'It’s one of the most emotionally draining and inspiring pieces of political art or music I’ve ever witnessed' The Quietus
'Extremely powerful – haunting, harrowing, emotive – but not sentimental' Audience Quote
Marking 30 years since the 1984–85 miners’ strike, DS30 is a political collage of sound and image. Commissioned by AV Festival in 2014, the film was originally presented within the monumental lines of Dunston Staiths, a structure built on the River Tyne in 1893 to ship coal from the Durham coalfields to the world.
Featuring footage of mining communities together with material from Test Dept’s own archive related to the strike, DS30 reflects on the group’s nationwide Fuel to Fight Tour in support of the miners, during which they collaborated with local activists and mining communities. These bonds lay the foundation of The South Wales Striking Miners Choir, with whom they recorded the album Shoulder to Shoulder to raise money for the Miners’ Hardship Fund. Radicalised miners such as Alan Sutcliffe from the Kent coalfields took to the stage (performing tracks with Test Dept on three albums) voicing their disaffection in a collaborative voice of protest.
For the closing weekend of AV Festival in 2014, audiences were invited to travel upriver on boats, passing underneath the Millennium Bridge, the Tyne Bridge and through the Swing Bridge, away from the bright lights of Quayside regeneration into the darkness beyond, from where a phalanx of spotlights animated Dunston Staiths. A soundtrack for the industrial memory of the working river accompanied the journey until the boat drew up alongside the Staiths, and the DS30 film began. For the return journey downriver back to Newcastle, a recording of the South Wales Striking Miners’ Choir singing Take Me Home from Shoulder to Shoulder played.
DS30 has now been adapted for cinema exhibition and is touring North to venues in the ex-coalfield areas of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Durham, Tyneside and Scotland, reflecting Test Dept’s Fuel to Fight Tour. Just as revolutionary artists travelled around the Soviet Union via red ‘agit trains’ after the 1917 revolution, in 1984–85 Test Dept hit the road in the ‘battle bus’ through the mining towns of Britain.
Test Dept made a unique contribution to underground culture of the 1980s and 1990s, operating at the front line of struggles that are still playing out in the present day. With DS30, founding members of Test Dept have re-emerged to engage with the current cultural and political climate, exploring new ways of expression and reanimating their archive.
This archive is brought together for the first time in the new PC-Press publication Total State Machine. The 385-page book contains original artwork, photography and documentary images and includes chapters and reflections from Test Dept founding members Graham Cunnington, Angus Farquhar, Paul Jamrozy and Brett Turnbull; Stephen Mallinder (Cabaret Voltaire); Robin Rimbaud (Scanner); Marek Kohn; Malcolm Poynter; Ivan Novak (Laibach); Alan Sutcliffe (Kent miner) and many more with an introduction by Alexei Monroe and Peter Webb. More than just a history of the group, the book captures the wider history of British music, culture and politics in the 1980s and 1990s.
Screenings of DS30 on the tour are accompanied by a selection of other short films from Test Dept’s archive and are followed by Q&A sessions with Graham Cunnington, Angus Farquhar and Paul Jamrozy from Test Dept, alongside special guests at each venue.
Test Dept formed in the decaying docklands of South London in 1981. The group made raw, visceral music out of re-purposed scrap metal and machinery from industrial waste ground and derelict factories; a percussive sound with a political edge performed live against monumental slide and film projections in recently abandoned industrial spaces. Drilling, pounding, grinding, metal bashing – a Constructivist/Futurist-inspired soundtrack to the death throes of industrial Britain.
DS30 was made with the collaboration and contribution of many archives, photographers and filmmakers, including:
BBC North East & Cumbria
BFI National Archive
Durham Miners’ Association
North East Film Archive
Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Amber
John Davies, Amber
Sally Ann-Norman, Amber
© John Sturrock / reportdigital.co.uk
© John Harris / reportdigital.co.uk
DS30 is dedicated to all those who lived and died supporting the miners’ struggle.
The DS30 Tour is supported by This Way Up Exhibition Innovation Fund, a partner of the BFI Film Audience Network.
The DS30 commission was originally supported by: Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund, Gateshead Council, Port of Tyne, Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust.