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The Miners' Hymns

The Miners' Hymns is an homage to the coal mining history of the north east of England and was the first collaboration between renowned American multimedia artist Bill Morrison and the late Icelandic musician and composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. 

Using rarely-seen archival footage of Durham and its coalfield, The Miners’ Hymns celebrates the social, cultural, and political aspects of an extinct industry. Structured around a series of activities, including the hardship of pit work, the role of Trade Unions in fighting for workers’ rights, the annual Miners’ Gala, and the pitched battles with the police during the 1984 strike, the film cuts between footage spanning 100 years. While almost entirely composed of black and white archival footage, the film also includes two contemporary sequences in colour, shot from a helicopter hovering over the sites of former collieries, now rendered invisible and replaced by temples of modern leisure and consumerism.

Jóhann Jóhannsson’s exquisite composition for the film draws upon the brass music tradition that was so intertwined with mining communities in the United Kingdom and adds an emotional, and at times visceral, weight to the archival imagery collected by Morrison. 

“Elegant, elegiac... enthralling” – New York Times

“With Jóhannsson’s gorgeous score providing mournful counterpoint to the visual world Morrison has both revived and created anew, The Miners’ Hymns leaves the audience with the ineffable sense of being between times, landscapes and emotions. True to the sacramental suggestion of the film’s title, the feeling is a lot like prayer” – The Washington Post


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