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Torfaen MP Nick Thomas-Symonds has visited Big Pit in Blaenavon this week, to mark his appointment as the Chair of Parliament’s All-Party Group on Industrial Heritage.
Big Pit National Coalmining Museum opened in 1983 in order to preserve the Welsh heritage of coalmining, which was so important to the area. The main shaft was sunk in 1860 and it was a working mine for 120 years until it closed its doors in February 1980. The Museum receives around 150,000 visitors a year, playing a vital role in the local economy and tourism industry.
Mr Thomas-Symonds joined an underground tour of the coalmine, led by Deputy Mine Manger Paul Green, before meeting with Museum Manager Dai Price to discuss the Museum’s future plans as well as the challenges they face going forward.
Big Pit continuously seeks to promote Wales’ industrial heritage through different chanels and campaigns. This year it is part of the Go Underground project, working in partnership with organisations such as Dan yr Ogof National Showcaves and Brecon Beacons National Park Authority to mark Wales’ Year of Adventure 2016.
Speaking at the World Heritage site, the MP, who grew up in Blaenavon, said: “As a local boy, one of the best things about being an MP is representing your home valley and telling the world what it has to offer. Blaenavon, with its rich industrial heritage, is a great place to visit – as recognised by its World Heritage status. The guides at Big Pit do a fantastic job telling the story of coalmining in our valleys and it was a pleasure to be shown around the site by them.”
Talking about his new role, Mr Thomas-Symonds added: “It’s an honour to be elected as Chair of the All-Party Group on Industrial Heritage. The group brings together parliamentarians from both Houses and all of the major parties to work together to ensure that the industrial heritage sites across Britain get the recognition they deserve. We can also share experiences of the impacts of World Heritage Status, and the challenges different sites face, to ensure that our communities and local people benefit as much as possible.
“The group particularly reminds me of one person, former Blaenavon Councillor Neil Lewis, who as well as being a great friend was a tireless advocate for Blaenavon’s World Heritage Status and a regular attender at World Heritage Forum events. I know he would be proud to see another Blaenavon man chairing this group.”