Thousands of people from the mining communities of Kent gathered at the weekend in the second Miners’ Festival held on the Fowlmead Country Park, the site of the Betteshanger pit spoil tip.The thousands streaming into the site passed the statue of the Waiting Miner, relocated from Dover sea front.
Sculpted by H Phillips and commissioned by the Electricity Board the statue was finally sited in the coalfield after a vigorous five year campaign by the Move the Miner Committee.
Festival organiser Gary Cox and chairman of the committee says: “Every miner can see themselves, their family members and old comrades in the miner.”
Bands and burgers, gymnastics and boxing, a tug-o-war, the Kent Community Coal Queen competition and displays of vintage bike and buses were just part of the attractions. Children were entertained by fairground rides and miniature donkeys, balloons and face painting.
A packed tent housed poingnant displays of the four pits that made up the coalfield. Chislet – closed in 1969; Snowden – described as the ‘worst pit to work in’; Betteshanger with its famous colliery band and Tilmanstone, the last to close in 1986.
Community groups and services from the NHS to the fire service from the Co-operative Party to the Lions Club were represented.
One veteran miner was poring over the lists of those killed in the coal field – notorious for its deep workings and dangerous conditions – looking a record of a long dead relative. The intention is to site a memorial plaque to those who died at the base of the Waiting Miner.
And in an exemplary echo of the strong traditions of solidarity there was a collection for the trapped miners in Chile.