This film is part of Free
Miners Leaving Pendlebury Colliery (1901)
A black miner makes an intriguing addition to an already captivating film of coal workers up from their pit.
Showman Albert Sedgwick, conspicuously raffish in homburg and moustache, bestrides and controls this film. Sedgwick has 'planted' the poster board advertising the show in which it's to be screened - as well as, possibly, the Afro-Caribbean man whose presence in Edwardian Lancashire so surprises us. And he is choreographing, right before our eyes, the procession of colliers for the camera.
This film was included in Tate Britain's 2013 retrospective of L.S. Lowry's art. Lowry had himself lived in Pendlebury - although he didn't move there until 1912, 11 years after this film was shot. It's not impossible that the artist may have seen this or other local films in his youth. In any case, it's hard not to think of Lowry's deeply personal paintings when contemplating Mitchell and Kenyon's highly commercial filmmaking. Both are at once innocent and artful, their gaze alternately warm and cold, capturing industrial and human worlds by casual observation and careful orchestration alike. In contrast to the dozens of 'factory gate' films arranged by Mitchell and Kenyon outside textile mills and engineering works, the producers shot just a handful of coalmining films. The inescapably massive presence of mining in Pendlebury lasted until the day its final local pit died, with its boots on, in 1990.