News Column

Exploring 'lost world' of mining ; TV preview By John Woodhouse [Sentinel, The (Stoke-on-Trent, England)]

November 4, 2013


Timeshift BBC4, 10pm IT says a lot for the decimation of a once proud industry that this episode of Timeshift is described as exploring 'the lost world of coal mining'. The documentary focuses on miners' rich social and cultural lives, revealed via a film archive documenting the final years of coal's heyday.

One priceless piece of footage, for instance, features a ballet performance by tutu-wearing colliers. The so-called Balletomines were a real-life group of miners who, seven decades back, donned tutus to perform Coppelia, much to the delight of their Yorkshire comrades.Not perfect, but better than anything achieved on Strictly by Dave Myers.

The Coal Board produced many such short films, setting up its own film unit in 1947, covering every aspect of the industry and the culture around it, right up until the 1980s. At their peak, they were shown in some 700 cinemas across Britain on a monthly basis. Many were made by the Data collective, a left-leaning group of film makers including Wolfgang Suschitzky, an Austrian emigre who later went on to make Get Carter and Entertaining Mr Sloane.

Timeshift features contributions from those who worked underground, those who lived in the pit villages, those who filmed them at work and play, and those, such as Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall, inspired by what made the coalfield culture so unique.

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