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Coal on Film

Coalmining is visually unique, dramatic, elemental, iconic - and a huge filmmaking challenge. Small wonder that it's the industry with the richest and deepest screen history of all.

Filming underground, in dark and cramped conditions, is tough, but the rewards are great. Film is a medium of light, and the contrast of beams of miners' lamps against the deep black coalface - catching on a pickaxe or sweating skin - creates powerful visual drama. Then there's the human drama: brave, strong men facing real danger.

The towering winding-gear is an enduring symbol not just of one industry, but of all of industrial Britain. The miners and their tight-knit communities, too, have a special place in our national story.

These films bear witness to the final century over which King Coal reigned - fueling an economy, a way of life, and divisive political passions. Coal powered news, documentary, fiction and protest. King Coal may now be dead and buried, but on the screen he lives on.

This collection is supported by Community Union.

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Coal on Film

RECOMMENDED

View The Miner
The Miner
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The Miner 1950

Absorbing overview of coalmining in the early years of nationalisation.

38 mins United Kingdom Director. J.B. Holmes

View Thud and Blunder in Knock off Time
Thud and Blunder in Knock off Time
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Thud and Blunder in Knock off Time 1964

Miners' safety training - marked by stylish animation and gallows humour.

2 mins United Kingdom

View Coal Face
Coal Face
Watch from £0.85 11 mins

Coal Face 1935

A striking and significant film from the early days of the British documentary movement, chronicling the work of British miners.

11 mins United Kingdom Director. Alberto Cavalcanti

View Big Pit
Big Pit
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Big Pit 1978

Memories of Blaenavon Colliery, Monmouthshire, as it nears its end.

7 mins United Kingdom Director. John Reid

View Guilty Chimneys
Guilty Chimneys
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Guilty Chimneys 1954

Elegiac sponsored film imploring viewers to "allow the sun to penetrate the haze of ignorance" and relieve British cities of pollution.

22 mins United Kingdom Director. Gerard Bryant

View People Will Always Need Coal
People Will Always Need Coal
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People Will Always Need Coal 1975

Deliriously kitsch recruitment ad for the implausibly glamorous world of coalmining.

United Kingdom

EXPLORE THE COLLECTION

View Adventure of Coal
Adventure of Coal
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Adventure of Coal 1947

"Coalmining is now the greatest adventure of all time" according to this recruitment film.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Edward Cook

View Campaign to Organise the General Strike
Campaign to Organise the General Strike
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Campaign to Organise the General Strike 1984

Young Socialists take the lead in the struggle against the "Tory dictatorship" led by Margaret Thatcher.

30 mins United Kingdom

View Tour of a British Coal Mine
Tour of a British Coal Mine
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Tour of a British Coal Mine 1928

Deep underground, Yorkshire miners hew their living out of the coalface.

50 mins United Kingdom Director. Charles Hanmer

View Aberfan Resettlement and Compensation
Aberfan Resettlement and Compensation
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Aberfan Resettlement and Compensation 1967

This Week reports on the dilemma facing those responsible for distributing money donated in response to the Aberfan Disaster.

27 mins United Kingdom Director. Vic Hughes

View Meet the Pioneers
Meet the Pioneers
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Meet the Pioneers 1948

This directorial debut from Lindsay Anderson is an unexpectedly lyrical portrait of conveyor belts.

33 mins United Kingdom Director. Lindsay Anderson

View The Miners' Mecca
The Miners' Mecca
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The Miners' Mecca 1929

Fire eating, sword dancing, beautiful banners and a whole lot of brass - Durham's 'Big Meeting' gets under way.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Miners' Strike Appeal Film
Miners' Strike Appeal Film
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Miners' Strike Appeal Film 1984

Striking imagery powers this campaigning film on behalf of striking miners and their families.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Mining Review 6th Year No. 1
Mining Review 6th Year No. 1
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Mining Review 6th Year No. 1 1952

This compendium of colliery tales includes miners enjoying a Butlins holiday, a round of golf at Gleneagles and a visit to a film set.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Basil Somner, J.D. Chambers, John Shaw-jones

View A Day in the Life of a Coal Miner
A Day in the Life of a Coal Miner
Watch for free 9 mins

A Day in the Life of a Coal Miner 1910

This short profile of mining life from silent film studio Kineto was a key film in the development of British documentary.

9 mins United Kingdom

View Work-mates
Work-mates
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Work-mates 1940

Meet Windsor the pit pony, pulling his weight (and more) for the war effort.

19 mins United Kingdom Director. Jack Rogerson

View The Pigeon Cree
The Pigeon Cree
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The Pigeon Cree 1986

An exuberant animated short celebrates writer Sid Chaplin’s short story about the defiant spirit of an old miner who finds his beloved pigeon loft is under threat.

9 mins England

View The Smoke Menace
The Smoke Menace
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The Smoke Menace 1937

The deadly downside of Britain's industrial might: smog.

14 mins United Kingdom Director. John Taylor

View Moving Earth
Moving Earth
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Moving Earth 1949

Monster plant machinery is used in the preparation of land and for the extraction of coal in open-cast mining.

25 mins United Kingdom Director. John Mallinson

View Mining Review 23rd Year No. 6
Mining Review 23rd Year No. 6
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Mining Review 23rd Year No. 6 1970

Ace edition of the series with wintry-but-warm vignettes of coal community life in South Hetton, Woolley Colliery and Caldey Island.

10 mins United Kingdom

View Thorncliffe
Thorncliffe
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Thorncliffe 1935

A look at Thorncliffe's extensive industrial heritage - from the 18th century to the 1930s.

27 mins United Kingdom

View Mining Review 23rd Year No. 1
Mining Review 23rd Year No. 1
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Mining Review 23rd Year No. 1 1969

Welcome aboard 'Futuro', a spherical 'space house' for the 1970s.

10 mins United Kingdom

View Baxi-pak Open Fire Central Heating
Baxi-pak Open Fire Central Heating
Watch for free 7 mins

Baxi-pak Open Fire Central Heating 1964

Wokingham gets new houses warmed with the cutting-edge technology of the 60s.

7 mins United Kingdom

View Many Feared Dead in Pit Disaster
Many Feared Dead in Pit Disaster
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Many Feared Dead in Pit Disaster 1931

The aftermath of a devastating explosion at Haig pit in the Whitehaven coal field.

5 mins United Kingdom

View Black Diamonds
Black Diamonds
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Black Diamonds 1932

A Barnsley miner dreams of shooting a film about life down the pits in this audaciously ambitious amateur feature.

53 mins United Kingdom Director. Charles Hanmer

View Dust - Miners' Disease
Dust - Miners' Disease
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Dust - Miners' Disease 1973

Dark shadows in miners' lungs and lives, as the threat of pneumoconiosis is made worse by changes to the benefits that compensate for its effects.

27 mins United Kingdom

View Seeing for Himself
Seeing for Himself
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Seeing for Himself 1929

Not a waving flag or curtsey in sight as a solemn Prince of Wales tours deprived north east mining villages.

1 mins United Kingdom

View General Strike Off
General Strike Off
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General Strike Off 1926

Smithfield Market is barricaded and Hyde Park turned into a milk depot, as London tries to cope with the 1926 General Strike.

3 mins United Kingdom

View Mining Review 14th Year No. 10
Mining Review 14th Year No. 10
Watch for free 9 mins

Mining Review 14th Year No. 10 1961

Spalding in Lincolnshire boasts eight million tulips in glorious array, while Eton boys go down a pit in Ayrshire.

9 mins United Kingdom

View Mining Review 19th Year No. 11
Mining Review 19th Year No. 11
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Mining Review 19th Year No. 11 1966

Coal touched all our lives, as this issue of the cinemagazine demonstrates with items on a miner's wife turned mayor, a Coal Board chess team and more.

10 mins United Kingdom

View Miners Demonstration at Wakefield
Miners Demonstration at Wakefield
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Miners Demonstration at Wakefield 1908

Infectiously lively film of a Yorkshire mining community's grand day out.

2 mins United Kingdom

View The Miners' Last Stand
The Miners' Last Stand
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The Miners' Last Stand 1972

This Week report capturing the immediacy of life on the picket line in South Yorkshire.

27 mins United Kingdom Director. Peter Tiffin, Tom Steel

View Coal Crisis
Coal Crisis
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Coal Crisis 1947

Is coal king or is it in crisis? This Modern Age offers its vision for the future.

20 mins United Kingdom Director. John Monck

View Forest of Dean Free Miners
Forest of Dean Free Miners
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Forest of Dean Free Miners 1964

Described as the 'coal industry's last bastion of free enterprise', the Forest of Dean's free miners operate outside the National Coal Board and make a living from local coal.

