Events planned to mark South Shields pit disaster anniversary

A church service and new community play will mark the 180th anniversary of a tragedy in South Tyneside.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 20th June 2019, 9:07 am
The service will take place at St Hilda's Church in South Shields.
The service will take place at St Hilda's Church in South Shields.

This year is the 180th anniversary of the St Hilda’s Colliery disaster in South Shields which claimed the lives of 51 men and boys on June 28 1839.

The occasion will be marked at 4pm on Friday, June 28 with a special service at St Hilda’s Church, at South Shields Market Place, where the names of those who died will be read out, and a wreath laid.

After the service, the colliery’s banner will be carried to St Hilda’s Pit Head by the Harton and Westoe Banner Group, where the event continues with digital projections and animation, plus performances of an audio play and by Westoe Brass Band.

Sandy Harris.

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    Members of the public, the former mining community, families and friends are welcome and being encouraged to come along.

    The disaster - through the South Shields Commission - brought about wide-ranging changes in safety measures for miners across the world.

    Lorna Windham, working with Community Arts Project North East, has taken the disaster as an inspiration for an audio play based on the day itself to tell the human story.

    For the commemoration it will be presented as a script in hand performance.

    The play will take place at the restored St Hilda's Pit Head building.

    The play will start at 5.30pm in Studio Two at St Hilda’s Pit Head, in Henry Robson Way, South Shields.

    St Hilda’s Pit Head has now been restored and transformed into a vibrant, accessible centre.

    The current tenants, arts group The Creative Seed are delighted to host the commemorative event.

    Company Director Sandy Harris said: “We are honoured to be part of this commemorative experience in the heart of where the disaster occurred and look forward to welcoming new visitors to the building.”

    Coun Alan Kerr, lead member for leisure and culture at South Tyneside Council, said: “This play is a poignant reminder of the tragedy that occurred at St Hilda’s but also the safety measures that it brought about.

    “It is wonderful to see this historic, refurbished site being brought back to life and being used in such a creative way.”