© The Artist


Jeremy Deller (1966 – )


66 X 112 CM
Accession number


The 1984–5 miner’s strike is a cornerstone in Jeremy Deller’s work, and one of his clearest memories from that time was of the miners returning to work, accompanied by the colliery brass bands. They were going back to a job that would, within three or four years, be defunct: British coal pits underwent extensive closure in the early 1990s and the remaining, etiolated industry was privatised in 1994. In its wake, in 1996, Deller had some Acid House tracks arranged specially for brass bands, and invited the Fairey Brass Band (founded 1937, Stockport) to make the inaugural performances. Covers include ‘Voodoo Ray’ (A Guy Called Gerald), ‘Lets Get Brutal’ (Nitro Deluxe) and ‘Can U Dance?’ (DJ Fast Eddie). By hybridising two seemingly antithetical music genres - one traditional and flagging, and the other, new and mushrooming - Acid House brings together a host of cultural resonances. Deller is charting the inverse correlation between the demise of British industry and its ways of life, and the rise of a new kind of post-industrial music.

Alongside the demise of British industry, by the 1990s brass bands had a dwindling, elderly audience, whereas Acid House was the genre infamously defined as ‘repetitive beats’ in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which attempted to empower the control of ‘raves’. If the rave culture that erupted at the end of the 1980s was a form of dissent from social norms so too brass bands represent a dissenting minority culture. They gave voice to a maligned community, surviving in the face of the Conservative government’s aim to close coal pits and curb union power. In this way, the pairing unites the genres as forms of folk music, that survive on amateur enthusiasm, and show folk culture to be neither twee nor trifling, but politicised and vital. Brass bands were a focal hobby among many mining communities, while Acid House spread from a network of people working on home computers. Acid Brass plays out as a contradance between the fear of loss of one cultural phenomenon in tandem with the emergence of another, and in so doing, its real impact is in creating a new audience.

The Fairey Band was one of the most prestigious brass bands of the 1990s, having won the European Championships in 1994; Acid House was seemingly the antithesis of their traditional repertoire, but the covers brought them to music and art festivals. The union of seemingly incongruous facets of British culture is surprising, humorous, and avoids the sentimental, and contributes to an ongoing interest in cultural repatriation in Deller’s work. Following the poster piece The English Civil War (part 2) (1994), Acid Brass acts as an overture to The Battle of Orgreave (2001), where Deller devised a reenactment of the 1984 clash between picketing miners and armed police - a moment that literalised the idea of class warfare. Deller enlisted original participants, local residents and people from historical reenactment societies, so as with Acid Brass the project was an intervention rather than a commentary. Similarly, Deller made a carnivalesque contribution to the 2009 Manchester International Festival, where he had a steel band play ‘local hits’ by bands such as the Buzzcocks and Joy Division.