"The Miners’ Hymns" is a collaboration between American filmmaker Bill Morrison and Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. Together, with the help of images and music, they have created a wordless documentary to depict the ill-fated mining community in North-Eastern England. Created from BFI, BBC and other archival footage, “The Miners Hymns” celebrates social, cultural, and political aspects of the extinct industry, and the strong regional tradition of colliery brass bands.
Focusing on the Durham coalfield in the North East of the UK, the film is structured around a series of activities including the hardship of pit work, the role of Trade Unions in organizing and fighting for workers' rights, the annual Miners' Gala in Durham, and the pitched battles with police during the 1984 strike as Thatcher's government sounded the death knell for the industry.
The film cuts between footage from different eras spanning 100 years -from grainy footage of primitive conditions from early last century, through processes of increased mechanization, and up to the highly emotive era of the miner's strikes of the mid-1980s. While almost entirely composed of black and white archival footage, the film also includes two contemporary sequences shot in color from a helicopter hovering over the sites of former collieries. It is at once poignant and ironic to note that these sites have now been rendered invisible and have been replaced by temples of modern leisure and consumerism. The film is a timely reminder of choices that were made a generation ago regarding the role of labor in a corporate-based economy - the repercussions of which are being felt today.