WORK by the world-renowned Pitmen Painters from Northumberland is to be showcased in a popular TV travel series highlighting some of Britain's most fascinating train journeys.
The iconic paintings produced by the Ashington Group of artists from the 1930s will feature in the BBC2 documentary series Great British Railway Journeys next week.
They have already inspired the play The Pitmen Painters by Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall – which has been a huge hit in the UK and the USA – and received widespread TV, radio and press coverage.
Now the collection of 80 paintings, which is on permanent display at the Woodhorn Museum near Ashington, will be showcased in the latest episode of Great British Railway Journeys, to be shown on BBC2 at 6.30pm on Monday .
The series involves former politician Michael Portillo travelling around the British railway network guided by the book Railway Companion, which was written by Victorian cartographer George Bradshaw.
Now in its third series, the programme selects various destinations of interest to train travellers and compares and contrasts modern Britain with that documented by Bradshaw in the 1840s.
Monday’s episode features the scenic East Coast main line rail journey from Berwick to Morpeth, and looks at the cross-Border history of Berwick as well as the fascinating story of the Pitmen Painters. Michael Portillo and his production team visited Woodhorn last summer to film the programme, which includes an interview with William Feaver, the man who wrote the book which inspired the smash hit play.
Yesterday Woodhorn director, Keith Merrin, said: “We are lucky to work with these fascinating paintings every day, but we never tire of sharing them with others.
“Seeing them on screen gives them new life and raises awareness of this collection.
“And of course William Feaver has such insight into the paintings and the painters themselves, having become such a close friend of the artists in later years.”
Marketing officer Deborah Tate, said: “Although Woodhorn is not on the main railway line, it was next to a passenger line until the Beeching cuts of the 1960s and once had lots of freight lines for coal, so that is the link. As well as looking into the main Pitmen Painters collection, the production team also fell in love with Oliver Kilbourn’s My Life As A Pitman paintings, which were done in the 1970s after he retired.
“They are not on permanent display to the public here, but I would expect them to feature in this programme. This is another example of how these paintings, which were tucked away for a while, have now become such an amazing piece of social history as well as art. They record a way of life and activities that are now gone.”
The main Ashington Group collection is open to the public at Woodhorn from Wednesday to Sunday all year round. It was compiled by original members of the group themselves over many years. They felt the paintings represented the very best of their work.