Celebration of mining past aims to create art for future

Former Yorkshire miners are to be immortalised in bronze as part of a major public art project celebrating Doncaster's proud heritage. Chris Burn reports.

Miners Paul Mountjoy and Roy Cullier walk inside the closed Hatfield Colliery. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe
Miners Paul Mountjoy and Roy Cullier walk inside the closed Hatfield Colliery. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe

Doncaster was once at the heart of the coal-mining industry, with 18 collieries in operation around its districts during the height of the industry. In 1980, there were 50,000 miners working in South Yorkshire.

But, by the 1990s as the industry was privatised by the Government, the vast majority of Doncaster’s sites had been shut, with the last in Hatfield closing in 2015 and marking the end of an era. Now a unique project has been launched to mark exactly what mining meant to the borough.

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Doncaster Council has commissioned acclaimed artist Laurence Edwards to devise a special piece of public art – with the assistance of Doncaster’s former mining communities.

Next month, Edwards will travel around Doncaster to speak to people at consultation events about his vision. And to help finalise the look and feel of the piece, he will also choose one person to represent each of the mining communities who he will meet again to have in-depth discussion about their memories and what mining meant to them.

The final design will be revealed in spring 2018 at a special exhibition, while a crowd-funding campaign is to be launched to help raise money towards the estimated £120,000 costs of the project. Work will start once the funding is in place and the designs have been revealed, with installation to follow.

The council has already contributed by commissioning the artist and is now hoping local people, community groups, businesses and Trade Unions will assist with securing the rest of the funding over the course of the next few months and into next year.

Edwards says he is delighted to be involved in the project.

“Miners and mining have fascinated me and the demise of coal mining in this country has been one of the defining narratives of my generation. I will be talking and working with people with experiences of mining in Doncaster, and the general public to develop ideas in a collaborative approach.”

Details of the scheme were unveiled at a public launch at Cast theatre in Doncaster yesterday afternoon.

Dennis Nowell, a former miner who is supporting the scheme, says: “I was born in a mining village, my father was a miner, all my friends were miners and all my family were miners.

“We can’t let our heritage go; mining is why Doncaster is here and why Doncaster is what it is. Doncaster should have a statue to represent everyone throughout the borough.”

Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster, says: “This flagship piece will recognise what mining meant to communities right across the borough.

“It will celebrate our past but will look forward to the future by being a bold piece of art which complements our regeneration plans for Doncaster town centre helping to create a vibrant place to visit and explore. This will be great art for Doncaster, for everyone to enjoy.”

Councillor Nigel Ball, cabinet member for Leisure and Culture, says the work will look to the future, as well as representing the past.

“For decades, mining was the lifeblood of many of our communities and we want to recognise that fact with a great piece of art which they can all call their own. Far from just remembering our past, the intention is to create art that captures the imagination of people and becomes another draw for people to visit Doncaster town centre.”

Public consultation events will take place at Hatfields Pub, Armthorpe Community Centre, Doncaster Trades Club, Brodsworth Miners Welfare Club and Denaby & Cadeby Miners Welfare Club on November 10 and 11.

For more information about the scheme, and the public events, visit www.doncaster.gov.uk/minersstatue.