The colliery aesthetic : cultural responses at the end of industry
This thesis is concerned with culture at a time of profound change, when coal mining, hitherto the region's industrial mainstay, has been eradicated. It questions notions of cultural regeneration which do not take existing industrial culture into account. It questions how culture regenerates, and who it regenerate for. Monumental public art works are closely associated with cultural regeneration; yet few have significant association with the landscape. Museum, art gallery and other cultural representations are sustained through public funding. Public art re-images the identity of the landscape as a part of a wider process. Specificity of place, and cultural relevance of lived experience, is contrasted with the art at the core of cultural regeneration. Art appears as a surrogate for missing industrial structures. High art practices colonise the cultural spaces previously occupied by low culture. True representations of mining and miners are suppressed by caricature and stereotype, not cultural reality. In contrast much of the spoken word narrative of colliery working life, informed by aesthetics based in experience, goes unrecorded. This culture is not called upon to participate in the regeneration process. Presentation of mining working life, in its own vernacular, is a verbal demonstration of the colliery aesthetic. Cultural dynamics are perceived in visual and narrative forms. Centring investigation on visual material a body of research is embarked upon which develops methods of social investigation, through the use of images to elicit testimonies. This is carried out in the context of focus groups. Obtaining information through research into cultural understanding invests respondents with the role of cultural representatives: expressing concepts of culture, in their own way, reveals their concerns about culture and its representations. Focus groups consider presentations of mining and other local industrial culture in respect to public spending on public cultural forms. Representations through memory and memorial are also considered.