Friday 25 July 2008

act local

I've only read the text, not seen the production, but it's easy to see why Lee Hall's terrific new play The Pitman Painters, the story of some miners in the North East who became a celebrated group of painters, has been such a success. (It opened at Live Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne and transferred to the National, where it returns again next year. After that, no doubt, it'll become a movie.)

Here were a group of Ashington miners in the 1930s, working ten-hour shifts, taking home about two pounds and six shillings a week, who started attending an Art Appreciation evening class, and then became painters. They painted the world they knew: the pityard, the dawn, the pugmill, whippets, playing dominoes in the pub, fish and chips, pigeon crees, and the colliery. People started to take notice of the Ashington Group.

In 1988 the art critic William Feaver wrote a book about them. Lee Hall, who also wrote Billy Elliot, has based his play on that book. 'Culture is for living, not commodification,' he writes in a preface, 'and art should be about taking part.'

No comments:

Post a Comment