“The woods will grow back, but the human silence will be worse” – Pierre Gonnord
This is the website of the film These Fragments.
The film is a video-ballad that looks at the cultural and physical erasure of the coal mining industry from the landscape around what was for over 100 years the capital of the Yorkshire Coalfield, the town of Barnsley, in South Yorkshire in the UK.
Along with that erasure came the deliberate fragmentation of the social bonds that had supported a literate and politicized working population – a “carbon democracy” – derided by successive neo-liberal governments as “the enemy within”.
Amongst the 10% most deprived communities of the UK, this area has been sustained by a distinctive emotional landscape that the film evokes, a spirit that has helped them to survive for the 800 years since coal was first mined here.
It tells a story of danger, death, sickness, hardship. poverty, betrayal, patronization, violence and often naked class warfare.
It tells a story of struggles for collectivity, creativity, self-determination, self-support, and a culture rich with humour, music and politics.
It tells that moving story through the words and culture of those people, songs written and sung by miners, miners’ sons and daughters, and through the words of miners themselves. Victims and heroes, sage and short-sighted, selfish and selfless, sanguine and suffering – often in the same person, at the same time.
It tells a story that doesn’t bend to easy moralization.
It’s a story of tragedy yet hope, of conflicted feelings of melancholy and bitterness, yet resilience and ultimately belief in the generosity and humanity of people abused and forgotten.
It’s a story that neither melts into sentimentality nor hardens into activism.
It’s a story with a turbulent message and a troubling challenge – that our natural environment also needs to be humanly sustainable.
It’s a story to remember.