Whilst researching old steel workers and coal miners in South Yorkshire, and particularly Rotherham, I came across some footage of workers at Parkgate Iron and Steel Company, Rotherham from 1901. The footage shows children and adults smiling and playing up for the camera, some dancing, some apparently fighting and just generally looking quite happy, if puzzled, about the cameras actually being there. The blurb that accompanies the film talks about the smiling faces but, it says, some people were angry and some even fighting. However, the two men ‘fighting’ are obviously laughing and the young man who flicks a V sign at the camera is clearly not angry but is full of devilment, and probably doing it for a dare. This is the moment I screen-captured for this print; in my opinion, typical, down-to-earth Northern humour.
It did start me wondering, have there always been those in society, either really or metaphorically flicking a V sign, whilst everyone else follows the general pattern of behaviour? When Stonehenge was being built, or the pyramids being constructed, was there always at least one man who stood back and, sticking two fingers up, said, “Fuck off! What are you doing that for?” Are those people the artists?