Face Valued

PETER LAZENBY reports on a stunning collection of drawings and paintings depicting the mining life that has just gone on show in Yorkshire

THESE images, many of them created by ex-miners, are part of the free exhibition Pit Images: Paintings and Drawings from the Coalfields.

The exhibition is a forerunner to the third annual With Banners Held High festival which takes place at the Unity Works in Wakefield at the beginning of next month.

The theme of this year’s celebration is The Flame Still Burns: The Creative Power of Coal and it features music, poetry, drama and speakers including Dennis Skinner MP.

It will be followed by a fundraising concert in the evening.

Pit Images includes a series of 20 pieces of work by William George Bissill (1896-1973), a miner at Langley Mill pit in Nottinghamshire, along with images by ex-miner Harry Malkin, whose Lending a Hand with the Boring 2 depicts a miner at work, with a workmate adding his weight to the drill.

Malkin, like his father and grandfather before him, became a miner at Fryston pit in West Yorkshire at the age of 15. After Fryston closed in 1985 following the strike against closures, he began work as a sculptor and painter.

A lino print by mining artist David Wilders, Strike 1984-1985, depicts two rows of policemen crouched behind their riot shields in front of locked National Coal Board gates, created to mark the 25th anniversary of the end of the strike.

Artist Peter Watson, whose work is also on show, said: “In the early 1970s I produced a body of work based on the industrial landscapes of South Yorkshire and this led to a commission from the Coal Board to paint 14 collieries.

“This was a time when the pits were being closed and it was felt that it would be a good idea to have a historical record of the surface working.”

Also in the exhibition is a series of pen-and-ink drawings by the late Peter Price which have been reviewed in the Morning Star.

They were discovered in a basement at the headquarters of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in Barnsley in South Yorkshire and are on display in the council chamber of the headquarters.

All the paintings and drawings are exhibited courtesy of the Coal Mining Museum of England and prints of the South Yorkshire collieries depicted in the paintings will be on sale at the With Banners Held High festival.

Pit Images runs at Unity Works, Westgate, Wakefield until Saturday March 4, opening hours: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm. The With Banners Held High celebration is at the same venue on March 4, with a fundraiser for the Orgreave Truth and Justice and Justice for Mineworkers campaign with the band Ferocious Dog, supported by Parson’s Lot and The Star Botherers. Details and tickets: unityworks.co.uk 

This article originally appeared in the Morning Star.