Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in the British Midlands make up one of the largest former coalfield areas in the UK. The consecutive closure of the collieries throughout the 1980’s and 90’s profoundly changed Britain’s industrial landscape forever and left an industry responsible for driving Britain’s industrial revolution a pale shadow of itself. Communities were hit hard economically and socially, meanwhile the service sector boomed in other parts of the country. I began photographing the people and places of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire coalfields to capture culture and social life in the region thirty years on from the bitter 1984-85 miners’ strike and the beginning of the end to British coal mining.
Reminders of a thriving industrial past are all around in both the built environment and the dyed in the wool working class culture. I grew up in a Nottinghamshire mining town myself and like so many from the coalfields, come from a mining family; my Father employed at the pits his entire working life and my Grandfather a Deputy at Sutton colliery during his time. Throughout my journey I have trudged miles of former colliery railway lines linking village to village surrounded by distinctive earthy mounds once sculpted of black coal spoil. Along the way, I encountered Rock ’n' Roll fanatics and ballroom dancers, pigeon fanciers and rabbit hunters, Bingo callers and brass band players, among other dedicated people and community groups. Post-industrial recovery has been a long process and unemployment and deprivation statistics indicate there is still much work to be done. Nonetheless, cultural life dies hard and people, young and old, continue to be united by their passions; their musicality, artistry or sportsmanship.
In 2015 Thoresby colliery, the last remaining coal mine in Nottinghamshire ceased operating and closed along with Kellingley colliery in Yorkshire, putting an end to deep pit coal mining in Britain.
Thanks Maggie includes work created for the First Art PORTRAIT commission. First Art is an arts partnership bringing together communities within the former coalfields of North Nottinghamshire and North-East Derbyshire via a three year programme of arts projects funded by Arts Council England’s Creative People and Places fund.
A man playing a game of Bingo at Boothys Working Men's Club in Mansfield Town. Working Men's Clubs such as this began in the 19th Century in industrial areas of the UK to provide recretaion for working class men and their families, however many clubs have closed following the decline of industry.
An ex-miner prepares backstage to perform an Elvis tribute act at Boothys Working Men's Club in Mansfield Town. Variety entertainment including stand-up comedy, live bands and drag acts form the basis of Working Men's Club culture.
Condemned National Coal Board terraced housing in the village of Pleasley, these were homes provided for the mineworkers of Pleasley Colliery and their families.
Derelict winding towers of the former Clipstone Colliery, an iconic symbol of the region's coal mining past. These structures are under threat of demolition but members of the community are fighting to save them as a lasting monument to the coal mining industry.
Volunteers at the preserved Pleasley Colliery museum posing with the National Union of Mineworkers Clipstone Branch banner, used during the 1984-85 miners' strike. Union banners such as this one were marched through the streets of colliery towns and villages during the strike, which is widely regarded to be the most bitter industrial dispute in British history.
Electric bell signalling system at the preserved Pleasley Colliery. The number of rings signalled various communications between the colliery banksman and workers in the pit bottom.
David Coleman, an ex-miner known locally as "The Pitman Poet". Coleman writes poetry about his and others experiences down the coal mines and performs spoken word to community groups.
Pleasley Colliery Brass Band rehearsing at the Pleasley Miners' Welfare Club. Brass bands were started by colliery owners keen to encourage music and community within the mining villages. Many colliery bands, including Pleasley, have continued playing long after the colliery closures and are still very much a central part of community celebrations.
Bill, an ex-miner, with his partner Pauline attending their Ballroom Dancing class at Forest Town Miner's Welfare Club. Throughout the 20th century, Ballroom Dancing became popular among the working class who attended public dance halls or "popular assemblies".
Pleasley Colliery Brass Band instrument case with Butlin's Mineworkers Open National Brass Band Festival stickers. Butlin's is a chain of holiday camps in the UK founded in Skegness in 1936 to provide affordable holidays for working people. The Skegness camp was popular among Nottinghamshire mining families and continues to host an annual mineworkers brass band competition.
