Thanks Maggie

David Severn

2011 - Ongoing

England, United Kingdom

Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in the British Midlands make up one of the largest former coalfield areas in the UK. The consecutive closure of coal mines 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. Coal communities were hit hard economically and socially, while the deregulation of financial markets caused an economic revolution 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 was employed at the pits his entire working life and my Grandfather rose to become a colliery Deputy during his time. Throughout my journey I have trudged miles of former colliery railway lines linking village to village. I’ve encountered rock ’n’ roll fanatics and ballroom dancers, rabbit hunters and proud former and current miners, bingo callers and brass band players, among other dedicated people and community groups. Postindustrial recovery has been a long process and unemployment and health and well-being statistics indicate there is much work to be done. Nonetheless, cultural life dies hard and people, young and old, continue to be united by their passions — music, art, sports — and a commitment to their community.

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.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • A mineworker taking a tea break at Thoresby Colliery, Nottinghamshire.

  • A mineworker at Thoresby Colliery among coal stocks.

  • 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.