After the Coal Dust Book Review

After the Coal Dust Book Review showcases black and white photos of people in a book.

A great review of our After the Coal Dust book on the Progress site in Italy.

“This is one of the very best books of photography to come to the table.”

Margaret Thatcher’s conservative government, with their forced closures of coal mines and privatisation, caused an enormous social shock, which was met with indignation across the media and throughout society. 

These photographs of John and Bridget Gill are full of that coal dust. The statement of “whether to cry or laugh is hard to say,” is loudly proclaimed in front of Kellingley, the last of hundreds of mines to be closed amidst the protests (“Work, not prison”). But there’s more, for this pair of photographers go further, testifying to the societal impact of such government measures. From the 1990s and beyond 2000 they scan Yorkshire, the cities and towns that suffered the wave of destructive conservatism, as they follow individuals through the streets, surprising them at the market, in bars, wherever there are eyes staring into their cameras, tired, frowning faces, wasted (the photos taken in Castleford, Leeds, Pontefract, for example) in black and white… 

But not everything is lost, the three old ladies from Castleford who laugh are not the only ones; Selby’s man, glasses raised on his forehead, looks upward in hope, to the sky. There are also children playing, three of which are in front of the magnificent shelves of the ice cream shop. With English aplomb one gentleman performs in Leeds and another, adorned with an explorer’s helmet, seems to have just arrived from the Great Empire. 

Bridget and John Gill reflect the variety of the routine observed, arriving in Scarborough, the coastal towns reminiscent of Robin Hood, pirates, fun loving people. Some lighter moments aside, their photographic essay exposes the suffering and poverty, the Covid epidemic and homelessness. It has to be said that the Gills’ great excursion into this region of England may be less glittering and sumptuous than the usual image we have in our minds of Great Britain, however, they remain as a memento ‘the faces’, the sixteen faces in small format, almost tiles of a twilight gallery, where the wrinkles, the dark circles, the lips tightened on the cigarette, tell the story, face on or in profile, of an era tragic, but not yet over. The Gills and their book is more than just a remembering, it’s an archive of an historic time.

“This is one of the very best books of photography to come to the table.”

Hebden Bridge exhibition review

A black and white photo capturing people at an exhibition in a hallway.

A great review for the After the Coal Dust exhibition at Hebden Bridge April 2022

“It’s unusual for us to approach exhibitors whose work we have seen elsewhere, sometimes because we’re too busy but also because we get so many artists approaching us and we are spoilt for choice. When we saw After the Coal Dust being exhibited in Castleford, we just knew we needed to host it here.

We were delighted with the results. John & Bridget’s photographs are exceptional, made all the more so because they are not staged. These are people and faces and situations we have all seen but don’t manage to capture: these photos manage that feat.

We have a regularly changing series of exhibitions here with up to 13 a year: this show really stood out and it’s had a great reception. We particularly enjoyed local people who featured in the pictures coming to see them, often for the first time.

We’d heartily recommend this exhibition to anyone and look forward to hosting John & Bridget sometime in the future.”

Graham Mynott

Executive Director
Hebden Bridge Community Association

AFter the Coal Dust exhibition Hebden Bridge

Goodbye Yorkshire, hello Tokyo

Goodbye Yorkshire coal dust, hello Tokyo.

When we started with the street photos we didn’t really think they’d be of interest to many people at all, at best one or two local people might be able to relate to them. For one thing quite a lot of people really hated the photos (and us for doing it!) and also the pictures seemed peculiarly ‘local’.

It’s strange to think they’re now on display at the other side of the world. From April 28th until the end of May a selection of images from the ‘After the Coal Dust’ project by Bridget and me are being exhibited at Gallery Ten in Tokyo, Japan.…/289-after-the-coal-dust

Ken Uwaso at the After the Coal Dust exhibition

A big thank you to Ken Uwaso for arranging things.

A new After the Coal Dust Exhibition for 2022

A courtyard with tables and chairs in front of a building, hosting the new After the Coal Dust Exhibition for 2022.

They will feature a selection of photographs taken by Bridget and me in a new exhibition at Hebden Bridge Town Hall from March 28th to April 25th 2022.

Hebden Bridge is well worth a visit irrespective of the “After the Coal Dust” event (although why not time your stay to take in the photos?). It’s a delightful part of the country about eight miles from Halifax in West Yorkshire. It’s got a thriving arts scene and plenty of places to stay for a few days. It’s only a short drive to Bronte Country and Haworth.

Hebden Bridge

Queen’s Mill exhibition October 2nd to October 18th 2021

An exhibition showcasing a view of a river at night with a building in the background, Queen's Mill, October 2nd to October 18th 2021.

All photos installed at the exhibition space at Queen’s Mill, Castleford ready for the After the Coal Dust exhibition that starts at the literary event on the 2nd October and runs until the 18th,

Entry is free to the exhibition after the opening night.

After the Coal Dust exhibition

View from the venue

Queen’s Mill, Castleford

After the Coal Dust exhibition

Exhibition space

Queen’s Mill, Castleford

After the Coal Dust exhibition


Queen’s Mill, Castleford

Photograph Exhibition at Queen’s Mill, Castleford

Words Festival at Queen's Mill, Castleford.

A selection of photographs by Bridget and me from our After the Coal Dust project will be exhibited at the Queens Mill Castleford from October 2nd to October 18th 2021.

There’ll be around 40 prints on display and the exhibition opens as part of the ‘Trouble at t’ Mill’ Literary Event on October 2nd. I’ll be speaking at the event alongside several writers and poets.