Miss Mansfield 2013-2014 at Forest Town Miners' Welfare Club. When the local coal mines were open it was tradition for each colliery to crown a "Coal Queen", who were mascots for the industry.
Teenagers from the ex coal mining village of Newstead partcipating in a community programme designed to aid young people who have difficultuy engaging within school. The project involves maintaining and regenerating the former colliery site.
Djay, a young person from Langwith delivering groceries to elderly residents from the nearby farm where he has found work. Youth unemployment is particularly high in former coalfield areas.
Briony waiting for friends on the former Sherwood Colliery site. The ex colliery landscapes are large open spaces often on the periphery of towns and villages, ideal meeting places for young people to socialise.
A group of Rabbit hunters in pursuit of a catch on the former Newstead and Annesley Colliery site. Hunting for food and sport goes back many generations in the area and is a means of income.
A pigeon fancier stood outside his pigeon loft with one of his prize winning birds. Keeping and racing pigeons has a long history as a component of male working-class culture, particularly in coalfield areas. It is said that miners who kept pigeons enjoyed the freeing nature of racing pigeons after working in the cramped and dark conditions of the pit.
Homing pigeons roosting in their loft. Wooden pigeon lofts, often built from spare timber, characterized the industrial landscapes of Central and Northern England when keeping pigeons was a popular pastime among industrial workers.
Coal spoil heap of the former Mansfield Crown Farm Colliery.
Michael, a skateboarder at Mansfield skate plaza. A group of local skaters in the town formed an action group in 2006 to campaign for the skate plaza to be built. They raised the funding, worked with the council/community and designed the plaza to suit their needs.
Skateboarders at Mansfield skate plaza.
A figure skater at the ice rink in the former coal mining town of Sutton-in-Ashfield. Nottinghamshire became synonymous with figure skating during the miners' strike due to the success of local skaters Jayne Torvil and Christopher Dean at the 1984 Winter Olympics. Since the colliery closures, money has been spent on improving sports and leisure facilities to improve health and wellbeing in the area.
Stephen, an ex-miner and Elvis Presley fanatic at home with his 1950's Wurlitzer jukebox. Rock 'n' Roll culture was embraced by British working class communities in the 1950's, owing to similar social developments as the US and the emergence of distinct youth leisure activities and sub-cultures. Today, the ex-mining generation has many Rock 'n' Roll fans and various tribute acts who perform in the Miner's Welfare social clubs.
A club singer performing at Mansfield Woodhouse Ex-Servicemen's Club. Social clubs and Working Men's Clubs were once thriving venues attended mostly by workers and their families. Today, a club entertainment scene still exists but the venues are in decline and their audiences are generally of an older generation.
A change giver / Bingo caller at Byron Bingo hall in Hucknall. Independent Bingo halls are a social hub for the close-knit communities of the coalfields, particularly an older generation who remember when the collieries were open.
Bingo ticket seller at Byron Bingo hall in Hucknall. Byron Bingo is at the centre of the high street in the town, housed in a converted 1930's cinema, many of its customers are the wives and widows of ex-miners who worked in the local collieries.
A coal train passing over Langwith viaduct from Thoresby Colliery, the last remaining coal mine in Nottinghamshire. Before the colliery closures, the railway lines were busy with trains delivering coal to major powerstations and to the docks for overseas transportation.
A mineworker at Thoresby Colliery among coal stocks.
A mineworker taking a tea break at Thoresby Colliery.
The lamp room at Thoresby Colliery, where miners' are stored and charged.
A coal worker at Thoresby Colliery in front of the coal stocks.
A surface workshop employee at Thoresby Colliery.
Coal piled at a fuel distribution depot on the site of the former Mansfield Crown Farm Colliery.
A coalman delivering sacks of coal to an ex-miner's house. Former employees of the National Coal Board and British Coal and their widows receive a concessionary fuel allowance which is delivered to their home.
Dogs and their owners playing in the snow at the former Pleasley Colliery site, with the preserved Victorian pithead building in the background. Many of the former colliery sites have been transformed from working industrial environments to leisure landscapes and nature reserves.