I am delighted to be research theme winner for Heritage and Creativity in the University of Reading’s PhD Researcher of the Year competition.

My research focuses on the experiences and representations of British mineworkers from 1947, when the coal mines were nationalized, through to pit closures in the later twentieth and early twenty-first century. Narratives of the British mining industry often centre on the miners’ strike of 1984-85. This was undoubtedly a transformative moment, as one of the most significant industrial disputes of the twentieth century, and following the failure of the strike the industry contracted rapidly. Yet, the industry, and the men who worked in it were much more than the strike, and my research aims to explore this through the experiences of miners and the material culture of mining communities.

Like many other researchers the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a significant and unanticipated challenge for me. Leading up to March 2020, I had conducted fifteen oral history interviews with the majority of these held in interviewees’ homes. Keen to continue my research despite the national lockdown, I circulated a call for mining memories, which was published in local newspapers, as well as on a number of relevant social media groups. Following this I received an incredible response in the form of emails, letters and unpublished memoirs from former mineworkers all across Great Britain. I conducted twenty-seven interviews remotely, over the telephone and via online meeting platforms. As I was homeschooling my two young children during lockdown, interviews took place at my (rather messy) kitchen table in the evenings, after a busy day of phonics, numeracy and craft. In total I have interviewed 43 miners, and I also received testimonies from an additional 22 men.

It is a real honour to have my work showcased at the Doctoral Research Conference on 16 June, alongside the research of my fellow winners of the Agriculture, Food & Health; Environment and Prosperity and Resilience research themes.

More information: https://www.reading.ac.uk/graduateschool/events/gs-DoctoralResearchConference2021.aspx

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