On Bank Holiday Monday 31st August I ran a community drawing stall at this year’s Kent Miners’ Festival. I invited everyone to contribute to producing a large commemorative WW1-inspired community drawing for Aylesham Heritage Centre, as well as to have a go at their own smaller drawings.
The stall brought together a great wide range of participants from children to the ex-miners themselves, which for me was one of the best things about the day.
We worked from a collection of photographs that I’ve accumulated through my research into local and national mining activity during the WW1 period, focusing on the establishment of the Kent coalfield in the early 1900s (Shakespeare & Dover Colliery through to Snowdown Colliery) and the processes used by miners who were employed as tunnellers in WW1.
I brought along Tracedown carbon paper to mainly use as an introductory drawing material/process, but the effectiveness of being able to trace and create immediate, beautiful imprints of an image proved very popular and encouraged a lot of people to join in who had very little confidence in their drawing ability. However it was also great to see some people choosing to draw freehand with other materials…
I wanted elements of the drawing activity to be reflective of the conditions of mining, so limited the materials available (paper, graphite, charcoal, chalk, carbon paper) and the colour palette (black, white, grey & red).
In planning I’d also tested several ideas on how to interpret the restrictive conditions within the actual drawing process (such as working in darkness or on black paper guided only by the light of a headtorch) but they turned out to be too impractical.
After then thinking about the ‘clay-kicking’ tunnelling method used by miners in WW1, whereby men would sit against a wooden cross structure with their legs raised in the air and feet digging the earth away with a spade-like grafting tool (see below), I decided to create a far more physically demanding drawing experience for people by building an upstanding drawing board and wooden tool for them to draw with.
Seated on a chair and with a drawing implement attached to the end of the tool, it asked them to raise their legs and make a drawing with their feet and balance as the primary controllers. For those brave enough to have a go it proved extremely interesting and it was great to watch the idea of drawing to be brought back to a very primitive process of mark-making.
Overall there was a fascinating collection of displays from all of the local coalfield heritage groups – this year’s highlights included an impressive reconstruction of a miners’ kitchen, complete with the tin bath…
Despite the horrible weather the day was still a great success with a collection of beautiful artworks as well as interesting conversations with members of the community.
Next I will be meeting with Sarah Brown (Museum & Heritage Manager) to scan in all of the small drawings for incorporation into a design that’ll be shown on the construction hoardings of the new Kent Mining Museum at Betteshanger. I’ll also soon be putting up the community drawing at Aylesham Heritage Centre after a bit of measuring and mounting.
A big thank you to the KMF team, Aylesham Heritage Centre, Clare Smith & Rosie James.
Photos by Louisa Love, Clare Smith & Rosie James
(See more images in the gallery below)