Black History Month: Doncaster shows black miners films

Black History Month: Doncaster shows black miners films

Two documentaries charting the lives of black miners in the north of England are being shown to mark Black History Month.

Digging Deep and Skin and Coal will both be screened at Cast in Doncaster on Saturday.

Many men came from the Caribbean after World War Two and worked in collieries in Doncaster, Leeds and Nottingham.

Director Norma Gregory said the films portrayed “amazing people with poignant memories”.

Organiser Tim Brown of Doncaster African Caribbean Support Group was employed by director Claudine Booth in 1987 to help make Skin and Coal.

His father Lloyd Brown spoke in the film about equality and his worries for the future of young black people.

Mr Brown said he was “really proud” and “really appreciative” of the sacrifices his father, who died two years ago, made for the family.

“These men responded to the invitation to help rebuild England,” he said. “Mining was one of the industries which welcomed black men.”

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In Digging Deep, from 2018, one miner said colour did not matter down the mine.

“When you’ve got coal dust all over… you couldn’t tell who was black and who was white until you had a shower, down there we was all equal.”

He added that everyone had to get on to be safe.

But in Skin and Coal, a miner’s wife recalled her child being bullied, thrown over a wall and “stoned” because he was mixed race.

And Stephen McIsaacs, 27 in the 1987 film, said the black miners “took some stick” and “just learned to get on with it”.

Calvin Williams described not having job prospects and said he intended to stop in the pit for a year “but I’ve been stuck there seven… we can’t use the skills we learnt at the pit to do anything else”.

By the 1990s most UK coal mines had closed.

Mr Brown and Ms Gregory said they wanted young people to make a follow-up film about the men’s lives after mining.

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