Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 29 June 2011

Play review

The Pitmen Painters

Mark Baker
The Pitmen Painters theatre production, photo Keith Pattison

The Pitmen Painters theatre production, photo Keith Pattison

Lee Hall, creator of Billy Elliot, focuses here on the real experiences of Ashington miners who, through the Workers Education Association (WEA), become celebrated artists in their spare time.

The play's main characters include a fussy, pedantic union bureaucrat; an unemployed young lad; an individual who quotes Karl Marx rigidly in all circumstances and a softly spoken teacher, Robert Lyon, who tries to educate these hardened souls about 'Art'.

Their different class and cultural outlook immediately becomes apparent. However, as the group begins to paint pictures depicting working class life, particularly their own experiences in the mining community, they catch the eye of the "art world" in particular a local heiress, Helen Sutherland.

Their invite to the "great house" brings out the class differences and Helen attempts to recruit one of them, Oliver Kilbourn, to become a 'professional artist'. For the men, though, mining is a way of life. The class solidarity between them is beyond her comprehension.

The debate about what art is, and how it seems, to working class people is played out here as Lyon explains when presenting "the first exhibition of paintings entirely by working class artists in British history... the only reason we've not seen their like before is not because the working class lack talent, but because no one has given them a paintbrush...You simply have to find the key and unlock all of this creativity."

As war approaches their whole world becomes threatened. The young lad signs up for the front as the only means of escaping the perpetual cycle of unemployment in the north-east of the 1930s.

Kilbourn visits Lyon who reflects "we can make a world where everyone can flourish... if the working classes use their power and their intelligence and their creativity... but you can't have a rich culture if three-quarters of the people are disenfranchised."

Reunited after the war, the group are full of optimism. A Labour government is pledged to building a National Health Service and a welfare state, including improved access to education for the working class.

This last section is made more poignant by our awareness of all the things this coalition government now seeks to destroy.

The humanity, spirit and resolve of these miners, whose pit eventually closed in 1981, is inspiring. We are also reminded of the removal of the socialist Clause IV from the Labour Party constitution in 1995. Forward to socialism where working class talent like theirs can be truly liberated.

An unforgettable piece of theatre, The Pitmen Painters is on tour to various locations around Britain until 1 October. A London run is expected to follow.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 29 June 2011:

30 June pensions strike

Next step: one-day public sector strike

Socialist Party editorial

Con-Dems' pension attack demands coordinated and determined response

Unison conference

Unison conference Socialist Party meeting spells out action needed

Unison delegates reject leadership proposals

Socialist Party news and analysis

Universities on the cheap!

Trade unionists must fight for LGBT rights

Western governments more concerned about business deals than human rights in China

News in brief

Socialist Party workplace news

'Hard lesson' for tube management as driver wins reinstatement

Shafted By AEI cables

'No redundancies!' say Forest Hill school teachers

Trade union news in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Save heart services for children!

Jobs threat at Derriford hospital

Nuneaton: exterminate the cuts!

Marching against cuts in Haringey

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Who speaks up for workers?

Socialist Party news

Why I left Labour - and joined the socialists

Public money into private firms' hands

International socialist news and analysis

Greece, Spain, Britain... We won't pay for their crisis

Syria: Regime steps up repression... but opposition continues to grow

Socialist Party review

The Pitmen Painters

Socialist Party features

Workers say: Renationalise the railways!

Private railways rip off fares

National Pensioners Convention parliament

Socialist Party events

Socialist Party summer camp - bigger and better than ever!


Home   |   The Socialist 29 June 2011   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


trianglePowerful picture of the Port Talbot steel workers' struggle

triangleWarts-and-all account of class war and the struggle for LGBT+ rights

triangleMutinies and strikes: when Bolshevism threatened British bosses

triangleCrunchy guitar and poignant dialogue in alt-rock homage to south Wales miners

triangleLots of discussions at the Miners Gala on the way forward

Working class:

triangleRussia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangleTories torn - bin them now

triangleNasty party out the Tories

triangleCardiff Socialist Students confront 'Parasite' Jacob Rees-Mogg


triangleStriking back against sackers' charter at Leeds Uni

triangleSchools "can't go any further" - stop the cuts: set deficit budgets now

triangleUniversity of Leeds workers walk out


triangleSheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison

triangleHundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments


Port Talbot

Powerful picture of the Port Talbot steel workers' struggle


Russian revolution

October 1917 reviews: 'More bright than any heaven'


Theresa May

Theresa May, Frida Kahlo and turning women into wares



Poverty, repression and fightback on the docks


The Socialist

The Socialist Inbox



Shocking insight into Isis



Hugh Hefner's exploitation of women



Women's football - Sampson allegations



The Socialist Inbox



Interview: the "socialist John Le Carré"



Refreshing, anticapitalist - but little pointing a way forward



New documentary asks women how their bodies are sexualised and policed



The Socialist inbox


Che Guevara

Intimate insight into a revolutionary icon



Bosses' pensions robbery

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle19 Oct Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangle18 Oct Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangle18 Oct Tories torn - bin them now

triangle18 Oct Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangle18 Oct Balloting members on the pay cap

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party out the Tories

More ...

triangle23 Oct Chesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

triangle24 Oct Liverpool Socialist Party: The October Russian Revolution 100 years ago to the day

triangle25 Oct Salford Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian revolution

triangle25 Oct Swansea Socialist Party: Mother Jones - A US labour pioneer

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice