The Seeds of Defeat Run Deep.
I often try to describe to people what it was like growing up in an ex-mining town, usually I say – “it’s like you’ve come from a place that’s been through an earthquake”. It sounds dramatic, but that’s the only way I can explain how painful it has been for those who relied on coal and their fight to save their communities from the pit-closure program.
We never knew their old world or their fight. Our teachers never mentioned it but we knew we were the worst cohort of kids they’d ever had at school. We marked the steady decline to come.
The coal industry was such a fundamental part of community life and culture here. Nothing came close to replace it. Through my artwork and projects I have always tried to understand that old world and why it meant so much to my family and the older generation. I believe the arts gives us chance to understand our past and gives my generations answer to why Doncaster is the way it is.
The Last Seam.
In September 2016 I began working on new project exploring the closure of Hatfield Main in 2015, which marked the end of deep coal mining in the UK for good. Now titled The Last Seam the play is made entirely from the stories of local 30 people from the Hatfield, Stainforth and Dunscroft areas. I’ve been working as a Research Coordinator alongside playwright Garry Lyons who is known in TV and Theatre for working on radical productions as well as working on high-profile programs such as ITVs The Bill and Children’s TV The Worst Witch.
From Orgreave To Tent City.
Last year we interviewed David John Douglass a former-miner and key figure in the strike as a NUM union leader. Dave was a pivotal voice amongst Doncaster miners and at The Battle of Orgreave. He described the miners ….“the most honourable and loyal men you could ever want to meet“. And the area …..”my heart falls into my boots as I remembers how is was before“. After this meeting I was due to volunteering at Doncaster Tent City. A project set-up by local individuals and activists looking to give rough sleepers someone warm and safe to stay over winter. It was a cold late November evening, I sat for a few hours around the fire with men, who for various reasons, were sleeping rough living at the sharp-end of austerity. It was that moment I felt the full brunt of the earthquake I describe, as I asked everyone who sat round the fire where they were from everyone was from a former mining villages, Edlington, Rossington, Armthorpe, Denaby, Stainforth…This broke my heart, the reality of how bad our divided society came crashing down if front of my eyes showing me the fruits of de-industrialisation. These men where like refugees from a broken society.
Back To The Seam.
We had the first private reading of The Last Seam last at Stainforth Central Club on Thursday, members of the community people we over the last few months sore 5 actors portray their stories. This is an important play for Doncaster, it enables us to understand what’s happened to our community and how we can re-build from the grassroots up.
You can see the first “work in progress” reading of the play at Cast on April 6th.
Photography John Fuller Adapt Film. Artwork Rachel Horne.