New photography exhibition captures decades of Ashington’s mining history

A photographic exhibition documenting Ashington and its intimate connection to the mining industry is going on display.

Friday, 12th November 2021, 7:00 am
Mining apprentices with winding wheel at Ashington Colliery (1981).
Mining apprentices with winding wheel at Ashington Colliery (1981).

The career-spanning exhibition by social documentary photographer Mik Critchlow goes on display at Woodhorn Museum from Friday, November 19.

Chronicling the town and people of Ashington over four decades, ‘Coal Town’ provides a rare glimpse inside the town’s coalfield communities, and captures periods of major social, economic and political change in Northumberland.

Featuring more than 100 photographs taken from the 1970s right up to the early 2000s, ‘Coal Town’ documents the end of the coal mining industry in Ashington, and the immediate and long-term impact of the loss of the industry on the town’s people, places, and community.

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'Last Man Out', Woodhorn Colliery 1981.

The exhibition includes many images from Woodhorn, including the final shifts at the colliery before it closed in 1981.

Rowan Brown, Chief Executive of Museums Northumberland, said: “It feels incredibly poignant to have Mik’s body of work on display at Woodhorn Museum.

“Our museum was founded to remember and celebrate Northumberland’s proud mining heritage, and Mik’s work respectfully captures the town, people and surrounding areas of Ashington that were at the heart of the county’s mining industry.

“Mik’s photographs capture more than just a moment in time. They embody the emotions of his subjects, and that quality brings his pictures to life.”

Born and raised in Ashington, Mik has amassed an archive of over 50,000 pictures during his 44-year photography career. He began photographing the people and street life of his hometown in 1977.

Mik said: “For the past 44 years I have photographed the town, people and surrounding areas of Ashington, the town in which I was born, educated and still live.

“Ashington as a community owes its very existence to coal mining, and although the extraction of coal was the major dominant factor in their lives, miners and their families shared many interests.

“People would often ask me, ‘Why are you photographing me? I’m not royalty’, and I would say, ‘you’re my royalty, you’re just as important’. I’ve always told people they’re important. I was photographing them for history really.

“After all these many years, I feel that I'm bringing these people back to life again, back home where they all belong.”

Coal Town runs until March 6, 2022. For more information visit www.museumsnorthumberland.org.uk