Sounds of Solidarity: Music in the 1984–85 Miners’ Strike
Kok, Moira de
MetadataShow full item record
Scholars, activists, and musicians often attribute powers of solidarity to music. However, they rarely explain what ‘solidarity’ means, and how music may generate, sustain, strengthen, or express it. This thesis therefore investigates how solidarity as a political concept intertwines with musical practices. I develop a model with four prongs: ontology, sociality, mobilisation, and intentionality. Each explores a different facet of solidarity as a relation between people that centres a sense of togetherness and support. To delimit this research, I focus on popular music during the 1984–85 UK miners’ strike. Although many musicians passionately supported the strike, their work to support the miners has not yet received thorough musicological investigation. Moreover, the strike was a moment of crisis in a period characterised by polarisation not dissimilar to the 2020s. The strike thus emerges as a relevant moment for the study of music and solidarity. I apply my model to four case studies, all of which have been linked to solidarity by the musicians or activists involved. The case studies comprise two benefit concerts, Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners’ Pits and Perverts concert and Billy Bragg’s tour across the UK, and two benefit records, Test Dept’s Shoulder to Shoulder and the Council Collective’s ‘Soul Deep’. Using discourse analysis, musical analysis, and philosophical inquiry, I examine how musicians and activists mobilised the word ‘solidarity’ when discussing music, what this music sounded like, and what these discourses and sounds uncover about perceptions of solidarity and music’s connection to politics. I argue that ‘solidarity’ is a multivalent and underdefined, yet rhetorically powerful word. It is therefore perfectly suited to imbue popular music with political meaning and agency, particularly during moments of crisis. In turn, popular music is perceived as a medium that can rescue solidarity from extinction, co-construct its meaning, and broadcast this meaning to the people. Musicological analysis can therefore reveal underlying assumptions about solidarity, including its fundamental processes of in- and exclusion. Inquiry into the 1984–85 strike as a musical and political moment provides new insights on conceptions of solidarity and the place of music in social movements.