Guest exhibition ‘Literature in the Mines’

  • DATE

    19 November - 4 February 2022

  • TIME

    1:00 pm to 4:30 pm

  • AGES

    All ages welcome

  • PRICE

    Free

Please note: the exhibition will be viewable on Friday afternoons, which is when the Library is open to drop-in visitors. Please check via www.wcml.org.uk for Christmas opening times etc.

This is a pop-up exhibition created by Piston, Pen & Press, an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project which aims to understand how industrial workers in Scotland and the North of England, from the 1840s to the 1910s, engaged with literary culture through writing, reading, and participation in wider cultural activities.

As the popular press, workers’ periodicals, published poems and autobiographies, surviving records of local libraries and reading rooms, and society accounts show, industrial workers spent substantial amounts of their working lives and brief leisure time in writing, reading, and discussing works of literature. Literature in the Mines highlights miners who alongside their arduous working lives created poetry, songs, plays, fiction and prose, finding local and trades newspapers a welcoming venue for their works. The exhibition also features women and mine work.

Alongside the pop-up banners the Library is displaying related material from its own collections, including mineworkers’ poetry, songs and fiction from the 19th century to the present. Reports on sadly frequent mining accidents and disasters also feature, as well as examples of strikingly-designed 1840s broadsides relating to miners’ disputes with their employers.

There will be a free accompanying live-streamed talk by Kirstie Blair on Wednesday 24 November at 2pm, ‘Prating of the pit: Northern miners as writers and readers in the long 19th century’. This will subsequently be available on the Library’s YouTube channel www.youtube.com/wcmlibrary/videos.

The Library will also be sharing on its blog excerpts from a fascinating bound volume currently being digitised by a WCML volunteer, and which brings together a range of different handbills and pamphlets which relate to the coal trade c.1818-1845. It’s known as the Coal Trade Papers.

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