Pitmen mine coal heritage for South Yorkshire shows

Sights and songs of mining will be seen and heard at a special show celebrating the culture of collieries.

Friday, 16th December 2016, 11:44 am
Updated Saturday, 17th December 2016, 10:06 am
The Pitmen Poets. Pic Paul Norris

The Pitmen Poets celebrate the songs, humour, and culture of North East England’s coal mining tradition.

The poets unites four of the region’s leading champions of it’s musical heritage – former Lindisfarne and Jack The Lad singer and writer Billy Mitchell; song man from London’s west end musical Warhorse, Bob Fox; Benny Graham, a leading exponent of Tyneside song; and songwriter Jez Lowe, a much-covered BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards nominee.

A tour spokesman said: “Billy spent much of the 70s touring Europe with much-missed folk-rockers Jack the Lad before becoming 50 per cent of the hilarious Maxie & Mitch.

The Pitmen Poets, are, from left, Jez Lowe, Billy Mitchell, Bob Fox and Benny Graham. Picture: Paul Norris.

“When Lindisfarne knocked on his door in 1996, he fronted the band until they retired in 2003.

“Continuing to perform solo and with his band, he has more recently been touring The Lindisfarne Story with his pal and Lindisfarne co-founder, Ray Laidlaw.

“Bob has twice been nominated as folk singer of the tear at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

“Through his masterful interpretation of traditional and contemporary songs he has become a favourite on the national and international folk circuit.

The Pitmen Poets, are, from left, Jez Lowe, Billy Mitchell, Bob Fox and Benny Graham. Picture: Paul Norris.

“Recently he has played the role of Songman in The National Theatre’s West End production of Warhorse and the UK, Ireland and South Africa touring production.

Jez, from Easington Colliery in County Durham, is a much-covered and much-travelled songwriter and singer, with about 20 albums to his name, as well as a long-running role as a principle writer for the award-winning BBC series, The Radio Ballads.

“His latest album, The Ballad Beyond, was released last year, to much acclaim.

“Benny served his musical apprenticeship in the folksong clubs of the North East, developing a love of rural songs, and the music which grew from the heavy industries of coal, steel and ship building.

“Following years working in the UK and Europe as a solo performer, he’s recently been working as an actor and songwriter.”

Now, after two sell-out UK tours in 2011 and 2013, the quartet have announced a 2017 tour which includes shows in Doncaster and Barnsley.

It comes after their planned world tour was put on hold when Bob was the Warhorse role.

And now Bob has stopped horsing around for a while, it is time for the poets to ride again – although Bob will soon be returning to that particular ‘mount’.

Since the first poets tour in 2011, Sam West’s revival of the Close the Coalhouse Door has completed a triumphant UK tour and Lee Hall’s Pitman Painters has been a hit in the West End and also on Broadway – interest in the North East’s mining tradition has never been more intense.

With archive footage and photographs, this is a journey through the centuries of a once-great industry, from the songs that saw it thrive and dominate, to those that saw its demise and the resulting aftermath

n The Pitmen Poets play Cast, Waterdale, Doncaster, on Friday, January 20.

For tickets, priced from £18,50, visit castindoncaster.comn They also play The Civic, Hanson Street, Barnsley, on Friday, January 27.

For tickets, priced from £17.50, visit www.barnsleycivic.co.uk