensuring a circus theme had kept composing the piece interesting.

Along with accordions and accompaniment from the Tredegar Town Band, Tony Husband will be drawing live along with the piece, with his illustrations projected as he creates them.

Ian added: "Brass is a fantastic festival and I love the brass band movement.

"What I like is the mix of old and new. It's a very forward-looking movement and a place like Durham, it's at the heartland."

Ian said the biggest challenge was remembering the audience will hear the piece just once and ensuring his story was memorable but easy to follow.

He added: "If it's just me doing the words I'm much freer. Working with composers - which is something I do a lot, I often end up writing too many words.

"At the moment I'm writing an opera in Yorkshire dialect, and with that, like Last Train to Elvet, I have to remember that words are only half of it."

Last Train to Elvet takes place on July 18 at Elvet Methodist Chapel visit for ticket information.

It seemed so weird that more or less the last train they know about there was a circus trainIan McMillan


Ian McMillan with Luke Carver Goss - the pair have written Last Train to Elvet for this year's Durham Brass festival

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 11, 2015
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