I am not given to pessimism about this business but I had a premonition the other day.
I have been reading an excellent book I thoroughly recommend to you all entitled ‘South Wales Collieries – Volume 4’ by David Owen. Any of the series is worth a peek frankly – I just wanted this volume as it covers the Blaenavon area.
(Have you not got the point about reading weird shit yet?)
I bought it on a visit to the Cefn Coed Colliery Museum at the beginning of the month in a desperate attempt to indoctrinate my three year old into the wonders of British Industrial Heritage – he thought it was a little cold and rainy.
Anyway this book details every pit that ever operated in a very small part of the South Wales coal field and naturally there are loads and loads of them – South Wales being big in coal.
The book tells you when they sunk the shaft, who owned it prior to nationalisation, peak production, seams worked and at what depth, equipment employed all that sort of stuff.
Oh and when they closed down – because that is the end that every pit in South Wales has met bar the Tower.
Some were always a little dodgy and never really made the grade, some were abandoned between the wars, some were closed down in the couple of decades after nationalisation in 1947, but the vast majority were closed by the NCB between the end of the miners strike in 1985 and around 1991. In 1986 200,000 people worked in British coal mining, now it is just 3,000.
It is a very stark reminder of the wholesale and petulant destruction of an entire industry and its communities in a period shorter than the life of many mediocre advertising campaigns. All of it gone with virtually nothing left bar the odd museum and the landscaped spoil heaps.
So what about the premonition?
A series of books entitled ‘British Advertising Agencies’ published in 2010 and being a complete an unabridged account of the companies, lives and communities of this once great industry now reduced to a classified advertising agency in Truro and a team of freelance creatives in Hoxton.
Edited by Lawrence Green OBE, each page would detail a different agency, its foundation and founding partners, its greatest work, its acquisitions and acquisition and the date of its demise. HHCL went in 2006, AMV.BBDO in 2007, JWT was abandoned in 2008 though handful of staffers stayed on to prevent pilfering and set up the National Museum of Advertising. CHI bought Foxtons in 2008 and gave up advertising shortly after as they had never really enjoyed it, and of course DLKW, the last advertising agency, held out until 2009 mainly by writing musical greetings cards. In all, though a nostalgic tour de force, the collection of four volumes documents a sorry tale of decline in a once great industry skewered by its lack of ambition and incompetence.
Then I woke up.