The Drift remembers Yorkshire's industrial past

Posted on Monday 27th January 2014

The Drift, an exhibition of pictures of a Yorkshire coal mine, by renowned social photographer Ian Beesley, has been receiving critical and press acclaim.

Ian is Programme Leader for the University of Bolton’s Photography MA and worked with writer, broadcaster and poet Ian MacMillan on the exhibition. The Drift first went on show at the National Coal Mining Museum in 2011; it is now touring the country and is currently on show at the Leeds Industrial Museum.

As well as the photographic exhibition, the original project was also a book – which is still available to order. It contains Ian’s photographs accompanied by a collection of poems by Ian MacMillan. The pair began the project when Ian MacMillan joined the University as a Visiting Professor. The compelling collection is about the Hay Royds Colliery mine, then one of the Yorkshire coalfields' last working mines.

The mine, near Denby Dale, South Yorkshire, closed in 2012. But Ian is happy the exhibition is getting the recognition it, and the miners, deserve.

He said: ‘I’m glad the exhibition is generating so much interest across the press and media. Now the mine has closed I hope The Drift can be a lasting testament to an industry that has all but died in the UK.’

The project gets its name from the type of mine they worked in, a drift mine. More conventional mines are dug into the ground and accessed vertically. Drift mines follow the coal seam from the surface to the underground, meaning the shaft gets narrower, the deeper you go down.

To capture some of his shots, Ian went into the mine. He said: 'It is an archaic way of mining. As you get further down the mine you have to really crouch. At its highest point it is only about five feet and at its lowest it squeezes down to just three.'

‘Mining in the 21st century is very different to how it was when this pit first opened in 1911, but this exhibition, the Hay Royds Colliery and the men who worked there can help us remember this important part of our industrial history.’

The exhibition at the Leeds Industrial Museum is on until Sunday 30 March 2014.