Drop the Hammer

'Drop The Hammer' by Bristol-based folk band The Longest Johns is a captivating ode which captures the history and traditions of quarrying around the Jurassic Coast. 

Commissioned by Artsreach in 2023 with the support of Dorset National Landscape, the lyrics and song scores were shared with interested choirs across Dorset to learn, before the groups came together en mass with The Longest Johns to record 'Drop the Hammer' live at The Mowlem, Swanage in January 2024.

The film was premiered as part of The Longest Johns album launch concert in Swanage on Friday 9 February 2024 and features evocative and dramatic images reflecting the impact the stone industry has had along the Dorset Jurassic Coast.

Now that the song has been created, Artsreach would love to encourage other singers and choirs from across Dorset and beyond to learn 'Drop the Hammer', record themselves singing and share on social media, tagging Artsreach, The Longest Johns and using #dropthehammer.

The 'Drop the Hammer' song and film has been commissioned by Artsreach, thanks to funding from the Dorset National Landscape Sustainable Development Fund.

Dorset's Quarrying History

With evidence of quarrying dating back to Roman times, quarrying and stone-masonry has been a source of labour and wealth in Dorset for many centuries. 

Since the 14th century, Portland stone has been transported to London and used in the construction of several landmarks, including The Palace of Westminster, The Tower of London and even parts of Buckingham Palace. Portland stone was also famously used by Christopher Wren to rebuild churches in London following the great fire in 1666, including St Paul’s Cathedral. Many of the underground quarries were opened after the English Civil War and the Fire of London as there was so much damage, they needed stone for all the re-building that needed to be done.

Portland Shanties

In 1953 Peter Kennedy made a film of Portland quarrymen working to shanties. When splitting blocks of stone from their beds using hammers and wedges, it was vital that the men struck at exactly the same time and so the rhythm of work songs was an important aid. 'Drop The Hammer' takes inspiration from the 'call and response' technique illustrated in this archive, film with the 'Shanty Man' leading the chant.

Windrose Rural Media is a charity which undertakes educational, archival and creative work in rural communities, and collects archive films of local life through collaboration with local people and we are grateful to Windrose Rural Media for sharing footage. Visit Windrose Rural Media for more information.

Some photos from the filming day...