After the Coal Dust Book Review

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, https://www.johngill.photography/john-gill-photography…/ 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,
https://www.johngill.photography/john-gill-photography…/
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)
https://m.facebook.com/johngillphotography/

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.

WHELDALE DISASTER
 
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
IN THE DARKNESS
 
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

After the Coal Dust Book

after the coal dust book cover

The After the Coal Dust book will be available from the 1st October.

It will feature over a hundred photographs by John and Bridget Gill as well as a few short, written pieces. The book will be available as a 30cm x 30cm hardback or 20cm x 20cm hardback, both featuring 130 pages on 200g/m2 paper.

If you want notifying when the book is on sale there’s a form here where you can submit your details.

The price will be £28.95 for the large size and £19.95 for the smaller size.

There’ll be more details nearer the time

After the Coal Dust – The Book

We’re looking to have a book with photos from the After the Coal Dust project and some of the other street and portrait images from my personal site (John Gill Photography) available late September/October time.

If all goes to plan it’ll be available in approximately A4 and ‘coffee table’ 12inx12in size, hardback with around 130 pages. Price isn’t set yet but definitely less than £30.

If you want to be notified when it’s available, you can register your interest here – there’s no obligation 🙂

I’ll post more details nearer the release date.

YPU Keighley Day 2019

YPU Keighley Day 2019

John will be one of the guest lecturers at the Yorkshire Photographic Union (YPU) Keighley Day  2019.

The event will be held at Pontefract, West Yorkshire on the 16th November 2019

More details at the YPU website

Exhibition at Hull is very doubtful

HIP Gallery

It now seems very unlikely that our After the Coal Dust exhibition at the HIP Gallery, Hull will take place at all.

We have been unable to get a reply or acknowledgement from them despite attempting to contact them several times. Their 2019 programme is full apparently and if we can’t even get a response from them there doesn’t seem to be any prospect of the exhibition going ahead in 2020 either.

Disappointing in some ways but I don’t see how we can take this forward as over the past month or so we have emailed the curator three times, FB messaged twice, emailed the gallery itself all without any reply. A phone call promising a call back never materialised either.

This lack of communication has been in complete contrast to the other galleries we have dealt with and under these circumstances, we don’t now feel we would be able to work with them.

Apologies to all those who had hoped to see us in Hull but there’ll be other places 🙂

John & Bridget.

Doncaster exhibition now over

The After the Coal Dust photo exhibition at Doncaster Art Gallery finished on the 21st April. Thank you to everyone who took the time to visit.

Some feedback from the gallery:

Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery displayed the ‘After the Coal Dust’ exhibition in its Community Gallery between February and April 2019.
 
The exhibition was enjoyed greatly by both visitors and staff members at the Museum, and provoked much debate and reflection about the changes to life in the north of England since some of the big industries have closed down.
 
John and Bridget were a pleasure to work with, and the exhibition was beautifully presented as well as containing many striking and memorable images.
 


Neil McGregor
Assistant Manager (Art, Exhibitions and Outreach)
Heritage Doncaster

Unfortunately the projected exhibition at Hull will not now take place this year. Hopefully we can finalise dates for 2020

After the Coal Dust lecture

Below is the report of the talk we gave to Wakefield Camera Club on the 1st April 2019.

On the evening of Monday 1st April the club hosted a fascinating presentation by Castleford-based John & Bridget Gill and their daughter Freya. The title of the presentation was “After The Coal Dust” and comprised a series of photographs taken by John, Bridget and Freya. The idea was to provide a dispassionate look at what comes after the closure of an area’s main industry and focal point. Although many of the images were taken in the local “coal towns” they expanded their view to other places such as Scarborough and York as they found that other traditional industries such as steel and textiles have seen a similar decline. The photographs put a face to some of the people in these areas. Photographs from After The Coal Dust have been exhibited at The Great Yorkshire Show, The National Mining Museum for England and The Bradford Industrial Museum.

The show started with some shots taken outside Kellingley Colliery as it closed and moved into the communities. It had been coal and the economy surrounding it which had held these communities together and despite some investment a lot of the people felt left behind and forgotten. Most of the images were from our local area and had a resonance with the audience but the locations did include Bradford as it too experienced the demise of the textile industry. The images often portrayed a generalised disconnect between the subjects and life elsewhere. John provided the commentary as a procession of wonderfully evocative images were displayed on the large screen. His varied and interesting talk put the images into a context, both in terms of the society and the photography.

John explained that basically it could all be viewed as street photography but with a theme running throughout. All the images bar 2 or 3 were candid photographs without the subject knowing they were being photographed. He felt that any subject behaves or appears different when they know they are being photographed and he wanted the “un-posed” image. He recognised that there was some risk, although he has only received one death threat!! He tends to walk around rather than selecting a particular sight and waiting for a subject to come into it. He tends to use a wide angle lens on a micro for thirds camera which keeps the whole thing unobtrusive and less likely to cause interest. He does accept you need to get in close but if the subject is concentrating on something else, even if it is daydreaming, then one can still go unnoticed. He has to work quickly and it is a case of “practice makes perfect”. In the end it has to become instinctive. For his normal work he does not do too much Photoshop processing – just sufficient to highlight and bring the subject to the fore.

In the second half the stream of excellent and though-provoking images continued. He started by showing a group of images he classed as “controversial” in that they sparked a lot of interest and debate on social media. The subjects included children, the homeless and obesity. He followed this with a section showing a lighter side which provoked laughter and comment. He finished with a section on portraits. In these he had eliminated most of the background by cropping or processing in Photoshop. This took away the context and created a pseudo-studio image so that the viewer’s full attention was on the person in isolation. Some of these were stunning – full of attitude and emotion which probably could not have been created or simulated in a studio.

Throughout the evening the audience was captivated by the images displayed and John’s narrative. At the end there were many questions and everyone agreed it had been a really good evening. John, Bridget and Freya’s work is best seen rather than talked about and you can find many of the images at https://www.afterthecoalddust.com and I do urge anyone who missed the talk to have a look at them.

Copyright: Wakefield Camera Club 2019

https://wakefieldcameraclub.org.uk/after-the-coal-dust-came/

Exhibition at Doncaster Art Gallery

A selection of around forty photographs from the After the Coal Dust project will be displayed at Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery from March 9th to April 21st 2019

Bridget with framed images ready for the Doncaster Art Gallery exhibition.

Entry to the exhibition is free and follows on from the previous successful displays at The National Mining Museum for England and Bradford Industrial Museum.

Please check the Gallery’s website for opening times and accessibility information.