ViewsThis Craghead website has been developed as part of Side Gallery's Durham Coalfield Project. Alongside a wide-ranging and on-going programme of documentary photography commissions, the Gallery wanted to initiate a documentary workshop, in which local people could look their own community, exploring both its individual character and some of the issues that confront it. Discussions with Martin Weston of Derwentside District Council led us to Craghead. We had been aware for some time of the work of Martin Herron, a Derwentside photographer who has specialised in working in community contexts. This rich virtual exhibition is the result of bringing the two together and of the commitment shown by the members of the documentary group that established itself to undertake the project.

RemembranceThere was no insistence from the Gallery on the form of the project that would develop in Craghead, but a website seemed both appropriate and important. Documentary continually reinvents itself to take advantage of new media. Underlying the whole direction of The Durham Coalfield Project is the need to explore new possibilities and approaches in the documentary field. Side Gallery set this work in motion with that in mind, but ownership of the website remains very firmly with the group that came together to develop it. One of the most exciting aspects of the web will always be the global reach of the locally controlled.

DerelictionSide Gallery was established in 1977 by the Amber Film & Photography Collective, a group of documentary artists who came to Newcastle upon Tyne in the North East of England in 1969. Since the earliest days, they have been committed to documenting the lives and landscapes of the region's working class communities. Side photography exhibitions such as Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen's Byker, Graham Smith's South Bank, Chris Killip's Seacoal have been seen all over the world. The current commitment to the Durham Coalfield arises in part out of Amber's film making work in this part of the world, their last three feature films all having explored the post-industrial experience of the area.

The Coalfield Project's photographic commissions include Peter Fryer's Fathers, Dean Chapman's Shifting Ground, Richard Grassick's On the Surface, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen's The Coal Coast and Martin Figura's Horden Victory Club, but new work is evolving all the time. More information on the work of Amber Films and Side Gallery is available from our own website, The Gallery is devoted to documentary work in the traditions of the concerned photographer and alongside its continual exploration of experience in the North of England, it shows contemporary and historical work from all over the world.

The Durham Coalfield Project and Cragheadsnaps would not have been possible without the support of Northern Arts (through the Regional Arts Lottery Programme and Year of the Artist), Durham County Council and Derwentside District Council.

Side Gallery, 9 Side, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 3JE
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Graeme Rigby, Side Gallery

In the summer of 2000 I was asked by the Side Gallery to initiate a community photographic project. Together, with a group of villagers from Crahead, we decided upon a website, but one that would be shaped and directed by them.

They made the decision to produce an unbiased, unvarnished portrait of their community. I think they have succeeded. But what I find so heartening about the project is that the group have also managed to convey a collective image of a village that, despite everything that life could throw at it, has maintained its self respect.

The pit has gone, but the spirit of Craghead is still intact. This website is more than a testament, it is a powerful social/communication tool - and one that the people of Craghead fully intend to use.

Martin Herron, Photographer