The Seam: Song writing residency at the Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers

This autumn the Library at the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers has been home to Singer/songwriter Gareth Davies-Jones who has revelled in creating new work from the stories contained in this world renowned library.

The world of mining and mechanical engineering is no stranger to song, and there is a rich legacy of music in the industry, which any visit to a mining Gala will confirm. However, this residency is not a historical ‘round-up’ of mining ballads, but a new approach to telling the story of the library collections through song.

The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers in Newcastle is a cathedral to this country’s mining wealth. Art is no stranger to the industry and even a brief visit to the Library in Neville Hall will confirm that ‘Art’ was acclaimed by the founding fathers of the industry and echoed in their founding statement ‘for art and science’

Gareth has been a professional musician for 10 years, and has toured extensively throughout the UK. His songwriting has been described as masterful and thought-provoking, and this was recognised when he was asked to perform his work PQ17 at the Arctic Convoy Commemoration week in Wester Ross.

Gareth’s first piece from The Seam is Practical Coal Mining based on the engineering manual of the same name. ‘Looking through the volumes of the 1951 2nd edition, the flow and eloquence of the writing in what was principally a very technical tome really struck me. It was so very lyrical. The introduction and contents pages in particular appeared to have a rhythm and metre all of their own. Practical Coal Mining is a real celebration of the knowledge and skills required to mine in the mid- 20th Century’ said Gareth.

Other themes which have emerged from his research and from chatting to the volunteers who are passionate about the Library’s collections include: stories of the subterranean dance halls, the lyricism of adverts of the first edition of The Mining Journal in 1836, the debate around the 1883 parliamentary select committee report on a proposed channel tunnel, the 50 year retrospective memoirs of a former colliery manager in County Durham, musings on a fabulous collection of glass plate photographs and much more.

The Institute’s Librarian, Jennifer Hillyard is excited about the project. ‘As a singer myself, presenting our unique collections through song and music is a terrific way to tell the story of our collections.’

The Seam has been funded by The Arts Council England. Carl Clayton, Relationship Manager, Libraries, Arts Council England said, ‘I am pleased that we have been able to support The Seam through our National Lottery funded Grants for the arts programme. The event is an excellent example of how libraries can work with artists to act as a venue while providing a source of inspiration for new creative work. It will also enable new audiences to enjoy the music of Gareth Davies-Jones and to discover the resources of the Mining Institute Library.’

Early in the New Year, Gareth with Foundry Music Lab will begin to record Gareth’s work in the Institute’s Library and Edwardian, Cuban red mahogany lined lecture theatre. This CD will be available to purchase following the launch performance of The Seam at the Mining Institute on Saturday 7th February 2015. There will be a further five performances at a variety of venues around the North East. Cultural Spring based at the Customs House have assisted with marketing.

Steve Davidson, President of the Institute said ‘Here in the North East, we have led the world in our scientific and technical knowledge of mining. Our Library collections here bear record to that. Our collections are of world importance – and that’s something to sing about.’

The launch event will be at the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineering, Newcastle 7 Feb 7.30pm (

Woodhorn Experience 13 Feb 7.30pm (

Palace Green Library Café 18 Feb 7.30pm (

Boldon Community Centre 21 Feb 7.30pm (

Fenham Public Library 25 Mar 7.30pm (

Stocksfield Community Centre 24 April 7.30pm (


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