THE Pitman’s Parliament has been awarded a life-saving grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund paving the way for its renewal as a centre for culture, heritage and education.
The extraordinary building at Redhills in Durham, built in 1915 as the headquarters of the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA), was said to be in “severe jeopardy” and was given an initial Lottery grant of £400,000 a year ago to enable emergency repairs to be carried out.
Today it has been announced the historic building will receive £4.5m of funding, thanks to National Lottery players, enabling the full restoration of the Grade II-listed hall.
The addition of new buildings with modern facilities will enable Redhills to improve accessibility and offer a wide-ranging programme of activities and community resources. The renewed Redhills will use cutting-edge audio-visual technology to bring to life the rich history of the DMA, the people and the communities of the Durham coalfield.
Durham County Council is also providing £1.1m of matched funding toward the £7.25m project. The DMA is raising the remaining £1.65 from trades unions and other supporters.
Building work at Redhills is due to get underway early in 2022. The renewed Redhills is then due to reopen to the public in Spring 2023.
Ross Forbes, DMA programme director, has led the Redhills project from its inception. He said: “The National Lottery Heritage Fund has ensured that the proud story of the Durham miners will not just be preserved, but will continue to be written.
“Redhills is not just a building. It is so much more. It stands as a testament to the work and sacrifice of generations of miners and their families who achieved great things through collective endeavour. Durham miners did not just power the country, they looked after each other and created their own welfare state. From Redhills, the DMA provided medical care, sports grounds, libraries, welfare halls and homes for retired miners right across this county.
“Redhills will keep this story and these values alive. We have no doubt Redhills will inspire great new achievements into the future. It is going to be something very special.”
The Pitman’s Parliament is the seat of a trade union democracy that shaped the lives of the people of County Durham for generations. Elected delegates from across the county met at Redhills and created a pioneering social system before the creation of the national welfare state.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund award comes following a three-year campaign to build support for Redhills.
David Renwick, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “We are thrilled to support Durham Miners Association in preserving Redhills and highlighting an important history for the community.
“Industrial heritage in the North is not only significant locally but for the wider region, and plays a huge role in bringing people together and in turn boosting the local economy. The money raised by National Lottery players will safeguard this important heritage building, and provide valuable opportunities for local people to explore the past and create stories for the future”.
More than 25,000 people have visited Redhills since the 2018 launch of the campaign, which has received messages of support from more than 2,000 members of the public. It also has the backing of numerous high-profile individuals and organisations, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, Sunderland AFC, film director Ken Loach and artist Grayson Perry.
Redhills was also recognised by Historic England as among the 100 ‘irreplaceable’ places in the history of the country, alongside the Palace of Westminster.
The DMA is engaging with local communities to discover how a renewed Redhills could best serve these communities, and act as a catalyst to revitalise culture and prosperity in the Durham coalfield area.
Alan Mardghum, DMA Secretary, said: “This is a great moment for the DMA and our former mining communities. We are enormously grateful to The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Durham County Council, and to everyone who has helped us get to this stage. This project has received overwhelming support from so many people, demonstrating the importance of Redhills to the history and identity of our region.
“There is much work still to be done and we are all determined that Redhills will serve as a fitting legacy for the remarkable people who built it.
“The economic, social and cultural benefits of this project will be felt across County Durham for generations to come.”
Redhills received Stage One funding of £400,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund in March 2020, to prepare the ground for its development.
Though the hall has been closed to the public due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Redhills team has been joined by a host of the region’s leading industry experts and consultants to develop detailed plans for the future of the Miners Hall.
Newcastle-based Mosedale Gillatt are the project architects, working on detailed plans to create new buildings which will provide necessary modern facilities to unlock the potential of Redhills while remaining sympathetic to the existing Miners Hall.
Creative design consultancy Bright White are using cutting-edge audio-visual technology to share the inspiring story of the Durham Miners Association and the communities of the county.
Heritage experts have been assessing the extensive collection of artifacts in the Miners Hall, including the DMA lodge banners, to ensure important historical materials are preserved and made accessible to the public.
An extensive activity plan has been developed to reach out and draw people into Redhills in greater numbers than ever before. Year-round activities will feature guided tours, concerts, educational workshops, talks, film screenings and much more, and will have an emphasis on the social history and cultural heritage of the Durham coalfield.
Thornton Firkin LLP are serving as the project managers, providing monitoring and oversight to ensure the successful delivery of the project.
As it has throughout the project, the DMA will consult extensively to ensure the people of the Durham coalfield have a role in shaping the future of Redhills.
For news and updates about the development of Redhills, follow @RedhillsDurham on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and visit www.redhillsdurham.org.