Blidworth Miners Canvas
[Dream Target Date - November 1977]
The transition from Joseph Whitaker Comprehensive
school to Art college was facilitated by my art teacher David
Stringfellow, who encouraged me to paint a large oil canvas on
a mining theme. I followed the traditional method of sizing [priming]
the canvas with a mixture made from fish-bones and other vile-smelling
Based on scenes at Blidworth Colliery,
the painting took several months to complete and provided a welcome
relief from the mediocrity of my other school subjects. The painting
became a major feature of the art studio and eventually Headmaster
Ralph Brooke was impressed enough to fix something up with the
Nottinghamshire Branch of the National Union of Mineworkers.
The NUM said they'd be delighted to
hang it in their Headquarters at Berry Hill, Mansfield. That
suited me fine, I could contribute to the coal industry without
actually going down the pit to work and at the same time gain
some recognition as a local artist.
|Painting in the Miners' Offices
at Berry Hill. The then President of the Nottinghamshire
Area of the NUM Len Clarke (left) receives the painting
from the artist, pit man's son Paul Fillingham.
In November, a photo-shoot was arranged with
the local newspaper (the Mansfield Chad) and I was asked to
attend a short presentation ceremony at Berry Hill. NUM leader
Len Clarke presented me a commemorative Davy Lamp and an honorary
membership of the NUM.
|The then Prime Minister Jim Callaghan
marching in front of the procession at the Nottinghamshire
Miners' Annual Demonstration and Gala at Berry Hill. On
his right are Len Clarke and the Rt Hon J. Concannon MP
and on his left J.P. Whelan and Dennis Skinner, MP for Bolsover.
newspaper pictures were later reproduced in 'The Nottinghamshire
Coalfield 1881-1981 A Century of Progress' by A.R. Griffin (Moorland
Publishing ISBN 0 86190 046 4). I was pleased to share the same
page as former Prime Minister Jim Callaghan and a rather youthful-looking
Dennis Skinner, later to emerge as the Labour Party wit known
as 'the beast of Bolsover'.
I was on the Fine Art Degree Course at Leeds Polytechnic, the
painting helped secure a scholarship from the Coal Industry
Social Welfare Organisation [CISWO]. By this time the canvas
was regularly appearing as a backdrop to TV news bulletins,
in the standoff between 'Thatcherite' Ian MacGregor and left-wing
union leader Arthur Scargill.
the few years that followed, Britain's national coal industry
was completely devastated by strikes and pit closures. And,
in 1984, the unthinkable happened, Blidworth Colliery joined
the list of pit closures.
Copyright - Paul Fillingham
Last update - 19 August, 2001