Directed by Bill Morrison • Documentary • 2011 • 52 minutes
The ill-fated coal mining communities in North East England are the subject of this inspired documentary by multi-media artist Bill Morrison. Their story is told entirely without words, yet the film is far from silent: it features a remarkable original score by the Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson.
Using rarely-seen footage from the British Film Institute, the BBC, and other archives, THE MINERS' HYMNS celebrates social, cultural, and political aspects of the extinct industry. Focusing on the Durham coalfield located in northeastern England, it depicts the hardship of pit work, the role of Trade Unions in organizing and fighting for workers' rights, the years of increased mechanization and the annual Miners' Gala in Durham.
The film also shows the pitched battles between miners and police that took place during massive strikes in 1984 and sounded the death knell for the British mining industry. It also includes two contemporary aerial sequences, shot in color from a helicopter flying over the sites of former collieries, that have since become sites of modern consumerism.