The photo exhibition is free but the literary event opening evening is a ticket only event. Tickets are priced at £14 and are available from Eventbrite – TROUBLE AT’ MILL – QUEEN’S MILL WORD FEST Tickets, Sat 2 Oct 2021 at 18:00 | Eventbrite

Opening times for the exhibition are limited so please contact the venue for details.

Press article for the exhibition

After the Coal Dust Book Review

A woman with red hair.

We just wanted to share a review of the ‘After the Coal Dust’ book by the acclaimed Italian novelist, screenwriter and documentary film maker, Francesca Melandri. Many people will be aware of her ‘Letter from the Future’ that spread globally last year.

It’s been a long time since I wanted to talk to you about the photos of John Gill and Bridget Gill, and the beautiful book they made together, “After the coal dust”

Theirs is street photography but not the one you always see – New York, Barcelona, ​​big cities and cool places. Their gaze is on a small piece of Northern England, the one most devastated by the closure of the mines which for centuries have been its heart, economy and identity. Not that life in the mine is a thing to regret, but these portraits tell what happens to a place, and especially to its inhabitants, when history goes elsewhere without leaving – at least, apparently – nothing in return.

Personally, looking at the photos of John and Bridget, I had the impression that I understood at least a little more the strange social hara-kiri that is Brexit. If you go to their Facebook page, and look at their photos in sumptuous b / w, you will understand for sure what I mean.

(You can order the book here,…/ I gave it to a couple of friends and John was very kind and prompt in shipping. On his website there are also the dates of the conferences he holds on zoom – I listened to one, very interesting)

Francesca Melandri

Francesca Melandri

Novelist, screenwriter and film maker

Original review published in Italian.

È parecchio tempo che volevo parlarvi delle foto di John Gill e Bridget Gill , e del bellissimo libro che hanno fatto insieme, “After the coal dust”
La loro è street photography ma non di quella che si vede sempre – New York, Barcelona, grandi città e posti cool. Il loro sguardo è su un piccolo pezzo del’Inghilterra del nord, quella più devastata dalla chiusura delle miniere che per secoli ne sono state il cuore, l’economia e l’ identità. Non che la vita in miniera sia una cosa da rimpiangere, ma questi ritratti raccontano cosa succede a un posto, e soprattutto ai suoi abitanti, quando la Storia se ne va da un’altra parte senza lasciare – almeno, apparentemente – niente in cambio.
Io personalmente guardando le foto di John e Bridget ho avuto l’impressione di capire almeno un pochino di più quello strano harakiri sociale che è la Brexit .
Se andate sulla loro pg Facebook, e guardate le loro foto in sontuoso b/n,, capirete di certo cosa intendo dire.
(Potete ordinate il libro qui,…/
Io l’ho regalato a un paio di amiche e John è stato gentissimo e sollecito nella spedizione. Sul suo sito ci sono.anche le date delle conferenze che tiene su zoom – ne ho ascoltata una, molto interessante)

Two Mining Poems by Stuart Bailey

Kellingley Colliery closure march

Stuart Bailey has been kind enough to send us a couple of his poems relating to the local collieries.

It was there at the Wheldale Colliery, Castleford
Two seams of coal were being worked in that mine
They were the Beeston and the Silkstone Seams
As the miners started work that day all it was fine
It was the morning, Wednesday 22nd February 1922
243 miners descended the pit between 5.15 and 6 a.m.
The Districts they were working were numbers 1, 2 & 3
It was the Silkstone seam worked by boys and men
Around 10 a.m. in No 2 District was heard a shot fired
Shortly after that the sound of another shot fired, came
This followed by an explosion when firedamp ignited
Then a blast of wind mingled with coal dust and flame
As the miners in other areas tried to make their way out
The rescue workers came to where the explosion had been
They found a badly burnt miner trying to get to safety
Then the body of the only miner who died at the scene
As they moved on they attended to men who were injured
At the blast area they found eight men who had been there
They got them to the surface but all were so badly injured
This eight succumbed to their injuries despite hospital care
The men who died were James Bibb and Clifford Booth
Then Enoch Holmes, William Hall, John T Anson as well
There was Edward Baker, Joseph Lowe, Arthur Marsden,
James Moreton, the sad news their families they had to tell
Then the inquiry looked into the cause of the explosion
Was flames from the firing of the second shot they found
It was Fathers, sons, husbands, brothers who died that day
Like their fathers before them digging for coal underground
Stuart Bailey. 11.10.2020
Beneath an overgrown tree in the cemetery
Half hidden there stands a solitary gravestone
It marks the place where five coal miners lay
In Castleford, are these men’s names known
They are Joseph Milner and his brother John
Also, William Oakey and William Tilley too
Lastly with them, there lies George Godwin
They must all be remembered by me and you
Was on the Silkstone seam at Wheldale Colliery
They and many others were working on that day
When suddenly on Tuesday the 8th December 1891
A fire started when a lamp fell over, they did say
They were working 500yds from where it started
The fire it was between those men and the pit shaft
Fellow miners called and told them of the danger
Sadly, the fire these men could find no way past
For some days the fire in the mine was spreading
Around the 12th there was no hope for those men
So, 1,200 miners were laid off without any wages
To put out the fire, the mine it was flooded then
The fire was extinguished the day after Christmas
Pumps were started to clear water from the mine
Their bodies were found but could not be recognised
Through the debris bringing them out it took time
It was the number stamped on each miner’s lamp
Who each man was, that was the only way to tell
Those five coal miners for eternity sleep together
Was on the coal face, there in the darkness they fell
Stuart Bailey. 11.10.2020

Both poems are copyright of Stuart Bailey and are reproduced by kind permission of the author