4 mins United Kingdom

View Beamish North of England Open Air Museum
Beamish North of England Open Air Museum
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Beamish North of England Open Air Museum 1976

A ‘living museum’ at Beamish rides the waves of interest in industrial heritage in the 1970s. [78]

26 mins United Kingdom Director. Andrea Wonfor

View Selby: The Saving Face for Coal
Selby:  The Saving Face for Coal
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Selby: The Saving Face for Coal 1984

The most advanced deep coal mine in the world opens while those who work it stand by their fellow miners, as the future of both the miners and coal mining is decided on the picket line.

22 mins United Kingdom

View Rhondda and Wye
Rhondda and Wye
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Rhondda and Wye 1948

The clear waters of the River Wye and the rural areas it flows through offer a stark contrast to the industrialised Rhondda where the River Taff runs black with coal dust.

20 mins United Kingdom

View Big Geordie
Big Geordie
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Big Geordie 1970

A mechanical monster of the 70s takes its place in Northumberland’s coal mining history.

20 mins United Kingdom

View Harold Wilson - Right of Reply - Coal Dispute
Harold Wilson - Right of Reply - Coal Dispute
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Harold Wilson - Right of Reply - Coal Dispute 1972

Labour Party leader Harold Wilson speaks to the nation on the coal dispute in response to PM Edward Heath.

8 mins United Kingdom

View Miners Retirement
Miners Retirement
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Miners Retirement 1977

As the Cannock Chase office of the NUM fills up with the walking wounded from the pit face what future can there be for such a high risk industry?

13 mins United Kingdom

View Raw Materials
Raw Materials
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Raw Materials 1936

The power behind industrial Scotland is beautifully photographed in these scenes of coalminers and iron ore smelting.

9 mins United Kingdom Director. John C. Elder

View Our Smallest Colliery
Our Smallest Colliery
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Our Smallest Colliery 1927

A Lancashire farmer's fields yield an unusual crop

2 mins United Kingdom

View Closure of Snibston Colliery
Closure of Snibston Colliery
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Closure of Snibston Colliery 1983

A bleak Christmas for the men of Snibston Colliery as mining in Coalville comes to an end in the last days of 1983.

5 mins United Kingdom

View Miners Strike in South Derbyshire
Miners Strike in South Derbyshire
Watch for free 5 mins

Miners Strike in South Derbyshire 1984

With flying pickets at the colliery entrance the moderate miners of South Derbyshire face the painful decision of whether to cross the picket line.

5 mins United Kingdom

View Personnel Recovery Unit
Personnel Recovery Unit
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Personnel Recovery Unit 1976

What do you get when you cross a lifeboat and a coffin? This rescue device helps bring injured miners back to the surface.

7 mins United Kingdom Director. Mike Morgan

View Joint Sales Drive
Joint Sales Drive
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Joint Sales Drive 1974

A walk through any Co-op store reveals some of the delightful gifts that could be yours if you advocate solid fuel heating for the home.

11 mins United Kingdom Director. Nestor Lovera

View Miners Leaving Pendlebury Colliery
Miners Leaving Pendlebury Colliery
Watch for free 1 mins

Miners Leaving Pendlebury Colliery 1901

A black miner makes an intriguing addition to an already captivating film of coal workers up from their pit.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Review 26th Year No. 3
Review 26th Year No. 3
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Review 26th Year No. 3 1972

A makeover in Batley, a super-dock in Immingham - and 70s kitsch abounds.

10 mins United Kingdom

View Clean Air at Handsworth
Clean Air at Handsworth
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Clean Air at Handsworth 1967

Three Handsworth households get paid to breathe more easily in this jaunty promo about Sheffield's switch to smokeless fuels.

8 mins United Kingdom

View Mining Review 4th Year No. 12
Mining Review 4th Year No. 12
Watch for free 10 mins

Mining Review 4th Year No. 12 1951

Miners' lives and labours in Lanarkshire, Leicestershire and South Wales.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Peter Pickering, John Shaw-jones

View Mining Review 2nd Year No. 4
Mining Review 2nd Year No. 4
Watch for free 9 mins

Mining Review 2nd Year No. 4 1948

The majestic rebirth of Manchester's Bradford Colliery and other stories.

9 mins United Kingdom Director. Peter Pickering, Leslie Shepard

View Mining Review 7th Year No. 2
Mining Review 7th Year No. 2
Watch for free 10 mins

Mining Review 7th Year No. 2 1953

Miners from Glamorganshire and Stafford let down their hair with festivals, galas and lashings of beer.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Leslie Shepard

View Mining Review 2nd Year No. 5
Mining Review 2nd Year No. 5
Watch for free 10 mins

Mining Review 2nd Year No. 5 1949

Rotherham United talent scout Joe McGuire is on the look out for miners with footballing flair.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Michael Orrom

View Mining Review 13th Year No.12
Mining Review 13th Year No.12
Watch for free 9 mins

Mining Review 13th Year No.12 1960

Pits, quoits and 'Cosie' the hungry baby bear - this cinemagazine offers some wonderful vignettes of life beyond the 'face'.

9 mins United Kingdom

View Miners Strike, Pickets
Miners Strike, Pickets
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Miners Strike, Pickets 1972

In the cold winter of 1972 Usworth Colliery miners refuse to keep the home fires burning during a national miners’ strike.

7 mins England

View Mining Review 1st Year No. 2
Mining Review 1st Year No. 2
Watch for free 10 mins

Mining Review 1st Year No. 2 1947

A mass street football game in Workington, and fascinating debates in Glamorgan.

10 mins United Kingdom

View Durham Miners' Gala
Durham Miners' Gala
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Durham Miners' Gala 1928

Durham miners and their families mix fun with a dash of politics at their annual Gala.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Mining Review 3rd Year No. 5
Mining Review 3rd Year No. 5
Watch for free 10 mins

Mining Review 3rd Year No. 5 1950

Pipeline to Pimlico - Battersea Power Station helps change the face of Pimlico.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Michael Clarke, Tony Thompson

View Mining Review 15th Year No. 5
Mining Review 15th Year No. 5
Watch for free 9 mins

Mining Review 15th Year No. 5 1962

A visit to Peterlee, Co. Durham, plus news from Britain's coalfields.

9 mins United Kingdom Director. Peter Whale

View Mining Review 10th Year No. 11
Mining Review 10th Year No. 11
Watch for free 10 mins

Mining Review 10th Year No. 11 1957

Ashington, Northumberland, when it was still King of Coal. Plus folk star Ewan MacColl.

10 mins United Kingdom

View Mining Review 13th Year No. 7
Mining Review 13th Year No. 7
Watch for free 8 mins

Mining Review 13th Year No. 7 1960

Bobby Charlton and his brothers Gordon and Jack meet their father Bert, a miner, as he clocks off from work.

8 mins United Kingdom Director. Robert Kruger, Peter Whale

View No Coal Wanted Here
No Coal Wanted Here
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No Coal Wanted Here 1921

With scant regard for Health & Safety, the women of Chiswick smoke, lounge and leapfrog to their heart’s content for the start of the mixed-bathing season.

United Kingdom

View The Blackhill Campaign
The Blackhill Campaign
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The Blackhill Campaign 1963

Miners, villagers and a Tory Lord fight the Blackhill Colliery closure in this moving documentary inspired by the Free Cinema movement of the 1950s.

50 mins United Kingdom

View Welsh Coal Strike Scenes at Aberaman
Welsh Coal Strike Scenes at Aberaman
Watch for free 4 mins

Welsh Coal Strike Scenes at Aberaman 1910

Beautifully-photographed scenes of industrial beauty, bleakness and jollity in Aberaman, in the Rhondda, South Wales.

4 mins United Kingdom

View Incinerate - With Coal
Incinerate - With Coal
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Incinerate - With Coal 1973

The styles, streets and music of 1970s Nottingham are engagingly evoked in this industrial process film.

25 mins United Kingdom Director. Joan Duff

View Durham Miners Gala
Durham Miners Gala
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Durham Miners Gala 1930

Billowing banners and copious crowds throng Durham for the annual Miners' Gala.

2 mins United Kingdom

View Miners Absenteeism
Miners Absenteeism
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Miners Absenteeism 1965

Where do all the miners go on a Monday? With an average of forty percent of miners staying away from work at the start of the week, what are they all doing and can the industry cope?

4 mins United Kingdom

View Coalminer
Coalminer
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Coalminer 1944

An insight into the life of coal miner Charles Jones from the Rhondda valley, an area famous for its coal production.

15 mins United Kingdom

View Coals and Courtship
Coals and Courtship
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Coals and Courtship 1919

Knockabout comedy that grabs attention through its setting of the Pwyllgwaun colliery near Pontypridd.

20 mins United Kingdom

View £20 per Ton
£20 per Ton
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£20 per Ton 1955

In a London factory money's going up the chimney, out the roof and down the pipes: an early documentary by Lindsay Anderson.

