Coal Face project develops in Washington

One of the fantastic projects that I’ve been involved with is Coal Face, an artist pilot project in which we’ve been able to use Arts Council NPO funding for alongside The Cultural Spring’s CPP funding.

The outcomes also involve comprehensive first person research, verbatim poems and podcasts which have been funded through our Grand Challenges work with UCL.

The project culminates in an exhibition as well as the publication of a breathtaking publication due to be launched at Washington F Pit in September 2023.

Using visual tintype portraiture, Sunderland photographer Andy Martin and biographies and verbatim poems created by Dr Louise Powell capture the last generation of Washington Miners’ memories and sense of belonging in a changing coalfield community in the ‘Coal Face’ exhibition. The exhibition will be open to the public at Washington F Pit for the duration of September. 

Funded by Redhills, The Cultural Spring and University College London (UCL), the exhibition recalls the era when the pits were still open and operational, examining the layering of place in an area where half a dozen pit villages had the superstructure of a new town imposed on top.   

Nick Malyan, Chief Executive of The Redhills Charity, said: “Washington and Sunderland are integral parts of the former Durham Coalfield, so we’re delighted to be working with not only a brilliant Sunderland photographer in Andy Martin but partnering with The Cultural Spring and Sunderland Culture to deliver an exhibition that is rooted so firmly in the people, culture and heritage of the area.“

Alan Taitley, 91, who lives in Fulwell, was one of the ex-miners who participated in the project. Alan was born in Washington Glebe to a mining family and held roles including putting and power loading at F-Pit. After its closure, he worked at Boldon and Wearmouth Collieries.

The Coal Face exhibition coincides with annual heritage open days, for which Washington F Pit opens to the public. Despite officially closing as a pit in 1968, F Pit remains a fascinating historical attraction for locals and tourists wishing to learn about Sunderland’s coal mining heritage. 

The exhibition will be open to the public from Monday, 4th September until Saturday, 30th September, 12-3 pm Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday). Visiting is free and no tickets are required.

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