Music in dark times for miners

Land of Our Fathers, Crucible Studio, Feb 22-24 2016
Land of Our Fathers, Crucible Studio, Feb 22-24 2016
Have your say

A play about miners by a young writer is coming to the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

The show, Land of Our Fathers, is set in May 1979, just as Margaret Thatcher was coming to power.

It follows the story of six Welsh miners who are trapped underground following an explosion.

The play looks at their story over a fortnight as they fight to survive.

Writer Chris Urch made his theatre debut with the play. He said: “These are men who don’t necessarily talk about their feelings or what’s going on with them.

“The situation forces them to confront things they haven’t dealt with, to do with their families, friends or even themselves.”

Chris said that he was partly inspired by a visit to the Big Pit mining museum in South Wales, which is run by ex-miners.

“They were telling me about their stories and what it was like working in the industry. They were also talking about the male voice choirs, where men are working underground all day and then go and sing these beautiful Welsh hymns.”

The popular and traditional songs that the men sing form a key part of the play, said Chris.

He also discovered from his mum and dad that the town he comes from in north-east Somerset was originally a mining community.

“I spoke to my parents and told them I had won a commission and I could write whatever I want but I didn’t know what to write.

“I said ‘something must have happened around here’ and the whole idea of a mining incident went from there.

“Then I saw a Welsh male voice choir and thought, ‘this is what I’m going to do’. The community and the drama melded into one.”

A story set in a claustrophobic space also worked well for Chris as Theatre 503 in London, which commissioned his play, is a small space above a pub with only one entrance for the actors to get on and off stage.

The play has proved to be a big success for Chris and has already toured extensively, including to mining areas in Wales. It has also been seen at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff – quite a coup for a young writer. Chris said: “I was most worried about how the Welsh would view it.

“It’s been amazing. They’ve been up on their feet.”

Chris’s philosophy of what he wants the audience to get out of the play is simple: “I want people to go to the theatre, watch an entertaining story, laugh and cry and be entertained.”

He added: “I hope the Sheffield audiences come and find out what the play is about. Hopefully if you like a good story you’ll come to see it.

“I think it’s brilliant that the play’s come to the regions that have mining history.

“I hope people recognise the humour and banter and how people treated one another. They cut no airs and graces and didn’t take themselves too seriously.”

Land of Our Fathers is at the Crucible Studio next week from Monday to Wednesday.Box office: at the theatre, call 0114 249 6000 or go online at