Imitating the Juvenile Jazz Bands in 1970's Newcastle

Juvenile Jazz Bands Kickstarter

A Kickstarter campaign for Juvenile Jazz Bands, a new photobook by
Bluecoat Press and the Tish Murtha Archive, is now live.

Bluecoat Press will publish the book in the same limited-edition hardback format as Youth Unemployment and Elswick Kids forming a brilliant trilogy of Murtha’s work in Newcastle.

Spectrum Photographic has produced 10 Giclée prints at 12 x 16” to support the Kickstarter campaign.

Childhood imagination

Although this will be the third book of her work, Juvenile Jazz Bands was Murtha’s first exhibition.

She made the series while employed through a Youth Opportunity Programme at The Side Gallery, Newcastle.

It was there, in 1979, that the exhibition made its debut before touring.

Murtha’s approach to the series earned her quite a reputation locally at the time.

She felt the bands were militaristic and harmful to young members, crushing out normal childlike behaviour alongside any spark of individuality.

Murtha initially had the backing of the people who ran the bands, who imagined her photographs would be ‘glamorous’.

However, when she saw the band rejects playing in the streets, something resonated with her.

She decided to shoot the bands in their finery alongside these kids from the back streets, imitating them with their ‘toy-bands’.

These often started out as an attempt to emulate the big band, but involved the children’s imagination to almost the same extent as the ‘official’ band denied it.

Her photos highlighted the individuality of the kids instead of the forced conformity of the juvenile jazz bands culture.

Imitating the Juvenile Jazz Bands in 1970's Newcastle
Juvenile Jazz Bands (1979) by Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved

Juvenile Jazz Bands

The jazz band committees were furious when they saw the finished series together with her comments, writing letters to the local press labelling her ‘The Demon Snapper’.

At the time Murtha was photographing, Newcastle was undergoing massive changes with houses and neighbourhoods being demolished all around.

This proved a fitting background to the anarchy of the ‘unofficial’ jazz bands.

Juvenile jazz bands were a type of children’s marching band that started in the 20th century.

They were found almost exclusively in working class mining areas of the North of England and the Midlands, with a few bands in the mining areas of Wales.

They form an important part of British working class culture.

The instruments used are usually kazoos, glockenspiel, and drums.

Juvenile jazz band the Pelaw Hussars famously appeared in Get Carter.

Kickstarter

To find out more about the Kickstarter campaign click here.

For more on Tish Murtha visit www.tishmurtha.co.uk.

All images: Juvenile Jazz Bands (1979) by Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, all rights reserved

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