David Severn

PORTRAIT: People and Places of the First Art Area

This series of photographs celebrates the cultural and working lives of people in the North Nottinghamshire and North East Derbyshire coalfields. Having grown up in the area myself, I have chosen to photograph subjects that resonate with my own memories and family background. The remnants of this area’s coal mining and manufacturing heritage are everywhere in both the built environment and the steadfast, stout-hearted working class culture. During this project, I have walked miles of former colliery railway lines flanked by rows of terraced houses, linking village to village with distinctive landscaped mounds once sculpted of coal spoil.

Along the way, I have encountered Rock n’ Roll fanatics and ballroom dancers, pigeon fanciers and greyhound racers, Bingo callers and brass band players among other characters and community groups. Local industry may have changed but the cultural spirit lives on and people, young and old, continue to be united by their passions; their musicality, artistry or sportsmanship.

The photographs also look at young people coming of age amidst a post-industrial landscape and reflect upon their hopes, prospects, vulnerabilities and strengths. I’ve discovered personal and collective stories of dedication, like the world championship kick boxer in Langwith, or the Mansfield Skate Plaza designed by local skateboarders, that are testament to their pluck and determination, a defining quality of the coalfields.

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