Monday, 21 November 2011

Miner Diversion! Chinese Miners Marching My dad's Old Pit Banner

100 years ago there were more than 200,000 coal miners working in North East England. On the 24th of November 1910 a miner aged 14 was killed in Usworth Colliery. His name was John Walker, he was my grandfathers brother, my great uncle John.

All the TV and Movie action toys are made in China. The toy factories are powered by electricity made from burning coal. The coal is dug by coal miners who have no trade unions. Many of my family were coal miners in North East England. My dad was a coal miner at Usworth colliery from 1955-1970 (aged 15 to 29). The miners of each pit organised into unions to win better conditions in their hazardous work. Each union had a 'pit banner'. 'From the middle of the nineteenth century the banners were used to unify and rally the communities in the coalfield... Banners are the miners' battle standards, proclaiming graphic messages of hope and calls for social justice which record more vividly than any other art form the history of the struggle for working-class rights.' Quotes taken from the foreword and cover note of the book 'Banners of the Durham Coalfield' by Norman Emery, 1998.

All of the coal mines in North East England are now closed. The banners are kept in museums and social clubs associated with the pit communities.


In a TV news report on a mining disaster in China I saw a miners wife demand improved working conditions for her husband and his comrades. I thought about her plight and the plight of my ancestors. I had just lost my father from an industrial cancer resulting from asbestos exposure in a tyre factory, the job he'd done since leaving the pit. He had two years of retirement before the cancer began to kill him. Some of the money which enabled me to construct my toy soldier army came from him. As it carries my name, 'The Battle Of Walkerloo' also carries his name, and that of my great uncle John.

I've decided 'MiY (Make it Yourself) Walkerloo Chinese Miners Marching With Usworth Colliery Banner' model is an essential new part of the 'The Battle of Walkerloo'. It marks the opening of a new and surprise front in my real pretend war. The model is available as a PDF document for money here (so I can live) and for free here (because it's better than nothing). Download it! Make it up! March it up and down!

Pretend all miners have trade unions. Pretend all toy factory workers have trade unions. Pretend the toys you buy for christmas are made by these pretend workers. Paper soldiers.... engines for social change or silly toys playing a real pretend war. Romantic, Ethical, Escapist toy soldiers at war with the mega corp toys The Battle of Walkerloo. This is a message from WIP. Walkerloo Information and Propaganda. Tally-Ho!

note. In the model the Chinese miners wear work cloths but at events, miners would not normally march with the banners in their work cloths. The front of the Usworth Colliery banner depicts Kier Hardy a key character in UK socialism. The models I've made up show the back of the banner facing forward, it proclaims 'Workers of the world unite you have nothing to loose but your chains, you have a world to win'.

I made Gouache paintings of Usworth Pit banner from images found on the 'Washington Banner Groups' web site and photo's Laura Camera Wife  took of me in the back garden.

Historic facts about mining came from the awesome Durham Mining Museum archive/website. Thanks.


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