‘Banners and Beyond’ considers how Notts’ mining communities found expression in union banners at galas, public events and demonstrations, and how this art-form is still used in the post-industrial age.
Banners and Beyond
Dr David Amos and Paul Fillingham
24 page, A5, colour booklet, published by Thinkamigo Editions
Edited by Gilbert Fillingham
A new booklet ‘Banners and Beyond – People, Parades and Protest in the Nottinghamshire Coalfield ‘ produced with the support of the Nottinghamshire Community Foundation, considers how Notts’ mining communities found expression in the slogans and iconography of mining union banners.
Featuring images of banners being paraded at Notts’ galas, public events, in protest and celebration, the publication considers how this art-form is being used in the post-industrial age, as we embrace green energy and renewables.
Supported by Nottinghamshire Community Foundation, Heritage Lottery and Nottinghamshire County Council, the project also includes downloadable banner-making worksheets for schools and parents engaged in home learning due to the COVID pandemic.
£2.50 including Free postage (UK)
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Thinkamigo Editions, ISBN 9-781838354602
A brief History of Notts Mining banners
Unveiling the Annesley Branch NUM banner in front of the colliery headstocks weeks before the start of the 1984-85 Miners’ stoke. Source: David Amos.
The formation of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) plus the election of a Labour Government led by Clement Atlee in 1945 and the subsequent nationalisation of the British coal mining industry in 1947, generated new interest in union banners throughout the British coalfields. In many ways it was seen as the ‘Dawn of a New Era’, following upheavals in the industry during the inter-war years.
Many Nottinghamshire NUM branches had banners made to coincide with the commencement of the Nottinghamshire Miners Annual Gala in 1949. Whilst banners in some of the more radical NUM Areas had political aspects to them, generally the Nottinghamshire banners reflected the moderate customs and traditions of the region, blending Robin Hood and local folklore with realistic representations of modern miners and mining technology.
In the immediate post World War Two period, the preferred supplier for Nottinghamshire miners’ banners was the Co-operative Arts Movement. Later in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Chippenham Designs, founded in 1970, produced banners for Nottingham Area NUM branches at New Hucknall, Cotgrave, Gedling, Ollerton, Newstead and Annesley.
Post-strike Bilsthorpe NUM Banner, part of the collection at the Bilsthorpe Heritage Museum. Source: Bob Bradley
The 1984-85 Miners Strike
The 1984-85 Miners Strike caused a split in the Nottingham Area of the NUM and eventually led to the formation of the breakaway Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM) in December 1985. In the aftermath of the strike, the two mining unions battled it out for representation of the Nottinghamshire miners and this led to another series of union banners being produced by both the post-strike NUM and in a few cases the UDM.
The Bilsthorpe NUM banner (above) is one of the post-strike banners which survives in the Bilsthorpe Heritage Museum. The historical reference to the Nottingham Miners Industrial Union (NMIU – 1926-1937) can be clearly seen. The NMIU is more commonly known as the ‘Spencer Union’ after its leader, George Alfred Spencer (1872-1957).
Nottingham Area NUM Gala procession passing along Nottingham Road, Mansfield, in the 1950’s, en-route to Berry Hill Park. Source: Our Mansfield and Area website
Nottinghamshire NUM Galas
The first Nottinghamshire Miners Gala, then known as a Demonstration, took place in 1949 and was held every year until 1983. The first four Gala’s took place at Basford Miners Welfare, near to Babbington Colliery (Cinderhill) and the Nottingham Area NUM offices which were then situated in nearby Basford. In 1953 for one time only, the Gala was held at Kirkby-in-Ashfield. All subsequent Gala’s were then held at Berry Hill, Mansfield. Initially, the location was the Miners’ Rehabilitation Centre grounds and later expanded into Berry Hill Park as the site developed in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. The Nottingham Area NUM relocated to its new Berry Hill headquarters in 1959.
The annual Gala’s were organised by a sub-committee of Nottingham Area NUM Branch Officials who met periodically throughout the year, traditionally, taking place in June. Each Gala had a procession which included miners’ banners, accompanied by branch committee members, themed floats, and bands. The Mansfield procession normally started at Chesterfield Road and made its way through the town to Berry Hill Park, a distance of just over a mile. Ken Smith, a former Annesley miner, filmed the 1968 Gala procession as it passed through Mansfield town centre (below). At this Gala, members of the Kirkby (Summit) NUM Branch paraded an imitation coffin in protest against the NCB’s decision to close the colliery.
Silent 8mm cine-film footage of Nottinghamshire NUM Gala and Demonstration in Mansfield, 1968, by Ken Smith of Underwood. Source: Media Archive for Central England (MACE)
Guest VIP to the 1980 was comedian Charlie Williams, pictured here with entrants from that year’s Coal Queen competition and the winner from the previous year. Source: Chad Newspaper.
Gala activities and events
Each Gala would adopt a resolution outlining the policy aims of the Nottingham Area of the NUM. VIP guest speakers were invited, typically senior Labour party politicians, Members of Parliament from mining constituencies, and prominent officials of the NUM – from the national executive and other area officials. In later years there were guest appearances by TV personalities, these included the comedian and former miner Charlie Williams (above), and comic actors Bill Maynard and Paul Shane.
