Commisioned by the BBC x ICA

Coal doesn’t have to become redundant when we no longer need to burn it for fuel.

Hidden deep inside coal’s chemical make-up is the super material, Graphene. Research is currently underway to extract this Graphene, and if it proves to be successful, Britain - and in particular it’s working class mining towns - could become the source of this new material future. So the race is on to capitalise on Graphene.

In this new story of coal, the working class mining towns join the race, ultimately taking a piece of the Graphene revolution for themselves. This leads to a new future for coal. This project depicts the stories of three local workers that have seen profit from the revolution for themselves, but not without controversy or animosity.




This footage was taken from the old pit tops of ex-mining town Doncaster. The landscapes depicted were priovously industrial sites that have been returned to the community as recreational land and natural space. The audio of this piece was taken from repetitive rhythm of industrial mining equipment.

The project tells the stories of three individuals living in the town, their version events and how this future revolution has profited many individuals but stirred old conflicts within the community.

















Reference

‘The Northern Powerhouse’, is now an empty metaphor, just some media spin from a past government. But forty years ago the mines of northern England and Wales were extracting coal to be burnt in actual ‘powerhouses’, and the cultures that developed around the extraction of this commodity material were strong and distinct.

Stacie Woolsey’s the New Coal, playfully draws out how a material with physical properties, develops not just economic, but cultural properties too. Physically her New Coal is radically different from ‘old coal’ but one wanders if the economics of this new material differ from that of ‘old coal’ too: are there unions, a nationalised industry as with ‘old coal’, or do ‘the men’ who reopen the mines have more responsibility to shareholders than to the place or their miners.

The New Coal came from a brief called Design in the Second Gilded Age. It was a brief about socioeconomic inequality, and how this is expressed through materials and design.

All we know in the New Coal, is that scraps of this old-new techno-material are adopted and integrated in to an existing cultural landscape. The ‘technology’ is stripped away and people find uses for the material far beyond what could’ve been envisaged.
-Thomas Thwaites