Supported by South Tyneside Council for Heritage Open Days, this contemporary art installation on the site of a coal mine, presented the work of eight international artists responding to the passage of time within the themes of subterrania and the heritage of industrial art, exactly two centuries after ‘coal was first wound, amongst great rejoicings’ here. St Hildas was last used as ventilation shaft with emergency access to the shared seam of the nearby West superpit that closed in 1993.
An explosion at St Hilda’s in 1839 claimed 51 lives, half of the men and boys working at the time, giving rise to the establishment of the South Shields Committee on Accidents in Mines. A large complex survived until 1940, leaving only the pumping station and winding house, to which we were given rare access. Our installation coincided with the Copiapó mining accident in the Atacama Desert, that trapped 33 copper-gold miners 700m undergound, 5km from the entrance.
As a gesture of international solidarity, we dedicated our Opening Event to those miners, serving Chilean wine and distributing Viva Chile stickers to guests. All 33 men were rescued a month later.
St Hilda’s Pit Head, South Shields, Tyneside NE33
Graham Carrick and Lucieta Williams for Fitzrovia Noir
Richard Barber for South Tyneside Cultural Services
Garry Hunter for Fitzrovia Noir
Graham Carrick_Tunnel Visions
Peter Mackertich_Shaft triptych
Michael Mayhew_Vent series
Manuel Sanmartin_The Underground Creature
Assemblage, bronze, collage, ephemera, found items, illustration, paint, photography, text
“…as I continued to step cautiously onward, there came thronging upon my recollection a thousand vague rumours of the horrors of Toledo. Of the dungeons there had been strange things narrated – fables I had always deemed them – but yet strange, and to ghastly to repeat, save in a whisper. Was I left to perish of starvation in this subterranean world of darkness; or what fate perhaps even more fearful awaited me ?”