New art exhibition inspired by the miners’ strike

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CONTROVERSIAL images inspired by the miners’ strike will be used to generate funds to preserve colliery banners for future generations.

Ashes and Diamonds has been created by artist Darren Coffield using coal dust from the last deep mine to close in Britain.

The collection features former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher portrayed as Hitler, a pig as a police officer and NUM leader Arthur Scargill as Che Guevara.

Other works focus on the Battle of Orgreve, which saw clashes between police and pitmen – including many from the coalfields of Wearside and County Durham – and the word “scab” hanging from gallows.

Proceeds from an exhibition of the work in the North East will be donated to the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA). The cash will be used to restore pit banners.

“It is a tremendous gesture,” said Dave Hopper, general secretary of the DMA.“There has been an upsurge in community groups and well-wishers trying to make banners and repair their old ones. Every little helps, and the spirit of it has been very well received.

“The art is controversial, but I think it’s meant to be that way, and it reflects a lot of the feelings and opinions that miners had during those days, where there was a tremendous amount of brutality.”

Community groups who care for banners will be invited to make a bid for money raised through the show, supporting work already backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Darren, who will see his work shown in London and Liverpool after its display in the region, said: “We’ve been working very closely with the Durham miners, and they have been a great help to us, and they’re a good group of men.

“The coal dust used came from Maltby Colliery, and the idea came from Andy Warhol, who used diamond dust.

“I’ve seen banners in reproductions, but not in real life, but they go to show they’re just as good as any folk art and worthy of saving.” It has been suggested a selection of banners could be shown alongside the work when it goes on show in London.

Ashes and Diamonds, billed as a memorial to the 1984/85 miners’ strike, is on show until Saturday, August 31, at The Outsiders in the Quayside in Newcastle.