Sunday 6 September 2009

coal's enduring claim to fame

A few weeks ago, I suggested to a friend that it would be impossible for a revival of one of D. H. Lawrence's plays to have the same impact today that it did when Peter Gill directed A Collier's Friday Night, The Daughter-in-Law and The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd at the Royal Court in 1968. An audience now might well look at the whole business of coal-mining in an ironic light.

This month the BFI presents a series of movies about coal. In yesterday's Guardian, Ian Jack perfectly summarises the change in our attitude that has taken place:

Until the 1990s the history of the British coal industry could be seen in different ways – socially (greyhounds, comradeship), sentimentally (granddad), politically (struggle and strikes), geologically, economically, even aesthetically.

But from a far higher elevation, perhaps that of eternity, all these interpretations will seem like whisperings in Lilliput. The coal industry's most enduring claim to fame, should history endure, is its vanguard position among the causes of global warming.

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