For the past six months I have been working with interdisciplinary arts agency Forma on touring The Miners’ Hymns, a film by American artist Bill Morrison with an original score by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. The work is composed of archival footage of the Durham coalfield over the past 100 years, assembled with recent footage of colliery sites as they are now, unrecognisable as the pits they once were, unmemorialised as they lie buried under supermarkets, car parks and dry ski slopes.
The film has travelled to a variety of venues across the UK with more than 30 screening events that have included brass band performances, panel discussions and presentation of mining objects. The response from audiences has been emotional; with the work moving people whose families and communities were once involved in mining and who are still proud of what was once a great British industry. (I too come from Welsh mining stock so share in this lamentation of what once was).
But it’s not over yet… in March to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the start of the Miners’ Strike Forma will be presenting live performances of the work at Sage Gateshead; Easington Social Welfare Centre; and Barbican, London. A special brass ensemble, the Iskra String Quartet and Jóhann Jóhannsson will perform the soundtrack live at these concerts. Plus, Bill Morrison will be speaking at all three events. I’ll be backstage at all three and am looking forward to seeing the reactions of the different crowds to the work and its makers.
The tour of the cinema version of the film also continues over February with screenings at: the Star and Shadow, Newcastle; the National Coal Mining Museum for England, Wakefield; Cornerhouse, Manchester; Town Hall, Padiham; and Spennymoor Settlement, County Durham.
Try to catch The Miners’ Hymns before the tour is through. It’s a great glimpse at British history and a timely reminder of what the country lost in the struggles of 1984-5.
More information, tickets and audience reactions: http://theminershymns.com