Photographs of Betteshanger Colliery Male Voice Choir
This month’s object has been chosen by Tyler Harvey, undergraduate Anthropology student from the University of Kent, who is currently completing an internship with us at the Kent Mining Museum.
Not all parts of a miner’s life was spent labouring at a colliery site – they also made room for artistic expression above ground, and this is represented in the photograph of the Betteshanger Colliery Male Voice Choir. Posing in their ‘Cowboy Scene’, the photographs show how far from being just miners, many colliery workers were also entertainers and artists, and many continued these pursuits after the collieries were closed.
It also represents the importance of the local welfare organisation that existed for each colliery working to fund and organise improvements in the workplace (such as the installation of the pithead baths), but also the choir and its performances which were so essential to the feeling of connectedness between the members of the community.
All four main collieries in the Kent area boasted their own male choirs which incorporated the diverse choral traditions of members who came to Kent from areas ranging from Wales to Yorkshire in the 20th century. In 1948, these choirs joined together for a performance in the Royal Albert Hall!
Only the Snowdown Welfare Colliery Male Voice Choir remains to this day. It continues to act as a reminder of the mining traditions that have lived on in the community, despite the colliery being closed by the National Coal Board in 1987, as shown by their souvenir brochure published in 1989.