On the 12th March 1984 the NUM declared a National Strike in Britain. The pits may be shut but the strike is still an open wound for many. Memories of the Battle for Orgreave linger on.
The Truth and Justice Campaign still hammers away to expose what happened that day. With plenty of evidence emerging of a mass cover up of police actions. Those identical officer statements used to lock miners away being the tip of an ice-berg.
Just two days ago, footie fans associated with the fanzine West Stand Bogs unfurled a Coal Not Dole banner at a Barnsley FC fixture. It’s a popular one for literature too. David Peace’s GB84 captured perfectly the bleak paranoia of the period. Then, a few years ago Irvine Welsh opened his Skagboys novel with a young Mark Renton getting the idealism beaten out of him at Orgreave. Raising him to the position of an unlikely cipher for the despair and rot that set in across some working class communities after Thatcher’s lines of riot cops smashed the strike.
Using the testimony of miners themselves, The Battle For Orgreave uncovers police violence on the day and set the record straight for the first time. Last January the release of cabinet papers that unveiled much about how the police worked during the strike and how Thatcher was gearing up to send the army in. There’s probably more to be revealed as the role of the secret security forces was largely redacted from the papers’ release.
Elsewhere, as part of the 30 year anniversary of the strike, the artist Darren Coffield has produced a series of commemorative works in an exhibition called Ashes and Diamonds. The illustrations are emotive. For John Dunn, an ex-Derbyshire National Union of Miners leader the images capture the feeling of deliberate state dereliction poured on
My former workmates and their communities have been blowtorched from history in a form of ‘political ethnic cleansing’, almost no trace of our once proud industry remains and the communities that served that industry have been abandoned by successive governments.
If you’re in the mood for some coal covered drama, then this micro-budget love story set against the 1974 strike might be up your chimney.
Don’t forget, the anarchists have Dave Douglas over for the annual bookfair on April 11th. His account is well worth a listen.