Monday, April 07, 2014

Music Monday: Test Dept and the Miners Strike

Continuing the series of posts on the 1984/85 miners strike and South London, we turn to Test Dept. As discussed several times here before, the influential industrial band started out in New Cross, specifically at 8 Nettleton Road where some of the band were living.

Many bands played benefit gigs for the miners, but Test Dept went further and put out a joint album with the South Wales Striking Miners Choir. The choir and the band played gigs together around the country, as well as putting out the album to raise funds for the strike. One of the gigs was at the Albany in Deptford on 18 September 1984, recalled by Neil Stoker: 'We did a huge benefit at the Albany Empire in London with a Welsh male-voice choir, and a band called Test Department. I can only describe Test Department as a band which filled plastic drums with water and sand and banged them in a rhythmic way. It was a bizarre night--these Welsh miners came down in a coach and were stuck in the middle of Deptford with these punks banging plastic drums--but there were a thousand people there!'

The album. Shoulder to Shoulder,  was recorded at various venues including Crynant Rugby Club (South Wales), Snowdon Colliery Welfare Club (in Kent coalfield), and Cold Storage studio in  Brixton. Some tracks featured the choir, and some Test Dept, but on what track - Comrades - they performed together.

From the back of album - note that at this time the contact address for Test Dept was 41 Billington Rd SE14
Last month Test Dept founders founders Graham Cunnington and Paul Jamrozy put on installation commemorating the strike at the AV Festival on Tyneside.  Paul told the Quietus: 'for the people who took part in it and lived through it, it's certainly not forgotten, and bringing up the 30 years of the strike brings it to the fore. People are still very bitter, there's a lot of anger. I think it's important to engage with that. Seumas Milne is bringing out the new Enemy Within book, and there's some stuff coming out with the Freedom Of Information Act, there are people still looking for some truth and justice to come out of it, with Orgreave and how the strike was policed... It was also the first signs of the militarisation of the police force in a way that is now just accepted: whether you're a pensioner or a student you're going to come across against people in full riot gear ready to attack you at the slightest excuse. That all became normalised during the Miners' Strike'.

Shoulder to Shoulder - the label

Housmans benefit this week

As it happens, Paul Jamrozy and myself are both DJing this Thursday 10th April at a benefit for Housmans, the long established radical bookshop at Kings Cross. The event, at Surya on Pentonville Road, is themed around the Agit Disco project, with people playing tunes they define as political. I'm actually going to be playing a short set of tracks linked to the miners strike, and had already decided to include Test Dept when I heard that Paul is playing too. Others taking part include Stewart Home and John Eden - full details at Facebook

See previously:



A seriously amazing album. Contains the gut wrenching speech of a Kent (?) miner about the police abuse faced by miners going on the picket lines. That speech ends segues into the opening oil drum clatter of Shockwork by Test Dept. That LP and the tour was putting their politics to the fore. Always much respect to Test Dept from here.

Anonymous said...

Yes the speech was by Alan Sutcliffe, a striking Kent Miner. He also wrote and performed Statement on the Unacceptable Face of Freedom album. Much respect from here too.