5 mins United Kingdom Director. Lindsay Anderson

View Release the Jailed Miners!
Release the Jailed Miners!
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Release the Jailed Miners! 1984

Wives and mothers call for the release of miners jailed during the Miners' Strike.

39 mins United Kingdom

View Tidy Is Safe
Tidy Is Safe
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Tidy Is Safe 1975

A neat coalition between the Keep Britain Tidy Group and the National Coal Board aims to inspire colliery cleanliness.

14 mins United Kingdom Director. Pierre Henfrey

View Romance of a Lump of Coal
Romance of a Lump of Coal
Watch for free 5 mins

Romance of a Lump of Coal 1935

A filmic speed date with the multifaceted rock celebrates its talents and virtues in the days before its shortcomings soured the relationship.

5 mins United Kingdom

View NUM Rally
NUM Rally
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NUM Rally 1984

With a crowd of over 2,000 and a pop star like reception for Arthur Scargill, the NUM conference in Sheffield is a rallying cry from the striking miners.

6 mins United Kingdom

View Coalminer
Coalminer
Watch for free 10 mins

Coalminer 1978

An illuminating introduction to coalmining for young schoolchildren

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Dilys Howell

View Solid Fuel
Solid Fuel
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Solid Fuel 1965

A chorus of coal fires sing for their cut-price supper in this short animated ad for the National Coal Board.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Safety Loops No. 12
Safety Loops No. 12
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Safety Loops No. 12 1970

Coalminers Beware! Short sharp safety messages that hit the spot.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Coal Mining Today
Coal Mining Today
Watch for free 18 mins

Coal Mining Today 1946

Trainees are busy learning "a career rather than a job" at the world's first Mines Mechanisation Training Centre in Sheffield.

18 mins United Kingdom

View We've Got What It Takes
We've Got What It Takes
Watch for free 20 mins

We've Got What It Takes 1947

The future of postwar Britain lies in the hands of her miners, according to this film encouraging young lads to work in the coal industry

20 mins United Kingdom

View Mining Review 6th Year No. 5
Mining Review 6th Year No. 5
Watch for free 10 mins

Mining Review 6th Year No. 5 1953

An intriguing blast from soccer's past: Wrexham meet Beighton Miners Welfare in FA Cup First Round.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Peter Pickering

View Ocean Collieries Recreational Union
Ocean Collieries Recreational Union
Watch for free 9 mins

Ocean Collieries Recreational Union 1934

The Ocean Coal Company plays its part in the “war against dirt” by providing pithead baths. Its new sports facilities and playgrounds offer healthy fun for all the community.

9 mins Wales

View The Peat Digger
The Peat Digger
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The Peat Digger 1977

With a black Labrador by his side, “Fen Tiger” Harold Sennit, the self-proclaimed “last of the peat diggers”, sets to work at Wicken Fen, Cambs.

7 mins United Kingdom

View Where There's Brass
Where There's Brass
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Where There's Brass 1969

“If there’s music in yer, it has to come out”. But northern brass bands, as this film testifies, reveal so much more about working class life than its innate creativity.

51 mins United Kingdom

View Review 27th Year No. 12
Review 27th Year No. 12
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Review 27th Year No. 12 1974

Fascinatingly wrong 1970s predictions of how UK energy needs will be met in the future.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. John Reid

View Coal Industry in Britain
Coal Industry in Britain
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Coal Industry in Britain 1937

The struggling UK coal industry is under the spotlight, together with the US liquor trade and the rise in trailer living.

20 mins USA

View Energy
Energy
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Energy 1935

Coal, between the world wars, makes the industrialised world go round and Cory Bros & Co Ltd, with collieries in south Wales and oil refineries across the globe, is a major player.

21 mins United Kingdom

View Phoenix Magazine
Phoenix Magazine
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Phoenix Magazine 1970

Valleys boy escapes as architect to London, where he dresses in black, but returns to Clydach Vale - “a heaven and a hell all rolled into one word, spelled C O A L" – dressed in white.

21 mins England

View Lle Triga’r Caneri
Lle Triga’r Caneri
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Lle Triga’r Caneri 1989

From Tenerife to Treorchy: Jack Bellamy’s tribute to the canary, the little yellow songster that saved so many miners’ lives.

46 mins Wales

View Pride
Pride
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HD

Pride 2014 15

The smash culture-clash comedy tells the incredible true story of how miners and a Gay Pride support group come together to fight a common cause.

119 mins United Kingdom Director. Matthew Warchus

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