Coronavirus: Northumberland 156th miners' picnic goes virtual

  • Published
Let's Circus lockdown museum takeoverImage source, Let's Circus
Image caption,
Circus performers Let's Circus have the run of the museum in a lockdown takeover

An historic mining celebration that has been held almost every year since 1864 has gone digital during lockdown.

Northumberland Miners' Picnic has only been cancelled during two wars and three strikes.

The 156th picnic has a virtual brass band and remote circus takeover of Woodhorn Colliery Museum, with online poetry, music and dance.

Museum chief executive Rowan Brown said they had been "determined that it's not cancelled this year".

"We have never attempted live streaming before," she said.

"This is the first time and it's been a real stretch for all of us, for all of the performers and artists and collaborators, for my incredible colleagues who've just been outstanding."

Image source, Paul Merrick
Image caption,
Events included poetry, music, dance and family activities

The picnic was first held in Blyth in Northumberland and later in Newcastle, Morpeth, Tynemouth and Newbiggin before moving to Bedlington, where it stayed for 30 years. In latter years it has been held in Ashington and Woodhorn.

The event was only cancelled during World War One and World War Two, the General Strike and the miners' strikes of 1921 and 1984.

Image source, Woodhorn Charitable Trust
Image caption,
Traditionally the woman crowned "coal queen" of their town were paraded on a float on picnic day

The 2020 event had the "traditional picnic weather of rain and possible thunder", Ms Brown said.

"We're always at the mercy of the weather and so, some years, you have 4,500 people on site and it's a glorious day and some years it rains for eight hours and you're lucky to get 1,500."

Image source, Richard Kenworthy
Image caption,
The weather can make all the difference, as the 2018 picnic proved

Bedlington Community Brass Band has created a virtual performance by recording each instrument separately and editing them together.

Sarah Goss, who plays first cornet, gave members a track to listen to on their headphones to keep them to time.

Image source, Woodhorn Charitable Trust
Image caption,
Brass bands were an essential element of many North East miners' events

Her daughter, Megan, did the editing as a "distraction because her first year at university was cut short", Mrs Goss said.

You can mute someone if they've gone wrong or ask them to do it again.

"But, mostly, if we've got more than one person playing the same part, hopefully one of them's got it right," she said.

Image source, Bedlington Community Brass Band
Image caption,
Brass band lockdown style, with everyone playing by themselves and the result edited together

The live streamed events can been accessed by the museum's website and will be kept permanently online.

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