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The Drift

The Drift

The Drift explores the harshness and dangers of coal mining in one of the last working pits in England

21 September 2013 — 1 December 2013

Miner resting before coming off the face and beginning the long walk back to the surface

The Drift © Ian BeesleyThe Drift
Photographs by Ian Beesley and poems by Ian McMillan.

Taking nearly twenty years to complete, this multi-layered body of work explores the harshness and dangers of coal mining in one of the last working pits in England.  The physicality of the work, the relationship between the underground and the surface, the claustrophobia and darkness of the pit are explored in this collaboration between the photographer Ian Beesley, the poet Ian McMillan and the miners of Hayroyd’s colliery.

Hayroyd’s colliery was founded in 1911 and was owned by the same family for three generations before being sold to a workers’ cooperative in 1995.  Beesley made his first visit to the colliery in 1990 and continued to photograph in and around the pit top until 2007, when it was announced that the pit would be closing and he was granted unlimited access above and below ground to document the closure of the colliery.

During this period the price of coal rose so dramatically that it suddenly became viable for the pit to remain open and so in 2008 with a limited workforce, ageing machinery, a backbreaking walk to the face that took the best part of an hour, production at Hayroyd’s colliery restarted.

The Drift © Ian BeesleyFor the next four years Beesley worked closely with the miners documenting the triumphs and disasters that befell the colliery.  This exhibition and the accompanying publication The Drift provide a unique insight into the closed and dangerous world of coal mining.  The publication The Drift is available to buy in the museum shop.

The Community Gallery space is where local groups can display their own work.  We try to make these displays relevant to the story told in the museum where possible.  Find out more if you are interested in exhibiting.