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Review 32/1: Band Fever (1978)


Main image of Review 32/1: Band Fever (1978)
Review 32nd Year No.1: Band Fever
September 1978
35mm, colour, 10 mins
DirectorGerard Bryant
Production CompanyNational Coal Board Film Unit
ProducerRobert Kruger
PhotographyCharles Hasler
CommentatorFrancis Gysin

Portrait of the Juvenile Jazz Bands operating and flourishing in the region of the Midlands coalfields, since the depression years of the 1930s.

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"The marching bands brought colour and music into lives that only too frequently offered little but drabness." Juvenile jazz bands have historically been established in times of hardship to deter bored youths from juvenile delinquency. The first of these organised groups of children formed in the mining valleys of South Wales during the 1930s depression. In later years, these musical endeavours were based almost exclusively in economically-deprived mining areas in the Midlands and the North of England. Made in the late 1970s when this pastime was at its popularity peak, 'Band Fever' must have provided its intended mining audience with a much-needed lift in difficult times. It successfully demonstrates that despite a lack of wealth, if a community pulled together, fun could still be had.

This type of youth band was born out of a tradition of coal miners' union marches and colliery brass bands. There had already been children's sections in the trade union parades and the idea that marching instilled discipline and promoted comradeship was extended into the development of juvenile jazz bands. Rousing and well- known jazz tunes like 'When The Saints Go Marching In' provided the necessary feel-good factor. Drums, tambourines, glockenspiels and kazoos commonly featured in these types of ensembles, because they were affordable and the player did not need to be a musical genius to master their instrument. This hobby was therefore both sociable and admirably inclusive in its nature.

The charm of 'Band Fever' is that it reflects the vital part such bands have had in bringing joy, purpose and unity to economically-deprived communities. Residents of Rainworth's village, many of whom worked in the now deceased Rufford Colliery, are seen playing their role in the Royals' success for which they can be "justifiably proud".

Rebecca Vick

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Portrait of a Miner: The National Coal Board Collection Volume 1'.

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Video Clips
Complete newsreel (9:32)
Miners Above Ground
Review: 32nd Year (1978-79)