The Pitman’s Parliament Project (Durham)

Redhills: Durham Miners Hall is one of the finest trade union buildings in Britain. Built in 1915, it is still the headquarters of the Durham Miners Association. The Durham Miners’ Association was once a powerhouse of the Labour movement, building houses for retired miners, welfare halls in almost every pit village, and libraries and hospitals through its members’ subscriptions. Redhills today continues to be a vital and vibrant community space, acting as a venue for musicians, visual artists and cinema. Its historical artefacts provide an eclectic archive of labour history throughout the peace and war of the 20th century.

Over 5 days of workshops with professional musicians and artists, participating children will explore the many stories to be found in the famous red bricks of the Miners Hall, the wooden benches of the Pitman’s Parliament, and the powerful brass bands of the world-famous Durham Gala.

There will also be workshops led by professional archivists from the Parliamentary Archives, who will travel to Durham with some of Parliament’s artefacts, relating to the Durham Coalfield. In particular, participating children will be able to re-live some of the debates surrounding the 1842 Mines and Collieries Act, which prevented children under the age of 10 from working in the mines.

Some examples of workshops that the children might participate in include:

Musical activities: designing and building instruments using household materials (e.g. wooden crates, funnels, hose pipe); writing graphic scores.
Performance activities: exploring stories using theatre exercises (e.g. freeze frames, hot seating).
Literacy activities: treasure hunts with riddles and clues to find stories hidden in and around the workshop location; personal diaries to record thoughts and ideas, with some structured questions to encourage reflection and writing practice.
Cross-curricular activities: learning about societal changes over nearly 800 years of mining in Durham, the children can consolidate facts and information learned by responding artistically, and telling their own stories about life in 21st century Durham.

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