It’s October 1983: start of my year two in London. MSc is over, research job (and PhD) has just begun. On the short list of essentials for living; provisions to be made from disposable income for the procurement of: one annual membership to the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). Among reasons for: free entrance to exhibitions, early booking advantage for their rock weeks (seven nights of best music of the time), some of the weirdest (& clothing optional) theatre/performance I’d ever seen (or since).

I’m there watching Clock DVA on the Tuesday night – in case they’re unknown to you here’s a quick synopsis – part of the Sheffield electronica movement circa 1980, more cut-up than motorik, penchant for film noir and moody soundscapes. One of the things new and different for me that night was the way they backdropped the music with an audio-visual show. Lots of b&w still photomontages and short film clips, all synchronised and complementary to the music they were playing live.

Since then there’s been the rise of MTV, but it was new then. Not “first time ever in the history of the world” new, but unusual.

What brings this to mind is two different projects from two different corners of my musical likes. In the first instance, a collaboration between “new classical” Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson and the American filmmaker Bill Morrison on a film called  The Miners’ Hymns. The film is a collage made from clips of the mining industry around Durham and the North East, using archive footage from the likes of the British Film Institute and the BBC, intertwined with footage of the miners’ strike in 1984. Another memory – collecting money in buckets for the miners outside Whitechapel tube station. There’s no narration – just the images and the soundtrack.

In the second instance, a collaboration between “new folk” artistes The Unthanks with North East filmmaker Richard Fenwick on a film called Songs from the Shipyards. Again, it’s made using archive footage, and depicts the rise and fall of shipbuilding in places like the Clyde and the Tyne. In this one there is narration, all nicely intoned in received English, but that juxtaposes the grimy industrial images even more.

The titles of the musical pieces by Jóhannsson evoke the trade union movement and the optimism of  19th century workers’ colleges: Freedom from Want and Fear;  There Is No Safe Side But the Side of Truth; The Cause of Labour Is the Hope of the World, etc.

Think for a moment on one of those titles. You can be free from the fear of want when you know there could be a job for you when you graduate. You can be free from fear when you know some arbitrary whim of a manager won’t end in your dismissal. At a time when Tory politicians are trying to swap your employment rights for a paltry share option in a company, and youth employment has an ’80s feel, it doesn’t seem appropriate to say that we are yet free from want and fear.

These are anything but just two pretty little films that cleverly re-use old images to evoke a sense of a former time and place. More than just an elegiac wallow in the remembrance of things past.

In 2012 if the leader of the British Labour Party joins a march against austerity cuts he’s told: “You can’t be serious about clearing the deficit when you attend a march that calls for an end to austerity.” Er, no. You can be serious about clearing a deficit by advocating another way of collecting the money. Such as fair corporation tax on Facebook, eBay, Google, et al. Grudgingly I admire what the right-wing has achieved in the past 30 years. They’ve turned back the history of the past 150 years and made us doubt everything that isn’t about personal gain and immediate gratification. They’ve made ordinary people doubt the evidence of their eyes. They’ve made us see marches as the expression of futility or the blind optimism of socialism.

They’ve achieved the re-framing of history. As Cynthia Fuchs, in her review on PopMatters puts it:

“How is history ever anything but what you receive, your trust or skepticism of seeming sources, a narrative reframed each moment by what you see next?”

But it’s dead easy to take back. It only requires that we look twice at the faces of those working men and women in the b&w films and think: “you have more in common with me than any Eton toff”.