Ian catches the drift at NCM

11th March 2011.'Symposeum at national Coal Mining Museum and exhibition with L/R:   Trustee David Flack, photographer ian Beesley,Poet ian Mcmillan.'Picture: MATTHEW PAGE
11th March 2011.'Symposeum at national Coal Mining Museum and exhibition with L/R: Trustee David Flack, photographer ian Beesley,Poet ian Mcmillan.'Picture: MATTHEW PAGE

THE legacy of colliery life has been celebrated with powerful words and images from some of the UK’s foremost artists.

Poet Ian McMillan and social documentary photographer Ian Beesley created The Drift, a collection of pictures and poetry based on one of Yorkshire’s last working pits.

Inspired by Hay Royds Mine near Denby Dale, the exhibition features enigmatic images of workers at the pit, interwoven with poetry printed onto banners, doors and even a length of conveyor belt brought up from the mine.

The exhibition, which is running at the National Coal Mining Museum, was the inspiration for the museum’s second annual symposium, A Representation of Time.

Mr McMillan and Mr Beesley were joined by David Peace, author of The Damned United, photographers John Davies and Keith Pattison and researchers Jean Spence and Carol Stephenson. The event was launched by Mary Creagh MP.

Mr McMillan said: “It’s an exhibition about the life of the pit. When you go there you don’t realise the mine is there.

“The people there are almost working in a living fossil.”

Poems from Mr McMillan include The Back, Bent and Song of the Miner.

Mr Beesley first visited the pit, which supplies coal to Drax Power Station, in 1990, and in 2007 he was invited to record the last days of the colliery after its closure was announced.

But a rise in coal prices meant it has continued production.

Mr Beesley explored themes of darkness and light when photographing in the dim, cramped spaces underground.

He described the exhibition as washing the words and images out of coal and onto the page.

Mr Beesley said: “I decided to try and capture the atmosphere of working underground, photographing the darkness, the claustrophobia, and the physicality of the work.

“It has been one of the longest and hardest projects I have ever undertaken, but I was inspired and driven on by the tenacity, determination and humour of the miners who, in the most difficult of times, have continued to fight to win the coal.”

The exhibition is open until May 8 at the museum on New Road, Overton.

For more information, telephone 01924 848806 or log on to www.ncm.org.uk