Pitmen & Bishops Project

The Pitmen & Bishops Project is a journey through the story of the Durham Coalfield and its relationship with democracy.

Over the course of a week, young people from Bishop Auckland develop their very own performance piece which explores the history of their community, through archival materials, museum artefacts, music and theatre.

In 1832, Parliament passed the Great Reform Act – an Act which took away some of the powers of the ‘Prince’ Bishop of Durham, disposed of ‘rotten boroughs’ and extended the vote to a broader range of people. The Bishop of Durham opposed the Act, but the people of Bishop Auckland petitioned Parliament directly for change.

While the Act still had a few big problems, it proved that change was possible, and that the people possessed the power to make it.

Ten years later, Parliament passed the 1842 Mines and Collieries Act, which banned children and women from working in mines, and also for the first time made education mandatory for children. Once again, the people of County Durham were involved in the passing of the Act, with the Pitmen’s Parliament proving a powerful way for the workers of the Durham Coalfield to state their case, and to bring about change through democracy.

Through music, theatre, and storytelling, the Pitmen & Bishops Project performance explores these stories and more. It also shines a light on the things our students want to change in their own lives and communities, as the next generation of change makers.