Tish Murtha | Photographs of Juvenile Jazz Bands, Newcastle, 1970s

British Culture Archive

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.

Get Carter

In their seventies heyday the jazz bands were particularly popular in the North East of England, with the majority of pit villages having their own.

The bands would compete 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 Chieftans. Juvenile Jazz Bands (1979)
Cruddas Park Chieftans. Photo © 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 Tish 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’.

Elswick Park. Juvenile Jazz Bands (1979)
Elswick Park. Juvenile Jazz Bands, 1979. Photo Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved.

West End of Newcastle

“These pictures were taken in the West-end of Newcastle, an area categorised by and noted for its inadequate facilities, including everything from housing to public telephones. Children’s leisure activities are no exception, an the ‘Jazz’ band reigns supreme – as much of a feature of the area as the high-rise flats and the local Dole office.” – Tish Murtha, 1979.

Gallery

Tish Murtha Kenilworth Road Kids Print
Kenilworth Road Kids. Juvenile jazz Bands, 1979. Photo Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved.
Juvenile Jazz Bands (1979) by Tish Murtha.
Jarrow Carnival. Juvenile Jazz Bands , 1979. Photo Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved.
Toy Band Training, Noble Street.
Toy Band Training, Noble Street. Photo Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved.
Noble Street. Juvenile Jazz Bands (1979)
Noble Street. Juvenile Jazz Bands, 1979. Photo Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved.
Tish Murtha Cruddas Park Print
Cruddas Park. Juvenile Jazz Bands, 1979. Photo Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved.
Tish Murtha Alleyway Print
Alleyway, Kenilworth Road, 1979. Photo Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved.
Noble Street. Juvenile Jazz Bands, 1979.
Noble Street. Juvenile Jazz Bands, 1979. Photo Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved.
Kenilworth Road Kids. Juvenile Jazz Bands (1979)
Kenilworth Road Kids. Juvenile Jazz Bands 1979. Photo Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved.
Toy Band Training, Noble Street. Tish Murtha
Noble Street. Juvenile Jazz Bands, 1979. Photo Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved.
Kenilworth Road Kids. Juvenile Jazz Bands (1979) Tish Murtha
Kenilworth Road Kids. Juvenile Jazz Bands, 1979. Photo Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved.

All Images by Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved. 

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