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Last chance to see miners’ exhibition at Leeds museum

A miner hundreds of metres below the surface.

A miner hundreds of metres below the surface.

The work of a Yorkshire photographer and poet who teamed up to document the decline of the mining industry is on display at Leeds’ Armley Mills Industrial Museum.

Ian Beesley, 59, from Bradford, worked from 1990 to 2010 photographing miners at the Hay Royds colliery in Kirklees, before the mine closed due to flooding.

The exhibition ‘The Drift’ has been on the road for three years, starting at West Yorkshire’s National Coal Mining Museum before travelling to venues including China and Italy before being displayed at Armley Mills.  

'The Drift' exhibition will be at Armley Mill Industrial Museum until 30th March.

‘The Drift’ exhibition will be at Armley Mill Industrial Museum until 30th March.

The powerful images, depicting the exhausting nature of mining, are supported by the poetry of Barnsley’s Ian McMillan, 58.

The poem ‘Song of the Miner,’ which partners shots of miners below the surface and the contrasting bright winter snow hundreds of metres above them, is a particular highlight and is an almost perfect fusion of photography and poetry.

Ian said: “If you take an image and encapsulate it in text it becomes something greater than the two separately.”

The power of the images and poetry also adequately reflect the decline of northern mining, which was a thriving industry before the 1980s employing 190,000 people across the UK. Today, just over 2,000 miners remain active in the pits.

The Drift reflects the human side of the politically contentious issue of mining today, the miners’ dirt and sweat embodied succinctly by the black and white photographs that make up most of the the exhibition.

Yorkshire Voice also spoke to former miner John Rochester, 63, of Selby, who lost his job following the 1980s miners’ strike.

“The worst thing was going to meetings,” he said. “There was such a division with the people I worked with, brothers fell out and a lot of moderates were ignored.”

‘The Drift’ exhibition will be displayed at the Armley Mills Industrial Museum until March 30.

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