Punch and Judy puppet show at the 1962 Nottingham NUM Miners Gala at Berry Hill Park, Mansfield. Source: Mansfield Chad.
Galas included displays by mining equipment manufacturers, the armed forces and emergency services. Family entertainment was provided at the Berry Hill site and included funfair rides, sports competitions and performances by colliery brass bands and juvenile jazz / kazoo bands. The annual Gala was also the location for the finals of the Area Coal Queen competition. Family members of NUM members were allowed to enter qualifying events held at Miners Welfare’s. VIP guests usually acted as judges and the culmination of the event was the crowning of the Area Coal Queen. The winner then went on to the national Coal Industry finals, organised by the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO) which were usually held in seaside locations.
The last Nottinghamshire Miners Gala took place in 1983 and although one was planned for 1984, it was cancelled as the 1984/85 strike broke in early March. After this event, miners banners were mainly seen at protest marches against pit closures and campaigns rallies. Banners are sometimes seen at the funerals of former miners or miners’ trade union officials.
The Mansfield (Crown Farm) banner adopted the theme of the 1951 Festival of Britain. Source: Thinkamigo
Mansfield NUM Branch Banner
The Mansfield (Crown Farm Colliery) Banner was recovered from the former headquarters of the Nottinghamshire UDM at Berry Hill, prior to demolition in 2014. It was discovered under the stage of the Council Chamber along with several other banners.
The Mansfield NUM banner is part of a collection which dates from the early 1950’s, adopting the theme of the 1951 Festival of Britain. The front of the banner is divided into four quadrants, depicting how the colliery helped supply coal to the domestic market, the railways, shipping and power stations. The reverse adopts a domestic theme with a miners flame safety lamp in the centre, surrounded by the essentials of food, drink, light and heat.
The distinctive Mansfield banner features in several archive images from the 1950’s to the 1970’s and was also the subject of the 2018 BBC TV documentary ‘Civilisation Stories: The Art of Mining’.
BBC film-crew recording the mining banner segment for ‘Civilisations Stories: The Art of Mining’ at the preserved Pleasley Pit site, March 2018. Source: David Amos.
The Art of Mining
In 2018 the BBC embarked on an ambitious follow up to Kenneth Clark’s 1969 landmark art history TV series ‘Civilisation’. In the follow-up series, Nottinghamshire mining banners are the subject of a programme entitled ‘Civilisations Stories: The Art of Mining’. The programme, produced by Whitehouse Media and presented by Geeta Pendse was originally broadcast on BBC East Midlands and subsequently shown on BBC 4.
Filming for the banner segment of ‘Civilisations Stories’ took place at the preserved heritage site at Pleasley and featured NUM banners for Bolsover, Mansfield, Annesley, and the UDM Nottingham Section banner. In the programme, researcher Paul Fillingham describes recovering the abandoned banners in 2013. Historian Nick Mansfield from the University of Central Lancashire, draws similarities between mining banners and the heraldic emblems and military colours used in battle, whilst David Amos decodes the symbolic imagery of the Mansfield banner.
The documentary also included the artwork of pit-man painter, George Bissell (1896-1973) who was originally from Langley Mill, vintage photographic plates of coal mining scenes at Bestwood Colliery from the 1930’s, the restored winding engines at Pleasley, and the carved memorial mining figures at Brierley Forest Park, Sutton-in-Ashfield.
The ‘Banners and Beyond’ template is ready for you to colour and has four sections for you to add modern-day illustrations.
Banners and Beyond – Activity Pack
Reimagining the mining union banner for today
Due to COVID restrictions, community and schools events associated with the ‘Banners and Beyond’ project have been postponed. However, copies of the booklet are being distributed to local schools and libraries for when restrictions are lifted.
Get your copy: Order ‘Banners and Beyond’ online from Thinkamigo Editions, £2.50 per copy including postage and packing.
Creative inspiration for Teachers, Parents and Pupils
As part of a ‘culture in quarantine’ initiative, Mine2Minds Education has produced a Banners and Beyond – Activity pack so that school pupils and students can design banners that reflect current events, their local community and wider themes. We hope a new generation of artists will share their banner artwork with us.
A useful resource for teachers, pupils, parents and lockdown educators. The Mine2Minds Education Banner and Beyond – Activity pack includes a downloadable artwork template ready for you to use.
Amos, D. and Fillingham, P. – ‘A History of Coal Mining in Ten Objects’, Thinkamigo Editions, 2013.
Amos, D. and Fillingham, P. – ‘Banners and Beyond’, Thinkamigo Editions, 2020.
BBC and Open University, ‘Civilisation Stories: The Art of Mining’, TV series, Season 1, Episode 6, 2018.
Bradley, A. and Hudson, R – ‘Memories of Coal Queens’, National Coal Mining Museum for England, 2010.
Chad Newspaper archive
Landscape Partnership Scheme (2019-2023) – Miner2Major Project
Banners feature – A History of Coalmining in 10 Objects
Online exhibition – Coal, Community and Change
Memories of Nottinghamshire NUM Galas – Our Mansfield and Area
Festival of Britain – Wikipedia article
Civilisations Stories: The art of mining, banners segment, Youtube