Newstead Young People + Community Centre

Newstead is famous for its Augustinian Abbey, best known as the ancestral home of the poet Lord Byron in the late 18th century. Few people are aware, however, that the perimeter wall of this grand old aristocratic estate borders the former Newstead Colliery and the rows of miners terraced houses built to serve it. I’ve always found it an interesting facet of the local landscape that these two parallel worlds are situated beside each other, the ancient priory wall acting as a dividing line between two contrasting but equally significant tales of Nottinghamshire’s history.

Newstead Colliery prided itself on its fruitfulness, frequently producing more than a million tonnes of coal a year during its peak. Despite Nottinghamshire’s infamous vote to work through the 1984-85 strike, approximately six hundred out of eight hundred miners at Newstead decided to walk out in solidarity with the cause. But as history has it, the strike was lost and Newstead colliery lamentably closed on March 19th 1987. The village was hit particularly hard, the catalyst for its very existence now demolished.

This series of portraits of young people from Newstead Youth Club was commissioned by LandLiesFallow, an artist-led community project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, as part of a creative response to the communities along the ancient borders of Sherwood Forest. I worked with participatory arts practitioner Jo Wheeler, who had a well established relationship with the young people in Newstead from her work there over several years. Our process was a collaborative one, as we asked our participants where and how they would like to be photographed to represent their connection to Newstead Village. My challenge was to make their locations work for each portrait setup and keep up with their tireless energy, hurriedly loading film into my camera.

The photographs are currently on exhibition in the King Charles II bedroom and dressing room at Newstead Abbey until July 2019. A special private viewing for all the young people involved and their families will be held at the Abbey.