This Working Life: King Coal – A century of British coalmining on screen 1- 31 September 2009
“With coal we have light, strength, power, wealth, and civilisation; without coal we have darkness, weakness, poverty and barbarism.” Quote from ‘Coal Catechism’ by William Jasper Nicolls, 1906.
King Coal is the first instalment of a major three-year BFI project celebrating the UK’s 20th century industrial heritage. Launching in Sepember 2009 in London and Sheffield the turbulent story of coal and the immense effect it has had on British life will be explored on screen.
King Coal showcases some remarkable material drawn from the BFI National Archive’s documentary and fiction collections with themes ranging from the myth of the miner, domestic and community life, to the agonising battles against pit closures in the 1980s.
King Coal comprises a range of elements including cinema screenings, a touring film programme, free films on YouTube and in Mediatheques, educational resources and a DVD release.
Film screenings at BFI Southbank and Showroom, Sheffield
Many of the screenings will be presented by leading figures associated with the films and curators from the BFI National Archive.
On the Face of It: A Century of Coalmining on Screen
Spanning fact and fiction, controversy and humour, we celebrate a century of British coalmining on film with a special screening of some of the extraordinary films about the power of coal with special guest presenter Lee Hall, writer of Billy Elliot and The Pitmen Painters soon to be revived at the National Theatre. This selection of films from the BFI National Archive ranges from the lively animation of King Coal to the glorious longterm prospects of coal via its vital role in the swinging sixties. The programme also includes the vivid 1910 depiction of A Day in the Life of a Coalminer with a newly commissioned score by Vector Lovers.
Tue 8 Sep 18:30 NFT1
Meet the People (The Price of Coal series)
BBC 1977. Dir Ken Loach 75min
Director Ken Loach is reunited with playwright Barry Hines and producer Tony Garnett for the first time since they worked together on Kes. Meet the People is a television play about the comic consequences of the announcement of a royal visit to Milton Colliery in Yorkshire. Filmed on location at the disused Thorpe Hesley pit, it stars four Northern comics, Jackie Shinn, Duggie Brown, Stan Richards and Bobby Knutt as working men with a lot on their plates.
Sun 13 Sep 18:40 NFT2
Mon 21 Sep 18:10 NFT2
Both screenings introduced by producer Tony Garnett
Songs and Galas
After some ballads from around the UK sung by Ewan MacColl and Isla Cameron in Songs of the Coalfields (GB 1964 15min) there’s Ken Russell’s classic film The Miners’ Picnic (Monitor series) portraying a brass band carnival at Bedlington, Northumberland. (BBC 1960 16mins). The wistful Gala Day (GB 1963 Dir John Irvin 26min) shows the Durham Miners’ Gala in another light and we conclude with Russell’s return to the North East 45 years later, The Miners’ Picnic with Ken Russell (BBC 2006 Dir Dan Farthing 30 min).
Sat 12 Sep 16:00 NFT2
Wed 23 Sep 18:30 NFT2*
*Introduction by director John Irvin
The 60s: A Portrait in Coal
Some very different perspectives of life and work in the 1960s – in Wales, the Midlands and Yorkshire, incorporating some wonderfully moving and inventive film-making. A Wedding on Saturday (Granada 1964 40min), is a Yorkshire pit-village documentary portrait by Denis Mitchell and Norman Swallow. The rousing and tragic Master Singers: Two Choirs and a Valley (UK 1965 46min) fits in some sly witty moments. Portrait of a Miner (UK 1965 30min) is a touching and humorous look at the working day of Pat Leigh, a miner at Thoresby, Nottinghamshire, filled with unexpected delights.
Mon 14 Sep 20:40 NFT2*
Thu 24 Sep 18:00 NFT2**
*Introduction by Ros Cranston (BFI National Archive)
**Introduction by Patrick Russell (BFI National Archive)
The Stars Look Down
UK 1939. Dir Carol Reed. With Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood. 104min
Drama set in a mining village with Michael Redgrave as an idealistic miner’s son from the north east of England, who is distracted by Margaret Lockwood’s Jenny. Co-scripted by A.J. Cronin from his novel, the film is a stirring tale of politics, ethics and romance. Plus an issue of the cinemagazine Mining Review, from 1959, including a story on the Ashington Group, as featured in Lee Hall’s play The Pitmen Painters.
