THE PITMEN PAINTERS

Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York

 

It's 1934 and a group of miners in Ashington, Northumberland, have decided to study Art Appreciation in evening classes after work – having failed to find a tutor for their preferred subject of Economics.

 

It turns into one of the most unusual experiments in British art as the pitmen learn to become painters themselves. Within a few years their work is being celebrated throughout the British art world – and today it still stands as a complete record of life in a northern mining community.

 

Lee Hall – creator of Billy Elliott – turned the story of the Ashington Group, as they came to be known, into The Pitmen Painters, inspired by a book he came across written by the art critic and writer William Feaver. It premiered at Newcastle's Live Theatre in 2007 to much acclaim before transferring to the National Theatre in 2008.

 

Pick Me Up brought the play  to York audiences for the first time in a production hailed as "tremendous" by York Press reviewer Charles Hutchinson. Read his review here.

 

Director Robert Readman said: "Lee Hall created a real masterpiece with The Pitmen Painters. It’s laugh-out-loud funny from start to finish, it’s constantly thought-provoking and it’s immensely moving.”

 

Hall says that in his mind the Ashington miners aren't an anomaly – "but reflect a huge yearning within the working-class and the Labour movements for access to the best things in life".

 

He says: " Our pitmen were not content merely to observe but made art themselves, and I find that exemplary. If we see culture or high art as something separate, something just to contemplate, buy and sell, we are far from the notion of culture and art as it was experienced for millennia before the Industrial Revolution. Culture is for living, not commodification, and art should be about taking part. Real art is communal and active; it is not owned by anyone, but should be the intellectual and emotional air we breathe. The more people who take part, the richer it is, and for every person excluded the poorer we become."

May 5-9 2015

CREATIVES

Written by 

Lee Hall

 

Directed by 

Robert Readman

 

Video Sound Design

Adam Moore

 

Production Manager

Sandie Tanner-Smith

 

 

 

 

George Brown

Craig Kirby

 

Oliver Kilbourn

Martin Rowley

 

Jimmy Floyd

Bill Laverick

 

Young Lad

Riley Anderson

 

Harry Wilson

Graham Mitchell

 

Robert Lyon

Mark Hird

 

Susan Parks

Katie Glover

 

Helen Sutherland

Susannah Baines

 

Ben Nicholson

Riley Anderson

CAST