Exhibition provides a lasting legacy for Blyth

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A major exhibition in Blyth in 2023 has acted as a springboard for many beneficial developments in the town.

The Friends of Crofton Field are rightly proud of Blyth’s coal mining heritage. With the assistance of students from Bede Academy they researched the history of our local pit, Crofton Mill Pit, which closed in 1969. They also contacted former miners whose stories were featured in a substantial exhibition and concert at Headway Arts Centre in Blyth in November last year. The exhibition was made possible by a grant from the Heart of Blyth, a Health Commission initiative.

Friends of Crofton Field and Headway Arts collaborated in a successful joint application to The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Heart of Blyth Microgrants. The resulting project commissioned artist Alison Walton-Robson (Creative Director, Headway Arts) to design a new banner inspired by Crofton Field with Headway Arts working in partnership with the local community including Malvin’s Close and Croftway Schools & Forget Me Nots Residents Association to also create four hand painted pure silk pennants. These new original artworks will also form part of the exhibition.

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It was planned that the exhibition and concert would have a lasting impact and the Friends are pleased to advise that several positive developments have arisen from it.

Arthur Day with a mine official on his final day at workArthur Day with a mine official on his final day at work
Arthur Day with a mine official on his final day at work

The Friends have been invited to mount the exhibition afresh at this year’s Northumberland Miners Picnic, which will be held at Woodhorn Mining Museum on Saturday 8th June. The Mill Pit exhibition will be held in the Northern Rock Gallery on the first floor of the museum from 10am to 4pm. New research has revealed that three former miners with family connections to two members of the Friends group racked up an astonishing 163 years of service between them.

The positive response to the original exhibition revealed a large appetite for further research into the history of the mine, such that an informal series of talks has been arranged. The first of these will be on Thursday 13th June in Blyth Library at 2pm when Ian Swanson will give a presentation about his father, William Swanson, who was the last manager of the pit. All are welcome to attend this free event.

Another development that has already become an established part of the Blyth music scene is a monthly event held on the Third Thursday of every month at the Headway Arts Centre in Blyth from 2 – 4pm. The celebration concert headed by Beeswing and the Attic Band at last year’s exhibition to a full house was so well received that several people asked for it to become a regular event. Starting in February of this year we held a well-supported monthly afternoon of songs, stories, and music, with up to 50 people in attendance, that has unearthed much undiscovered talent. This is a free event and the next event on Thursday 20th June is open to all comers.

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The Mill Pit mine banner combines pictures of the pit with scenes showing the transformation of its heap by the Friends of Crofton Field into a healthy, biodiverse, wildlife friendly habitat. The Friends were delighted to learn recently that they have been invited to parade the Mill Pit Banner at the Durham Miners Gala in mid-July. The banner will be paraded by the sixth formers from Bede Academy, who will be accompanied by volunteers from the Friends group.

The new Crofton Mill Pit bannerThe new Crofton Mill Pit banner
The new Crofton Mill Pit banner

Participation at the ‘Big Meet’ will enable the Friends to portray Blyth in a positive light to a very large regional and national audience and to shine a positive light on some of the many good things that take place in the town. They are hopeful that the banner and the diverse activities underpinning it will help to combat the negative way in which Blyth and its residents are so often unfairly portrayed.

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