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Northumberland Miners’ Picnic makes a welcome return

11/05/2022

Museums Northumberland’s much-loved Northumberland Miners’ Picnic makes a welcome return to Woodhorn Museum on Saturday 11 June after a two-year absence because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 158th edition of Northumberland Miners’ Picnic will see visitors return to Woodhorn Museum for a day of live music, performance, and family friendly activities celebrating the county’s proud mining heritage. The last traditional in-person gathering of the Northumberland Miners’ Picnic took place in 2019.

Rowan Brown, chief executive of Museums Northumberland, said: “The Northumberland Miners’ Picnic is one of oldest gatherings of its type in the UK.

“Originally held to celebrate the mining industry in the county, and give people who lived and worked in coalfield communities the chance to come together; today, the Northumberland Miners’ Picnic is a way for people to remember our mining history and revel in the sense of community spirit the event is famous for.

“This year’s picnic will be extra special as it will be the first time in two years we’ve been able to gather in person to enjoy our contemporary take on this historic mining tradition.”

First held at Blyth Links in 1864, the Northumberland Miners’ Picnic has taken place in the county every year since 1864, except during the first and second world wars, the general strikes of 1921, 1926 and 1984, the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001, and during the global coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

The 2022 Northumberland Miners’ Picnic will begin with the traditional miners’ memorial service and wreath laying, commemorating those who died in the coal mining industry. Four local brass bands – Ashington Colliery Brass Band, Bedlington Brass Community Band, Ellington Colliery Band, Newbiggin Jayess Brass Band – will perform together during the service, before taking to the main stage for a lively and energetic performance to start the day’s entertainment.

Chair of Ashington Town Council, Cllr Mark Purvis, said: “Ashington Town Council is delighted to be able to support the event again this year. Since 2018 the Council has set aside £10,000 from its Recreation and Leisure budget, and prior to that was a long-term sponsor. The Council celebrate the opportunity to be involved in this extra-special day when admission to Woodhorn Museum is free of charge to the Ashington Community, and the venue if filled with families enjoying a fun-packed day alongside tributes to our special heritage.

Cllr Mark Purvis, who was a miner for eighteen years and started his career at Woodhorn Colliery continued, “I look forward to the event every year and hope as many people as possible will attend and embrace the history of Ashington.”

The music will continue throughout the day on the main stage with more local acts, including pit-pop, folk-rock brass band Dennis; afro-Latin percussion and brass duo, Ladies of Midnight Blue; and headline act, ska and brass influenced, The Baghdaddies.

Families are invited to take part in a mini Pride event in Woodhorn’s pit yard with Curious Arts. As well as crafting and storytelling, there’ll be lots of fun activities celebrating everything that’s quirky and unique about families.

Performers from Let’s Circus will be entertaining the crowds with its new pony-themed street theatre performance, On the hoof, and there will be pop-up artworks across the site from artists including Jason Wilshire-Mills, and an animated documentary featuring people from across South East Northumberland.

In addition to the food and drink on offer at the Winding House Café at Woodhorn Museum, there will also be pop-up food and drink stalls serving everything from pizza and crepes to local beers and ales.

The event will be compered by hugely entertaining Bread and Butter Theatre Company.

This year’s Northumberland Miners’ Picnic will be the first in-person gathering since 2019. In 2021, musician Paul Smith – lead singer of Maxïmo Park – performed an online solo concert commemorating annual Northumberland Miners’ Picnic, and in 2020, the first digital-only Northumberland Miners’ Picnic took place.

Rowan Brown continued, “The miners’ picnic was such an important day for people living and working in coal mining communities because it was a day free from work and a chance to enjoy time with family and friends.

“This year’s free community event will be very much the same as we invite people back to Woodhorn to celebrate with us in person.”

The Northumberland Miners’ picnic takes place at Woodhorn Museum on Saturday 11 June from 10am to 5pm. The event is free to attend, but onsite car parking is £5 per vehicle. A free shuttle bus will also be operating between Ashington and Woodhorn Museum.

The Northumberland Miners’ Picnic is supported by Arts Council England, Ashington Town Council and Northumberland County Council.