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