Film tells tale of painters from the pits

The cover of the new DVD highlighting the work of the Pitmen Painters.
The cover of the new DVD highlighting the work of the Pitmen Painters.

A NEW film has been produced about a group of miners world famous for being as handy with a paintbrush as a pickaxe.

South east Northumberland’s Six Townships Community History Group has put together a documentary DVD offering a fresh perspective on the so-called pitmen painters.

The Ashington artists flourished between the early 1930s and mid-1970s after starting out as members of a Workers’ Educational Association-organised class in art appreciation.

Encouraged by their tutor Robert Lyon, they took to painting and became renowned for the way they depicted their surroundings and working lives.

By the early 1940s, the group had exhibited in London and were beginning to be noticed and praised by artists and critics nationwide.

After the Second World War, critical interest in the group waned, but they continued to meet weekly, producing new art and taking on new members.

In the 1980s, the group’s permanent collection became the first Western exhibition in China after the country’s Cultural Revolution.

The group’s meeting hut was finally demolished in 1983, with the paintings being put in trust before they were passed on to Ashington’s Woodhorn Museum.

The story of the pitmen painters was turned into a play by Lee Hall in 2007 and since seen at Newcastle’s Live Theatre, in London, and on Broadway in New York.

John Dawson, secretary of the history group, said: “Now you can see for yourself the original painters at work creating their master-pieces.

“Witness miners underground in 1931 at Ashington Colliery in this rare DVD and see the great Oliver Kilbourn painting and talking about his art along with other members of this now famous group.”

The DVD costs £5.49 and is available from or at Al’s Superstore in Ashington.

Another documentary about the artistic miners, presented by Dudley actor Robson Green, pictured, most recently seen in BBC3’s Being Human, is due to be screened by ITV later this year.