County Durham, where it’s now “illegal” to photograph miners’ banners

The Castle Dene Shopping Centre sit in the middle of Peterlee, the town in the heart of the East Durham coalfield built at the request of local miners in the late 1940s. I was there today, and when I entered the covered part of the centre via the southern entrance, I noticed that the highContinue Reading

New Crofton Co-operative Colliery: Yorkshire’s first new pit in 20 years

This autumn work should begin on the construction of the first new pit dug in Yorkshire for 20 years. New Crofton Colliery, to be built near Wakefield, will be a cooperative, with benefits to the community among its priorities. Bill Birch, a 64-year-old former mining engineer who is leading the project, predicts an annual profitContinue Reading


There has been a strange atmosphere in Rotherham since the publication of Professor Alex Jay’s report on the exploitation of children in the area. Some people say they feel personally guilty and ashamed of the place, but most have one of two responses: disgust towards the council, or semi-vindication because they knew it was happeningContinue Reading

“Meticulous and magically intimate”: The Valley reviewed by Rachel Cooke

The author Rachel Cooke reviews The Valley in The Observer today, calling it “meticulous and magically intimate” and “a masterpiece of empathy and good writing.” Read the full review here.

Hatfield Main: the pit at the end of the world

UK Coal’s announcement that it will close Kellingley and Thoresby collieries means that by the end of next year Britain will have only one remaining deep coal mine, at Hatfield in South Yorkshire. Hatfield, while it stays open, will thus acquire a symbolic significance not diminished by the fact it is located in the parliamentaryContinue Reading

Walter Parkin in Esquire magazine

Walter Parkin in Esquire magazine

I wrote about Walter Parkin’s war experience, and my experience researching his story 100 years later, for the April issue of Esquire. A pdf of the whole story, which I thought was very well laid out, is here.

Beer and Bingo versus Chinese restaurants and tanning salons

The much-derided poster tweeted by Conservative chairman Grant Shapps may well have been ill-judged and patronising, but it also seemed out of date; in South Yorkshire pubs are closing, and while Bingo might be popular, you don’t see many new halls opening. The new enteerprises that do well even in depressed towns and villages areContinue Reading

A thoughtful account of Easington on Radio 4′s Today programme

Evan Davies’ long and thoughtful piece from Easington in County Durham on this morning’s Today Programme stood out from some of the other broadcasts about the 30th anniversary of the 1984-5 strike. This was because besides what are now, let’s face it. familiar laments, Davies included local people explaining specific reasons that mining communities goContinue Reading

The Valley endpapers are finished

Today the designers at Bloomsbury have finalised the layout for the endpapers of The Valley hardback, which will be published at the end of April. It took me the best part of today to put the caption together. If you have the stamina, this is it. Top row, from left: Roy Hollingworth in the Suez CanalContinue Reading

14 March 2014/13 June 1975: Tony Benn at Houghton Main

In June 1975 an explosion underground at Houghton Main Colliery in South Yorkshire killed five miners, and seriously injured another. The accident was the model for that in The Price of Coal, a 1977 two-part television play by Barry Hines. Gary, then 19, had recently started work as an air measurer on the Houghton MainContinue Reading