Stories that Shape the City

Stories that Shape the City

Patrick Connellan remembers Strikes across Britain…

In 1984/85 I was a student in Croydon, South London. We met a number of miners and miners wives from the Kent coalfields when raising solidarity and collecting money and food to sustain the strike. It always struck me that several of the miners had strong Durham accents, just like some of the Kerseley miners, even though they had never lived there. I learnt that their fathers and grandfathers had been expelled from the Durham pits after the 1926 general strike for fear of their militancy. This made Kent one of the most militant areas in the strike. Croydon was actually twinned with Easington so we would get miners visiting from the North East to raise solidarity. I would take them round various workplaces to talk about the strike and take collections. I would also bring them into my college to address the students.

I remember one time when I was introducing two Easington miners to a gathering of about 200 students in the college canteen. I tried to make the introduction from the steps leading down to the refectory but was shouted down by students with chants supporting Thatcher. I was well known throughout the college as the Socialist Worker seller and this was an excuse to “take the piss”. The older of the two miners touched me on the shoulder and told me not to worry. He stepped forward to address the students. At first they continued with their taunts but after a while the students begun to fall silent as they listened to the miner’s gentle Durham voice carefully explaining the miner’s case. By the end you could hear a pin drop and then a loud cheer of support from the students. They then generously threw money into my bucket and patted me on the back. Things were a lot easier after that!

We visited Easington from Croydon with money and food donations and were warmly received. I wasn’t allowed on the picket lines though because I had a conviction from 1983 when we picketed Eddie Shah’s print works in Warrington. So I didn’t see picketing on the miner’s strike unfortunately.

Protest meet Strikes

Another strong memory that may be useful was seeing the South Yorkshire miners leading the 1985 Gay Pride demonstration in London. Again, it was a clear lesson of how workers ideas in struggle.

Pride documentary:

Important notes:
• Love of Arthur Scargill and hatred of Maggie Thatcher. This was a class war!! Maggie talked about the miners as “the enemy within” which we then turned on her.
• The songs and chants. You can hear them in the film. “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie – Out, out, out!” “Hear we go, here we go, here we go. We will win, we will win, we will win” “I’d rather be a picket than a scab….”
• Total distrust of the Labour Party and the TUC who didn’t lift a finger to support the miners. Neil Kinnock was totally distrusted. Recently, I was at a meeting in South Wales with old ex-miners present and when his name was mentioned he was booed! It’s important to understand that the reason Scargill was so popular was because he went over the heads of all the NUM local leaderships and had a direct relationship with the striking miners. This also made Ann Scargill very popular amongst the women.
• Total hatred of the police for what they did – violent arrests and extreme harassment. They were sent in to break the strike by any means. It is true, they did wave their pay slips (with overtime) to taunt the strikers!
• There was real solidarity between the miners and other workers that could have won the strike – steel workers, dockers etc. but the TUC did everything it could to undermine that solidarity. The outcome could have been very different.

Keresley – A Village and a Strike

It is December 1984 and the divisive miners’ strike is splitting communities across the nation. This film gives one side of the argument: that of the striking miners of Keresley near Coventry. They have been out for nine months and as Christmas approaches it has become more than a strike over jobs: it is a fight for the roots of Socialism itself. The fundraising women of Keresley provide some light in this often bleak film as they bring hope to a divided community.

CUSU STV: Coventry Telegraph “Life of an Editor”

Coventry University Student Union’s Source TV interview Darren Parkins, the editor of the Coventry Telegraph, discovering about his past and the university connections with the newspaper.