Tue 15 Sep 14:00 NFT2*
Fri 18 Sep 18:20 NFT2
Sat 26 Sep 18:20 NFT2
The Brave Don’t Cry
UK 1952. Dir Philip Leacock. With John Gregson, Meg Buchanan, John Rae, Fulton Mackay. 90min
A drama-documentary about a Scottish mining rescue team based on the 1950 Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery disaster. It was produced by the short-lived Group 3 which included John Grierson and features a cast drawn largely from Glasgow’s Citizen’s Theatre. Plus an issue of the cinemagazine Mining Review, from 1952, including the story On Set about the making of The Brave Don’t Cry, featuring an interview with John Gregson.
Wed 16 Sep 14:30 NFT2
Sun 20 Sep 18:40 NFT2
Thu 24 Sep 20:45 NFT3
UK 1949. Dir Jill Craigie. With Emrys Jones, Gwyneth Vaughan. 102 min
Olwen Williams leaves her Welsh village and sweetheart Tom to take up a singing scholarship. Tom’s ambitions remain closer to home. Jill Craigie’s first feature film has a keen eye for the details of life of the villagers of South Wales, playing football and struggling against poverty. Olwen’s city life in London, in contrast appears brittle and artificial. Plus a lyrical issue of the cinemagazine Mining Review, from 1962 about the transfer of miners from Aberaman Colliery, which is to be closed, to Deep Duffryn Colliery.
Sun 27 Sep 16:00 NFT2
Wed 30 Sep 18:20 NFT2
At the Coal Face: Working for the National Coal Board Film Unit
Director Peter Pickering is interviewed by Patrick Russell ( BFI National Archive) and relives some of the rewards and challenges of filming underground and on the surface for the prolific NCB Film Unit. Films on screen tonight include Nobody’s Face (1966 21min) a fictionalised account of an inefficient colliery in which everything goes wrong and Miners (1976 25min) about how miners live and work, recounted in their own words and in the opinions of their wives, filmed in Bagworth, Leicestershire.
Thu 17 Sep 18:30 NFT2
Cinema Action’s The Miners’ Film, and Loach’s Which Side Are you On?
The Miners’ Film (1975 45min) The miners’ struggles and way of life are celebrated as a vital part of Britain’s trade union movement. The film proved to be just as relevant ten years after its making and needed only a new prologue and epilogue when shown on Channel 4 during the Miners’ Strike of 1984-85. Which Side Are You On? (1984 52min) (dir Ken Loach) Features songs, poems and performances by miners’ families during the strike. Deemed â€˜highly partial’ by London Weekend Television, it was not transmitted in the South Bank Show series as planned.
Mon 21 Sep 20:40 NFT2*
Tue 29 Sep 18:20 NFT2
*Introduction by Steve Sprung, Cinema Action
The Romance of a Lump of Coal: Coal Curiosities
Presented by Jan Faull (BFI National Archive).
With a focus on the 1930s, featuring Black Diamonds (UK 1932. Dir Charles Hanmer 53mins) a highly ambitious amateur feature film produced by a miner driven by an urge to place the dangers of a miner’s life before the public. Plus two newly preserved films, unseen for decades, showing the some of the bizarre and unknown aspects of the BFI National Archive’s collection – including Coal (1936 5mins) dir J.B. Holmes, favoured by contemporary viewers over the more celebrated Coal Face. And who could resist The Romance of a Lump of Coal (1935 5mins)…
Fri 25 Sep 18:00 NFT3
Opening the Archives on the Miners’ Strike
Simon Popple from the University of Leeds screens and discusses coverage of the Strike of 1984-5, drawn from a joint project of the BBC and Arts and Humanities Research Council. As part of the groundbreaking work those involved in the strike from both mining and police communities produced a series of short personal films which respond to the original archive materials held by the BBC. This evening’s screening will comprise selections drawn from both sources.
Wed 16 Sep 18:10 NFT3
The Battle of Orgreave
UK 2001. Dir Mike Figgis 63mins
A film of the re-enactment conceived by artist Jeremy Deller of one of the most violent clashes between striking miners and police during the Miners’ Strike in the streets and fields of Orgreave, South Yorkshire. Figgis’ hour-long film relives this important day, which made social and political history, combining the re-enactment with live footage of the actual event. Plus The Lie Machine (Miners’ Campaign Videos) (UK 1984 12mins) offering miners’ perspectives on media coverage of the strike.
Mon 28 Sep 18:10 NFT3
Introduction by Julian Petley, Brunel University
More information at www.bfi.org.uk/kingcoal