August 18, 2008

Digging for Miners’ Memories

MINERS are being sought at a Northumberland colliery for the first time in more than 25 years.

But it is their memories and experiences rather than physical labour which is now required. No one has worked underground at the former Woodhorn Colliery, near Ashington, since it closed in 1982, and it is now a nationally-important visitor and archives centre following a pounds 16m lottery-funded revamp.

Now Woodhorn managers want ex-miners and pitmen's wives and families to come back to help run a special education programme for children on the region's coal heritage.

Mining Memories, a joint project with Beamish Museum in County Durham, involves schoolchildren in south east Northumberland learning about life in mining communities and work underground. Volunteer ex-miners, and women from mining families, are being sought to go into local schools in advance of the children's visit to the museum to share their experiences and demonstrate objects associated with the industry.

Yesterday Woodhorn education officer Victoria Coxon said: "The young people will get so much from these sessions, but so will the volunteers. We are looking for people who worked in a pit in some capacity and who are happy to talk about what it was like to work underground or live in a mining community."

The school visits will take place on Mondays and, ideally, volunteers should be available for five or six sessions. Full training will be given, including visits to both Woodhorn and Beamish.

Miner's daughter Gladys Audsley, from Blyth, has already signed up for the project. Gladys, who demonstrates traditional mat-making skills at Woodhorn, said: "I really enjoy talking to the youngsters about how life used to be, and I'm sure other people would enjoy it, too."

Would-be volunteers are asked to contact Caroline Metcalf on (01670) 528013.

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