The Pitmen Poets performing at The Mansfield Palace Theatre on Sunday 12th February 2017

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

Four Geordie blokes under the guise of The Pitmen Poets came to The Mansfield Palace Theatre last night to deliver a history lesson on the demise of the coal mining industry, but did it by way of song, poetry and music that culminated in an absolutely brilliant evening.

They are not just any old Geordies but ex-Lindisfarne musician, front man and songwriter Billy Mitchell, extremely talented singer songwriter Jez Lowe, War Horse song man Bob Fox and the amazing Benny Graham, showed that if you have talent there is no need for flashing lights and pyrotechnics to entertain an audience.

With all four of them belonging to the first generation of their families not to work as miners, they are keeping their ancestors stories alive with their amazing tales of mining life, the workingmen’s pub culture and the hardships of taking strike action.

Whilst the songs of Tommy Armstrong, the original Pitman Poet who died in 1920, were the heart of the concert, this was by far a sombre affair. Starting the show with The Coal Town Days with its chorus of ‘Howey man, they’re liars and they’re cheats’, the quartet instantly showed their superb harmonies, talent, and friendship.

There was Mitchell’s magnificent Shiftin’ To The Toon, Lowe’s affectionate, comical country song The Ex-Pitmens’s Potholing Pub Quiz Team and his absolutely mesmerizing The Judas Bus which had the silenced audience hanging on his every word. Not to be out done was Benny Graham’s droll high speed delivery of the comical Stanley Market with its amusing chorus and the awesome Trimdon Grange Explosion delivered solo and a capella by Bob Fox which could have stolen the show.

This was more than a series of great Geordie songs; they were well told tales of history with natural and often funny banter and an effortless rapport with the audience. This was an emotional, funny, educational and entertaining trip down memory lane which thoroughly deserved its standing ovation. It was champion.