Tish Murtha | Juvenile Jazz Bands, 1970s.

During the 1970s juvenile jazz bands were at their peak across the working class coalfields of the UK. For those not familiar with juvenile jazz bands, they are a children’s marching band which originated in the Welsh mining towns during the depression of the 1930s. An affordable means of family entertainment during the economic downturn, they were inspired by the miner’s union and colliery brass bands.


In their seventies heyday juvenile jazz bands were particularly popular in the North East, with the majority of pit villages having their own. The bands would compete against each other in regional and national competitions, marching through estates and villages dressed in pseudo military attire, playing kazoo’s, drums and glockenspiels to ‘When the Saints go marching in’ and other traditional arrangements. The juvenile jazz band ‘The Pelaw Hussars’ even appeared in the classic ‘Get Carter’ – filmed on location in the area during 1970.

Cruddas Park Cheiftans. Photo: Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved.



Jazz Band Rejects


Tish’s approach to the Juvenile Jazz Bands series earned her quite a reputation locally at the time. Tish felt that they were militaristic and harmful to its young members and that they crushed out normal childlike behaviour alongside any spark of individuality. Initially she had the backing of the people who ran the bands, who imagined her photographs would be ‘glamorous’.


However, when Tish saw that the Jazz Band rejects who played in the streets had been excluded from these groups, this resonated with her, so she shot the bands in their finery alongside these kids from the back streets, imitating them with their ‘toy-bands’.

Kenilworth Road Kids. Photo: Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.







In collaboration with The Tish Murtha Archive a selection of limited edition Tish Murtha prints are now exclusively available from our online shop. All proceeds from sales support the photographers we work with and help maintain and fund our free resource and exhibitions in the UK.







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1 thought on “Tish Murtha | Juvenile Jazz Bands, 1970s.”

  1. i spent my youth as a member of juvenile jazz bands. I was on kazoo (for a minuscule time as i was rubbish lol) then cymbals then band major and then Drum Major for the years up to my retirement age 18.
    I have to say i never ever heard of anyone being rejected from bands and us band members were the ones playing at bands in the street with our home made instruments and maces. We all loved it so much that we played it and lived it.


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