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The Miners' Hymns: Bill Morrison & Johann Johannsson's homage to the North East's mining communities

Date uploaded: December 16, 2013

The Miners’ Hymns: London premiere and return to North East England

Film by Bill Morrison and live musical score by Jóhann Jóhannsson
Conducted by Gudni Franzson and featuring Iskra String Quartet

Sage Gateshead, 5th March 2014 | Barbican, London, 9th March 2014

The Miners’ Hymns - Forma’s homage to the North East’s former coalmining communities is returning for three special live performances, including the London premiere at the Barbican, and at Sage Gateshead as part of AV Festival 14: EXTRACTION

Created by US artist Bill Morrison and Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, the performances coincide with the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike, and follow critically acclaimed live presentations in the US and Europe, and a 7-month UK tour of the film version of the work in cinemas, museums and community spaces.

The Miners’ Hymns is a lyrical portrait of Britain’s industrial past using rarely seen archive footage of working miners, the increasing mechanisation of the pits and the North East’s annual Miners’ Gala. It also draws on the brass music heritage of the North East of England, a tradition stretching back almost 200 years.

Forma initiated Morrison and Jóhannsson’s first-time collaboration over three years ago, when The Miners’ Hymns was first performed in Durham Cathedral as part of the county’s brass festival. Morrison searched BBC, British Film Institute and other archives from footage that spanned a century, which he then edited with contemporary aerial footage of the former coalfield sites, now temples of modern leisure and consumerism.

Jóhannsson’s score for the film draws upon the brass music tradition that was so intertwined with the mining communities of the Durham Coalfield when each colliery had its own brass band. The score is performed by the Iskra String Quartet and an 18-piece brass ensemble comprising players from the Durham-based Riverside Band and orchestral musicians.

An additional special performance of The Miners’ Hymns takes place in Easington, a former mining town on the Durham Coalfield whose colliery was the last to close in 1993. It is performed in the Easington Social Welfare Centre as part of a weekend of events commemorating the anniversary of the start of the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike, organised by the local community with the support of Beamish Museum.

The Miners' Hymns performance at Sage Gateshead is followed by a discussion between Bill Morrison and Simon Popple, Senior Lecturer in Cinema and Deputy Head of Institute, Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications at the University of Leeds.

Commissioned by BRASS: Durham International Festival 2010.  Supported by Durham County Council, Arts Council England, British Film Institute, One North East, Northern Film + Media and the UK Film Council's Digital Film Archive Fund supported by the National Lottery.  Live performances supported by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Programme.

Click here for more information.

The Miners’ Hymns live in Durham Cathedral, July 2010. © Colin Davison (2010), courtesy Forma.

The Miners’ Hymns live in Durham Cathedral, July 2010. © Colin Davison (2010), courtesy Forma.