The Pitman’s Parliament, Durham Miners Association, has been awarded a life-saving grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund paving the way for its renewal as a centre for culture, heritage and education.
Durham Energy Institute (DEI) was delighted to hear the news that the Durham Miners Association has successfully secured funding to restore the magnificent historic Redhills building in the heart of Durham City. Professor Sandra Bell and Lynn Gibson of DEI have been supporting the development of the funding proposal, appeal and restoration plans since 2016 as members of the Redhills Advisory Board. They have joined a host of the region’s leading industry experts and consultants working with the Redhills team to develop detailed plans for the future of the Miners Hall.
Building on the mining heritage and securing our energy future
Durham Energy Institute’s emphasis on the combination of Energy, Science and Society is particularly exemplified in the North East of England where the historical legacy of coal mining has shaped the local communities, landscape and society. The importance of this legacy is strongly recognised by the DEI and we have endeavoured to build on this through our social and scientific research, engagements with communities and partnerships across the region. This is why we are particularly excited about our partnership with Durham Miner’s Association, working together to bridge the energy past with our energy future.
Research at Durham University has looked at the coal resources which remain in the ground and their potential role in UK energy security. It is also identifying sustainable and low-carbon opportunities for building on this mining legacy such as using naturally heated water from abandoned mines as a geothermal resource to use in community heating schemes. Research has also addressed the social and economic impacts of the closing of the mining industry on the region.
The extraordinary building at Redhills in Durham, built in 1915 as the headquarters of the Durham Miners' Association (DMA), was said to be in "severe jeopardy" and was given an initial Lottery grant of £400,000 a year ago to build the business case for the renovation and renewal.
Today it has been announced the historic building will receive £4.5m of funding, thanks to National Lottery players, enabling the full restoration of the Grade II-listed hall.
The addition of new buildings with modern facilities will enable Redhills to improve accessibility and offer a wide-ranging programme of activities and community resources. The renewed Redhills will use cutting-edge audio-visual technology to bring to life the rich history of the DMA, the people and the communities of the Durham coalfield. There are also plans to install ground source heat pumps which will make the Miners’ Hall carbon-free for heating. A poetic way of the DMA offsetting some of the carbon footprint of two centuries of mining coal in the world’s biggest deep mine coalfield.
Durham County Council is also providing £1.1m of matched funding toward the £7.25m project. The DMA is raising the remaining £1.65 from trades unions and other supporters.
Building work at Redhills is due to get underway early in 2022. The renewed Redhills is then due to reopen to the public in Spring 2023.
Ross Forbes, DMA programme director, has led the Redhills project from its inception. He said:
“The National Lottery Heritage Fund has ensured that the proud story of the Durham miners will not just be preserved, but will continue to be written.
“Redhills is not just a building. It is so much more. It stands as a testament to the work and sacrifice of generations of miners and their families who achieved great things through collective endeavour. Durham miners did not just power the country, they looked after each other and created their own welfare state. From Redhills, the DMA provided medical care, sports grounds, libraries, welfare halls and homes for retired miners right across this county.
“Redhills will keep this story and these values alive. We have no doubt Redhills will inspire great new achievements into the future. It is going to be something very special.”
Professor Sandra Bell, said:
“This is great news for everyone living in and around Durham by providing a dynamic hub for community activities arts, music, education. So many families have history that gives them a rightful sense of ownership and pride in Redhills. They probably buy occasional lottery tickets too. Miners fought for social justice. They have done it again in ensuring the future of this building for generations to come.”
Lynn Gibson, DEI Administrator and Secretary to the Redhills Advisory Board, said:
“I come from generations of coal miners and my four great grandfathers contributed to the building of Redhills through their union subs. I was honoured to be invited to attend the first Advisory Board meeting of the Redhills appeal back on 7 December 2016. With the last pit closing locally in 1994, we were at risk of coal-mining stories never being told beyond the generation of men who worked down the pits. What the Redhills project aims to achieve for the local community, with the repair and refurbishment of the Durham Miners’ Hall and the new build extension, will help to keep those stories alive. I am overjoyed that the importance of our heritage will never be forgotten, and that the inheritance of this building, and what it represents, will be passed on to our kids and our grandkids, and always remembered.”
The Pitman’s Parliament Campaign
The Pitman’s Parliament is the seat of a trade union democracy that shaped the lives of the people of County Durham for generations. Elected delegates from across the county met at Redhills and created a pioneering social system before the creation of the national welfare state.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund award comes following a three-year campaign to build support for Redhills. More than 25,000 people have visited Redhills since the 2018 launch of the campaign, which has received messages of support from more than 2,000 members of the public. It also has the backing of numerous high-profile individuals and organisations, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, Sunderland AFC, film director Ken Loach and artist Grayson Perry.
Redhills was also recognised by Historic England as among the 100 ‘irreplaceable’ places in the history of the country, alongside the Palace of Westminster.
The DMA is engaging with local communities to discover how a renewed Redhills could best serve these communities, and act as a catalyst to revitalise culture and prosperity in the Durham coalfield area.
Alan Mardghum, DMA Secretary, said: “This project has received overwhelming support from so many people, demonstrating the importance of Redhills to the history and identity of our region. There is much work still to be done and we are all determined that Redhills will serve as a fitting legacy for the remarkable people who built it. The economic, social and cultural benefits of this project will be felt across County Durham for generations to come.”
The Redhills redevelopment plan
Newcastle-based Mosedale Gillatt are the project architects, working on detailed plans to create new buildings which will provide necessary modern facilities to unlock the potential of Redhills while remaining sympathetic to the existing Miners Hall.
Creative design consultancy Bright White are using cutting-edge audio-visual technology to share the inspiring story of the Durham Miners Association and the communities of the county.
Heritage experts have been assessing the extensive collection of artifacts in the Miners Hall, including the DMA lodge banners, to ensure important historical materials are preserved and made accessible to the public.
An extensive activity plan has been developed to reach out and draw people into Redhills in greater numbers than ever before. Year-round activities will feature guided tours, concerts, educational workshops, talks, film screenings and much more, and will have an emphasis on the social history and cultural heritage of the Durham coalfield.
As it has throughout the project, the DMA will consult extensively to ensure the people of the Durham coalfield have a role in shaping the future of Redhills.
Find out more:
For news and updates about the development of Redhills, follow @RedhillsDurham on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and visit www.redhillsdurham.org
Find out about Durham Energy Institute research into solutions for Heat decarbonisation and Geo-energy