Using Trade Union Banners for Education: the case of the 1938 ‘red’ Follonsby miners’ banner

Author: Lewis Mates and Lucy Grimshaw
This is the abstract of an article published in Labour History Review (2021), 86, (2), 215-248. Find out more.

This article considers the use of trade union banners as tools for mainstream education in the context of the recent reclamation, recuperation, and rearticulation of industrial heritage taking place in localities in the former Durham coalfield, north-east England. It does so by focusing on the educational work undertaken by the Follonsby Miner’s Banner Association in partnership with a local primary school. It is divided into four substantive sections. The first locates our approach theoretically, primarily in the rich pedagogical literature, while the second briefly contextualizes the Association and the school. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with teachers and activists, it offers a chronology of a project that, catalysed by the replica Follonsby miners’ banner, developed spontaneously in several exciting directions. These included the school developing its own miners’-style banner, unveiled by the late Tony Benn, who featured on it. The third section offers some wider observations about the educational partnership and then considers the specific challenges that the Follonsby banner’s iconography posed in terms of teaching and how these were overcome. Finally, we discuss legacies and lessons, arguing that the wider impacts of the project went far beyond the specific learning experience they offered the children involved.

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