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Bringing the benefactress to life

Hi everyone. I am Lorraine Reynolds and will be playing the role of Helen Sutherland in this production of the Pitman Painters. This is a very different part from the previous tomfoolery assigned to me via the Farndale Murder Mystery, and the Bronte spoof which both took place at the Millgate earlier this year.

Helen Sutherland, who was a real person, heiress to the P&O shipping line, has more money than she knows what to do with, and spends her time as a benefactress to the Arts, which is her passion.

Despite this rather grand pedigree, Helen is a complex character who is introduced to the Pitmen and does her best to support and encourage them in their artistic endeavours.

Playing alongside this talented group of men has been great fun and it has been interesting to watch them collapse into giggles more often than I expected. The story of the Pitman Painters is both touching and heartwarming and I hope you will enjoy this production as much as I have enjoyed being a part of it.

‘The Pitmen Painters’ will be performed by the Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph, from 24 November until 1 December. Tickets £9 (£5 students) from our online booking site.

Lorraine Reynolds, November 7, 2018,


The Pitmen and us

I should probably start by saying I know nothing about art! However, the Pitmen didn’t to start with either, so that’s ok then.

What this has meant though is that throughout rehearsals we have been able to go on the same journey these men started 84 years ago. It has felt like we have been doing it right alongside them. So often during rehearsal we stop to simply discuss the art/issues/politics that these men were discussing; and just like them we do it together, as a group.

It has been a truly unique rehearsal process in that respect for me. I don’t think I have ever had such in-depth discussions about the material while trying to set it. Discovering the character is something I normally do in my own time, and as a natural consequence of learning the script and the actions. Instead, I have found my character through discussion with my fellow cast mates. Through each of us talking about what things do/could mean, how we feel these men would have reacted to things, what art and this journey meant to them. So like these men found out not just about art but about themselves, we too have found them; and in turn found out a bit about ourselves.

That I think is the true magic of what Lee Hall has created. Not only is this play about art and miners in the 30s/40s. He has put together a story that deals also with politics, social class, personal relationships and above all, about discovery. Discovery that can be done through art. And not just paintings on a wall, but The Arts. Literature, sculpture, theatre etc. Art is not simply about entertaining or providing something lovely and pleasing to look at. It is about telling a story, a message. To tell us something new, either about what we are reading or about ourselves. Lee Hall has skilfully given us both.

Hopefully we can take you the audience on this same journey that us and the Pitmen have taken. To use a bit of artistic license and paraphrase a line from the play – That is what is important about art. To transform who you are!

‘The Pitmen Painters’ will be performed by the Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph, from 24 November until 1 December. Tickets £9 (£5 students) from our online booking site.

Peter Rigney, November 7, 2018,


Cut from similar cloth

This play has particular resonance for me. My grandfather left school at 10 years old and my father left at 13. They were both highly intelligent men with a rich inner life which was hardly explored during their early lives. They were voracious readers and found cultural fulfilment through sport and the theatre.

The pitmen in the play are cut from similar cloth and their release from a harsh back breaking environment comes via art. I find the exploration of their awakening inspirational and, as is said late in the piece, they stand for all the ordinary people who never got the opportunity to find their inner selves.

During the run of the play I shall remember my much loved Dad and Grandad and hope I do them justice.

(P.S. At a time when Arts subjects are being removed from school syllabuses perhaps the play has unexpected contemporary significance.)

‘The Pitmen Painters’ will be performed by the Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph, from 24 November until 1 December. Tickets £9 (£5 students) from our online booking site.

Ian Perks, November 7, 2018,


I wouldn't be here today if my great-grandfather hadn't injured his leg!

Hi, I'm David Plowright, responsible for lighting, projection and sound for The Pitmen Painters. This excellent play about a real-life group of miners and their search to expand their world reminds me that I wouldn't be here if my great-grandfather hadn't injured his leg, which meant he was not down the pit on 12 December 1866.

His family - fourth generation miners at least - had only just moved to Barnsley from Ingleton after that pit flooded. But three of his brothers, his father, uncle and cousin, died in a huge explosion that day at The Oaks Colliery. Final death toll: 361, the highest in any English mine disaster.

None in that family went down a mine again. With the pit closed, the employment prospects in Barnsley were desperate. Two more brothers died of disease within 10 years. Determined to find something better, sister Sarah emigrated alone, aged no more than 17, to New Zealand. Brother James - a miner turned stone mason - emigrated with his wife and family to Sydney. Prominent Methodists and teetotalers, in total 12 of their 13 children died before adulthood, but they remained adamant in their beliefs to the end. My great-grandfather's escape to a better life was not by training as an artist, but as a village school teacher. Though looked down on socially by the worthy school governors (and rebuked for keeping hens on school premises), he was clearly well respected by the villagers, and held in 'esteem and regard' by the vicar. His wife, son, two daughters and two granddaughters followed him into teaching.

The picture above is not of me as an objectionable infant, but of the clay model for a bronze statue of a widowed miner's wife, cast to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Oaks disaster in 2016. At the service, the Miners' Hymn 'Gresford', was played, as it is on our stage in our play. A wonderful, evocative piece, which makes the hairs on my neck stand up whenever I hear it.

Come and experience for yourself the humour, energy and creativity of this artistic group of Northern miners some 70 years after The Oaks. Don't miss it.

‘The Pitmen Painters’ will be performed by the Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph, from 24 November until 1 December. Tickets £9 (£5 students) from our online booking site.

David Plowright, November 4, 2018,


The Young Lad

Wae’aye man! My name is Chris Richardson and I will be causing mischief in the upcoming performance of ‘The Pitmen painters’! My character is simply identified as ‘Young Lad’ . . . I know, charming! Although strange at first not having a name, you quickly realise that there is a clever purpose to it that keeps the themes and events firmly rooted in the social reality of the younger generation at the time!

Throughout the play every line and every movement seems like a symbolic one, not just representing the young lad but all the young lads that found themselves in such a time of social imbalance, all the while sprinkling adolescent humour wherever he can get away with it!

This is my first time with Saddleworth players and I am having a cracking time. I have performed numerous times over the years with different groups doing both musical theatre and plays.

‘The Pitmen Painters’ will be performed by the Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph, from 24 November until 1 December. Tickets £9 (£5 students) from our online booking site.

Chris Richardson, October 31, 2018,