Mary Turner

  • Amanda takes a drag on a cigarette while her children and their friends play in the streets of Easington Colliery, on the edge of green land where once a towering coal mine supported the entire community.

  • Lindsey dances with her daughter Bethany to their favourite song by Westlife. Bethany has severe learning difficulties which is not uncommon in deprived communities. There are varying opinions on the causes but it is often linked to dietary and lifestyle factors as well as a lack of overall good health in the populations.

  • Families take part in a charity fundraiser in a The Victory in Easington, to support local boy Bradley Lowery's cancer treatment. The lack of interest at national and local government level, has embedded a deep sense of community and volunteering in these areas like Easington Colliery.

  • Andrew and Imogen have breakfast together in the Wetherspoons in Peterlee, the nearest big town to the Easington Colliery where they live. Wetherspoons’ cheap beer and food is a magnet, and provides a social hub for the community.

  • Families attend a free Halloween event at Easington Colliery Welfare Centre where the children are served free cakes and sweets. The event was free and un-ticketed for around 300 children so that those many who would not have been able to afford to attend or whose families are low on food and income, were also able to treat their young families without having to openly ask for help.

  • Lindsey and her daughters pass furniture, which they have appropriated from their neighbour, over the fence, as he is now leaving the area. As Lindsey’s husband struggles to find permanent or regular employment, the family survive largely of social benefits, her ability to scrimp and save has become something of an art form.

  • Andrew lies on the floor with Bethany, who has severe learning difficulties, after an 18 hour shift. Andrew was previously unemployed for nearly three years and the family survived on benefits and family support. Shortly after this photograph was taken, Andrew lost the job and has been unable to find employment since.

  • Bethany reaches up to touch her mum’s stomach, as Lindsey is pregnant with the family’s third child. Although they live on social welfare benefits and find life a struggle, it is highly common in the area to have a number children. Family is one of the few constants that bring happiness and many do not equate the struggles of looking for work with the hardships of feeding a large family.

  • Lindsey and her husband Andrew embrace in their council house in Peterlee, East Durham. After losing his job where he was employed on a ruthless zero hour contract, just after Christmas, Andrew began looking for work again. He is currently still searching.

  • Children look over the wall of the pit cottages in Horden Colliery where a chair has been set on fire in a back yard. At its peak Horden coal mine employed around 500 people but the once vibrant and buzzing streets there are now largely empty. Although there is a housing shortage in the UK and these properties could be bought for next to nothing, no one from outside the towns will buy or rent these properties as there are no jobs or prospects in the area. Many streets stand permanently empty and the crime rate is high.


For over a hundred years the valleys and hills of the North-East of England reverberated to the sounds of industry, of coal and steel, of power and machination. The skylines were dominated by the engine houses and giant wheels of coal mines and the streets by hundreds of terraced pit-cottages filled with the families of those that toiled deep below ground.
Now these once flourishing Colliery towns are devastated; the mist rolls in from the sea over boarded up houses, there is mass unemployment and a feeling of hopelessness. Great swathes of people now live on social welfare benefits, education is poor and successive generations of children are growing up with no expectations of work or opportunity. Yet far away from the wheels of power and business in London and southern England, their voices have been unheard for decades.
While globalisation changed the world in many ways for the better, the struggling North- East feels like its victim. In June 2016 the people made their voices heard when the communities there voted in protest for Britain to leave the European Union, laying their grievances at the door of Europe, blaming immigration and a consequent lack of opportunities for their pervading sense of futility and loss. The tragedy is that if Brexit is hard, as it no doubt will be, they will be hardest hit.
Modern day deprivation in areas like this, in otherwise rich countries like the UK, is a subtle and insidious thing. It manifests itself in a lack of education and ideas, a desperate paucity of opportunities, of horizons and dreams. There are no real jobs or investment, just factory positions – often soul-destroying work for people who see their contemporaries in other parts of the country as better off than they. In December 2017, the biggest factory employer in the area is set to close, making life even harder. Many young people in the forgotten areas leave school expecting to go straight onto social welfare benefits and male suicide rates are among the highest in the UK.
Perhaps the only constant in these fragile communities is love and family; the one thing they have known that has been a positive in their lives. As communities died, those that were left supported each other. So for many young women having children while still very young is extremely common. But with few jobs and low incomes, it is not easy to bring up families and the cycle of deprivation is repeated.
The Philip Jones Griffiths Award will allow me to continue highlighting the quiet yet agonising plight of the left behind whose fury and hurt have caused reverberations of a far-right movement around the world. It is through the small small and intimate stories such as theirs that we can better understand the world we live in and each other. These are the people who, broken from years of living without opportunity and hope, have changed the fate of their country and possibly the world for many years to come.