Barnsley graphic designer Craig Oldham has produced a powerful and stimulating record of the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike.
His book tells the strike’s story by grouping together fascinating photographs and examples of graffiti, cartoons, posters, badges and record sleeves from the time.
Craig is from a striking mining family, and part of the book’s power comes from that personal involvement.
His Battle of Orgreave section doesn’t just discuss the importance of John Harris’s famous photograph of a mounted policeman swinging his baton at a Women Against Pit Closures (WAPC) activist. It also includes a photo of his dad being arrested there.
The thoughts of Craig’s mother and miner grandfather about the strike sit alongside those of left wing filmmaker Ken Loach and artist Jeremy Deller.
The book takes its title from words on one of many black rosettes that WAPC members left on the steps of 10 Downing Street during a national demonstration in August 1984.
The rosettes dramatically symbolise Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s desire to destroy the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the mining industry.
Even the book’s black dust jacket emphasises that point. It’s made out of coal-dust from the muck stack at Barnsley Main Colliery.
The book contains many evocative images. They range from the poster of The Clash’s Scargill’s Christmas Party gig at the Brixton Academy to the union banners designed by Andrew Turner and Ed Hall.
Turner’s disturbing banner for North Selby NUM and Hall’s uplifting one for the Unite union’s South Yorkshire community branch are both beautifully reproduced.
A personal favourite—and one I had never seen before—is a poster for the Normanton and Altofts Miners Support group.
It’s entitled A-Z of a Miner’s Wife, starting at “Arthur forever” and finishing with “Zip it up MacGregor. We’ll never give in.”
I was delighted to see Craig paying tribute to Paul Morton, another political Barnsley graphic designer.
Paul’s Support The Miners Cards for the radical Leeds Postcards company raised over £30,000 for the strike fund. I still have one on my pin board where it has been for the last 30 years.
But perhaps the most powerful section is the one exploring the strike’s graffiti.
There is the humour of the miners defending the NUM HQ wearing toy police helmets emblazoned with “NUM Snatch Squad”.
And there is the raw anger caught in the picture of the march back to work at the end of the strike at Armthorpe colliery in Doncaster.
It shows miners and their supporters marching past a wall emblazoned with a hangman’s noose and the slogan “We Won’t Forget The Scabs.”
This is a beautifully produced book. Buy it—or if you can’t afford it, demand your local library gets a copy.
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