Striking statue unveiled to honour mining heritage

Coalfield Mining Heritage project unveil miner Jack. 
Artist Mark Burns Cassell.
Coalfield Mining Heritage project unveil miner Jack. Artist Mark Burns Cassell.
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A striking statue that honours the area’s mining heritage whilst celebrating today’s communities has been unveiled.

Birds in a Cage is the culmination of months of workshops held with various community groups in the Coalfields area.

Coalfield Mining Heritage project unveil  miner Jack.
Artist Mark Burns Cassell.

Coalfield Mining Heritage project unveil miner Jack. Artist Mark Burns Cassell.

Around 300 people, young and old, have contributed to the resulting life-size statue which was created by Houghton artist Mark Burns Cassell.

It was revealed at an event held at the Bethany Centre in Houghton, before it goes on a tour of the Coalfields.

Mark said: “Not only is the piece about the communities of the past, it celebrates the communities of today, the talent and richness of culture that exists in this very specific area of Sunderland.”

Around the statue are ceramic Davy Lamps created in conjunction with workshops held by Sunderland Empire’s Creative Learning Team, who linked the Sunderland City Council Coalfield Area Committee project with the recent production of Billy Elliot.

Coalfield Mining Heritage project unveil miner Jack.
 Artist Mark Burns Cassell.

Coalfield Mining Heritage project unveil miner Jack. Artist Mark Burns Cassell.

The miner’s torso bears ceramic pit tokens, which were also created by the community groups, inscribed with the names of miners and their families, whilst pit names have been welded to the base.

Coalfield committee chairman, Coun Anne Lawson, said: “We have no pits left now so a lot of young people may not appreciate the sacrifices of their ancestors, but this statue is a wonderful way to inspire them.”

Hollie Coxon, from the Empire’s Creative Learning Team, said: “This isn’t just Mark’s artwork, it belongs to the whole community and shines a real light on its history.”

Coalfield Mining Heritage project unveil  miner Jack.
 From left Sunderland Empire's Hollie Coxon and Anthony Hope with Coun Anne Lawson and artist Mark Burns Cassell.

Coalfield Mining Heritage project unveil miner Jack. From left Sunderland Empire's Hollie Coxon and Anthony Hope with Coun Anne Lawson and artist Mark Burns Cassell.