Pin the Pits
by Grace Shaw
A young artist from Conisbrough is campaigning for Ordnance Survey maps to acknowledge regenerated ex-mines with a half pit wheel symbol.
Rachel Horne lives in north London but grew up in Conisbrough near Doncaster.
Her father, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and great-great-grandfather were all coal miners so her mining heritage goes as far back as the 1850s.
A Miners Strike baby, born in 1984 in the heart of the mining community at Denaby, she describes herself as being from "pure mining stock."
Rachel grew up in Conisbrough and Denaby in the 1990s and says she felt a huge sense of disillusionment and apathy among her generation once the coal industry had died in that area. Denaby Main drew its last coal in the late 1960s while Cadeby colliery closed in 1986.
Rachel Horne with her artwork
"I didn't know much about my mining history because in the early 90s people didn't want to talk about it, they just wanted to move on. We were never really taught about the strike in school. I knew some of the stories but I never realised it shaped everything, including my own depression.
"I started discovering more and more about my history at college where we did a lot of work on identity, background and history. I was trying to piece together my community and what had happened to it, trying to understand why it was in a bit of an apathetic state really.
"People have quite low self esteem here. I felt that and I really wanted to understand what it was all about."
Family struggles during the strike
The Hornes were typical of many families in the area. "My dad had been a coal miner for 30 years when I was born in 1984. He was on strike for the full year. We found it very difficult afterwards. I've got three older sisters who were all teenagers through the strike so they remember it very well.
Scuffle at Orgreave © Steve Eason
"It was very hard for my dad because he's an older generation miner, he's been doing it since he was 15 so he found it very difficult to find employment. He tried to set up his own business but it didn't work because the economy was so rough at the time... so we really struggled.
"I have memories of being quite poor, not having electricity and gas - things like that... which obviously contribute to a feeling of low self worth.
"One year my mum made Christmas dinner on a cooker with only one ring that worked, or she would make me toast by putting bread on a fork and holding it over the ring. Some weekends we wouldn't have electricity or we'd fill the bath up with the kettle and use soap as shampoo.
Photos of the Horne family
"I did a lot of things my generation has been notorious for - drinking alcopops on the streets and binge drinking. I went to a school that struggled to pass Ofsted and was deemed one of the worst in the area. We were the generation that sat in front of the telly with a bag of crisps while both parents went out to work. We were brought up on TV and Mattel Toys.
"Because of the way I grew up I had really low self worth and felt very ashamed of my background. I moved out very young and decided I was moving to London as soon as I could.
"But I was fortunate to have my older sisters as amazing mentors, they all went on to study in further education, I followed their example."
Click on the link below for the BBC South Yorkshire Miners Strike Map which shows all the pits and their closures, plus audio, video and text features and archive footage.
Rachel's nan keeps a coal bucket under the sink
Rachel's 93-year-old nan lives in Denaby, around the corner from the Miners' Welfare Club. She still has a coal scuttle outside her bungalow and a bucket of coal under the kitchen sink for her fire, to save her going outside to fill the scuttle too often.
The Miners' Welfare Club in the village was once an impressive building with plenty of facilities. As well as the bars and entertainment rooms indoors, it had sports facilities outside.
"To the left is a football pitch which would have been home to Denaby United Football Club. There's a cricket field to the right and behind would have been the swimming pool. My nan told me that in the 1930s it had a library here, so it was all very much welfare-orientated."
Rachel Horne outside the Miners' Welfare
But miners' welfares are not nearly so well-used as they were in their heyday of the 1930s and 40s, and even less well used after the decline of the mining industry. Rachel took us to Denaby & Cadeby Miners' Welfare and showed us some of the banners and mining memorabilia that still line the walls. Click on the links below to read and hear more.
After studying art at Doncaster College Rachel couldn't wait to get away from the depressing wasteground that Denaby had become. She went to study Fine Art at Middlesex University.
Her artworks comment on society and her mining background. She mapped her social history and documented her experiences using drawings, photography and writing to understand life and society rather than working with specific media.
Orgreave, June 1984
"This community has been through a really heavy transition since the decline of the mining industry in the 1980s and 1990s. It can never go back to what it was - people feel very sad about that because people loved their community.
"But our generation, we don't love our community. I couldn't wait to get away, I couldn't wait to move to London. I felt a lot of negativity here.
"My project Pin the Pits is a way of me creating something positive for my community so I can be proud of it like they were proud of their community."
What is Pin the Pits?
Pin the Pits is a campaign to mark regenerated coal mines on Ordnance Survey Maps.
Rother Valley Country Park was once a colliery
"The communities I'm from were there to serve the industry, and obviously that went into decline in the 1980s - but now many of these sites have been turned into community parks and woodlands.
"They're often very significant country parks - like Rother Valley Country Park - and I'm trying to get OS to mark these sites with a half pit wheel symbol to give the sites recognition and for the communities to have a bit of their cultural identity back."
The maps Rachel wants to be marked are detailed reference maps used for outdoor activities.
"The pit wheel symbols would specifically be put on regenerated sites otherwise it's very difficult to find where the coal mines used to be because a lot of them have been built on.
"It will appear under the classification of historical features - next to Roman forts, battle sites, indicating that former coal mining sites are of historical interest and importance for walkers, cyclists, school children and tourists.
"Instead of using oil, stone or bronze which is usually associated with memorials, I want to use a medium akin with the spirit of coal and mining people. This is my tribute to my mining ancestry. Pinning the pits will ensure their legacy will not be forgotten."
Half pit wheel marker in Grimethorpe
Local places which would be given a half pit wheel symbol include the sister pits at Cadeby and Denaby Main, Yorkshire Main in Edlington, Barnborough, Brodsworth, Bentley Main, Goldthorpe, Thorne... There are many in the Yorkshire area but the symbol wouldn't be restricted to Yorkshire. Rachel points out there are also mines in places like Fowlmead in Kent.
On the site of the Denaby Main colliery is now the Dearne Valley Leisure Centre, while Cadeby pit had the Earth Centre built upon it (now closed).
Take a look at the BBC's Miners Strike Map - which pits closed and when, plus audio, video, text and archive material to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1984-5 Miners Strike.
Rachel initially decided to find out whether the sites had already been marked in any way. "Sometimes they have shaft entrance markers - just stones which mark the entrance of the mine.
Billy Bragg - a supporter of the Miners Strike
"They should be marked because they're historically important - my whole community was based around these sites. But they weren't marked on reference maps so I put a query in to a town planner.
"Later on I wrote to Billy Bragg about it. He was a great supporter of the miners during the strike - and through him it got to a national newspaper article. Ordnance Survey invited me down to London and we got an Early Day Motion in Parliament which has been signed by 88 MPs.
"I don't think the community will ever go back to what it was but if people can feel a bit proud of the mining culture then it would give something positive for the next generation.
The half pit wheel symbol is not yet being used on Ordnance Survey maps [July 2009] but Rachel feels the campaign has been going very successfully so far: "everybody is behind it. I feel I'm doing something which people really want to see happen!"
In May 2009 Rachel organised Bring Out the Banners, a day of events at Denaby & Cadeby Miners' Welfare in which hundreds of people from mining communities gathered to honour the 25th anniversary of the 1984-5 Miners Strike and to "bring the spirit of that venue back to life that day." Rachel says that the Welfare Club at Denaby is becoming a patron to her artwork and projects - and that on the day of the reunion, the bar there took over £6000.
Find out more about Denaby & Cadeby Miners' Welfare by clicking on the link below.
:: Rachel Horne was speaking to Grace Shaw in 2009 ::
last updated: 09/03/2010 at 14:30