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Accolades both sides of the Atlantic for film charting England’s worst mining disaster

Posted on 9 November 2017

A University of York professor is heading to Hollywood to collect an award for his film recreating the dramatic events of England’s worst mining disaster.

Black Snow portrays England's worst mining disaster. Credit: Bryan Ledgard

Stephen Linstead, a filmmaker and professor at the York Management School, has won the Best Documentary for October prize in the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Film Awards for his film Black Snow

In addition, the film has also been shortlisted for Best Documentary at the International Labour Film Festival in London this month.

Black Snow charts the Oaks Colliery explosions in Barnsley in December 1866, which claimed the lives of at least 361 men and boys. The explosions on 12 and 13 December had a devastating impact on local communities with virtually the entire male population of several streets wiped out. 


Contemporary accounts of the explosions describe houses shaking for miles around as coal was blasted upwards, turning the sky dark grey, and depositing a residue described as ‘black snow’.

In March, Professor Linstead will travel to the Raleigh Studios in Hollywood – the oldest continuously operating studio in the world dating from 1915, where Chaplin, Fairbanks and Pickford filmed – to collect his Best Documentary for October trophy. He will also find out the film’s position in the Best of the Year Award.

Professor Linstead said: “This is incredibly exciting for me and is a wonderful tribute to all the members of the community who helped us to make the film and raise a statue commemorating the events of 1866. My father and grandfather were miners, and they'd be thrilled.”

Quality of films

The film’s shortlisting for the International Labour Film Festival Awards is an honour that Professor Linstead is particularly proud of. 

He said: “This TUC, Unite and Unison sponsored festival is very close to my heart, and was the one I really wanted to be screened at when we began to submit - it's where the film belongs.

“The quality of films about work is amazingly high, and the festival features work by Nick Broomfield and a 90th Anniversary showing of a remastered version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis.”

Black Snow will be screened at the London Labour Film Festivalon on 25 November at 01 Zero One Studio in Soho, with the winning documentary announced on 26 November at an awards ceremony at the Prince Charles Theatre, Leicester Square.

The film was also screened earlier this week at the Northwest Labour Film Festival at Casa in Liverpool.


Black Snow was premiered in Barnsley earlier this year and is being distributed, with an accompanying book, to schools in Yorkshire and beyond. Schools should contact Paul Hardman on HD personal  copies of the film Black Snow can be purchased at

The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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