Coal mining is a hard way to make a living. 101 year old Annie Batey remembered her brother Jack, who started work in a pit in Stanley in County Durham in 1920 when he was 12, telling her how frightened he had been by the rats running over his feet as he sat beside the hessian “gates” underground making sure the coal tubs could pass through unimpeded.

The Pitmen PoetsStanley is not a place that remembers mining with unalloyed pleasure; a 1909 explosion in the Burns Pit killed 168 miners – pretty well everyone underground at the time. That was by no means the worst disaster to befall the Northumberland and Durham Coalfield, and Northumberland and Durham was by no means unique. The Batey children’s own great grandmother, Eliza Higson, had begun life in Lancashire before the coal ran out. Her first husband, a Enoch Williams (originally from Wales), died in a roof fall at the Haigh Pit near Wigan in 1867. There was no compensation but, because Eliza had three young children, the mine’s owners softened their hearts and gave her a week to leave her company-owned hovel.

That is the background the Pitmen Poets sing about – the stories of hard rock, hard men and hard times they believe should not be forgotten now that deep mining in Britain is no more.

Benny Graham

Benny Graham’s story, of a life as hard-working as any pitman’s, appears on another page on this website.

Billy Mitchell

A member of Lindisfarne when Lindisfarne was Lindisfarne, Billy will spend 2016 touring:

  • On his own
  • With The Lindisfarne Story
  • With The Pitmen Poets

Bob Fox

Every year, BBC Radio 2 hosts the Folk Awards, and Bob Fox has been nominated for the Folk Singer Of The Year Award twice. He was Songman in Warhorse at the National Theatre and regularly tours the whole of the English north and midlands and as far south as Stroud. In June 2016 he’ll be at the Northumberland Miner’s Picnic with Benny Graham and Jez Lowe

Jez Lowe

Much recorded and a BBC regular.