Tish Murtha - Juvenile Jazz Bands (Hardback)
Juvenile Jazz Bands is the final part of Tish Murtha’s Newcastle trilogy published by Bluecoat Press but it was the subject of her first exhibition at the Side Gallery in 1979.
Adult jazz bands emerged amongst the working-class communities of NE England in the years following the end of the First World War. There was a long tradition of trades union marches accompanied by brass bands, and the earliest juvenile jazz bands were the children’s section of these trades unions. The instruments used were usually and , with a later addition.
By the 1930s, children’s s were almost exclusively found in the mining areas of and the Midlands, with a few bands in the mining areas of . There was a decline in the Second World War but a resurgence of interest in the 1950s. The 1970s and 80s were their heyday (the Hussars famously appeared in the film ) but Tish Murtha had an intense dislike of their militaristic approach. She saw nothing of the spirit of Fats Waller or Louis Armstrong. ‘An ability to hum the National Anthem through a plastic tube commonly known as a “kazoo” is virtually the only musical qualification necessary.’ Her particular ire was directed at an older generation who made children, ‘Put aside all normal behaviour, and become the plaything of the failed soldier, the ex-armed forces members, and their ilk; any spark of individuality is crushed by the military training imposed, until the child’s actions resemble those of a mechanical tin soldier.’
In contrast, she saw the improvised activities of ‘toy’ bands – small groups of children who were, for whatever reason, ineligible to join official bands – as the perfect antidote, with their anarchic and imaginative use of any suitable props they could lay their hands on.
The exhibition and Tish’s unapologetic stance generated considerable local controversy. She was attacked (and defended) in the local press, gaining the sobriquet ‘the Demon Snapper’ in the angry exchanges.The passing decades (and the decline of the juvenile jazz bands) have softened the impact the exhibition stirred up but Tish’s brilliant photographs remain as a fascinating record of an important aspect of working class culture.
- Photographer Tish Murtha
- ISBN 9781908457561
- Hardback - Duotone & colour 270 x 290mm - 216 pages