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Miners’ amazing stories captured on film for documentary on South Shields artist Bob Olley

Former miners talk to Karl Coates about life down the pit
Former miners talk to Karl Coates about life down the pit

A group of veteran miners were taken on a trip down memory lane as part of a documentary on South Shields miner turned artist Bob Olley.

Karl Coates has been working with the world-renowned painter and sculptor - famous for his Westoe Netty painting - to chronicle his life from miner to artist.

Artist Bob Olley is pictured with his work The Last Drop

Artist Bob Olley is pictured with his work The Last Drop

The film was first commissioned in 1980 and started by Karl’s dad Les. But footage shot more than three decades ago was never seen and lay undiscovered.

Now, as Karl brings the footage up to the present day, he has filmed scenes of a group of miners talking about what life was life down the pits - including personal stories and nicknames they were given.

He said: “I was just gobsmacked with some of the stories they were telling of life down the pit.

“I had been down a mine during the miners’ strikes so I know what it was like but to go down there every day. It was just fascinating stuff they were talking about.

“I felt it was important to capture their stories on film and I do hold them in high regard. When you think about it, the whole of the North East was built on coal.

“Some of the footage of the discussion they had on what life was like as a miner will form part of the documentary on Bob. It is a piece of history.”

Bob is best known for his mining subjects, humorous drawings and paintings of everyday life. One of his best-known works is the Westoe Netty.

He has also worked on projects including the sculpture of John Simpson Kirkpatrick in South Shields town centre and Stan Laurel for a Persimmon Homes development in North Shields.

When the council decided to bulldoze the Westoe Netty, Bob and his friends demolished it themselves brick by brick - storing it in a shipyard containers in a bid to preserve it for future generations.

It was later given to Beamish Museum and it is here Karl is hoping to film his final shots for the film,

Mr Coates added: “The film is completed apart from one shot of Bob being reunited with the bricks from the Westoe Netty - which really started Bob’s career.

“We are waiting on Beamish to get back to us so we can film the final scene. I had hoped to have everything finished before now but that’s how things go.”

Bob currently has an exhibition of his work on at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery in Ocean Road.