Thirty years on from the end of the miners’ strike Norman Strike – his real name – still cuts a discordant figure.
He was one of the few whose life changed for the better following the miners’ strike, but he admits he still feels a great deal of bitterness about the events that occurred and indeed is more angry now than he was then.
Referring to the current Government, he says:
“[Margaret] Thatcher was terrible, she was evil. But these buggers are worse than what she ever was. They have done much worse to the working class than what she ever got away with. It is all as a direct result of us getting beat.”
Mr Strike, a retired teacher, had three spells at Westoe Colliery, in South Shields, and was arrested four times for picketing during the year long dispute between the miners and the Government which began as a protest over pit closures.
“My problem is that I have always had a big mouth and when people were just standing around passively and not doing anything, I was trying to organise them,” he says.
“Much to my shock the magistrate remanded me for 14 days in Durham Prison because he said I could not be trusted due to my previous arrests.”
The 64-year-old, who now lives in Essex, was present at the infamous Battle of Orgreave when on June 18, 1984 picketing miners attempted to blockade the British Steel coking plant in Orgreave, South Yorkshire.
In all 93 arrests were made, with 51 picketers and 72 policemen injured. All charges against those arrested were eventually dropped and police were later forced to pay half-a-million pounds in compensation after a number of lawsuits were brought by miners’ for assault, unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution.
When I suggest some of what occurred was a case of “six and two threes”, he replies:
“It was more like twelve on one. When you get hit with a truncheon it bloody hurts, I can tell you.
“The worst I ever saw from our side involved the cowards who would stand at the back and lob bricks at the police. We would shout at the buggers to stop.”
At the time Mr Strike was friends with The Redskins, a punk rock band whose songs were inspired by their left-wing politics. Famously he was invited on stage when they appeared on Channel 4’s The Tube, which was filmed in Newcastle.
But his plan to make a short speech about the strike was thwarted when his microphone was switched off.
“The Redskins had two numbers and on the first number I stood in the background with a tambourine,” he explains.
“ When they introduced the second song they said I was a Durham miner who had been on strike for 35 weeks. I had prepared a speech for 20 seconds which we reckoned was enough time before the producer latched onto what I was doing, but they were a bit quicker than what we anticipated.”
After the strike ended the ex-salvage worker, whose job it was to recover machinery from the coal face, never went back to Westoe and instead headed for the bright lights of London, where he began rebuilding his life following the break-up of his marriage.
He returned to the North-East last year to help promote a film about the strike ‘Still The Enemy Within’ and says his involvement back then represented the most momentous year of his life.
“What resonates most was the community spirit,” he says.
“If someone was going to get their gas cut off we would all go and stand outside the house so they couldn’t do it. It’s that thing that parents talk about, the ‘good old days’ when everybody stuck up for each other.
“Now everybody is out for themselves and it’s a case of ‘I’m very sorry you are having a hard time, but I can’t do anything about it’. Back then we were all broke, but people were wonderful.
“It was also the catalyst that led to other things for me. I went to London and eventually went onto university and became a school teacher, directly because I met teachers and other people during the strike who told me I was clever and planted a seed in my head.
“ It also made me more determined to fight against injustice whenever I see it. If the miners strike wouldn’t have happened, I would probably still be a miner.”
I can’t resist ending the interview by asking Mr Strike about that surname. “It’s real,” he says.
“During the strike I would get stopped by the police and asked ‘What’s your name’? ‘Norman Strike’ The response was ‘Oh yeah, I’m Arthur f****** Scargill.’ I began carrying my birth certificate to prove who I was.
“It is just so unusual to have someone called Strike involved in the greatest strike the country has seen.”
Source – Northern Echo, 05 Mar 2015
Picking up litter in the street is now the task of residents as the council says it can no longer afford to sweep up all of the city’s rubbish.
The call for people to pitch in and do their bit for the community came from Labour city councillor Hazel Stephenson as she claimed today’s generation were more likely to drop crisp packets, wrappers and cans.
The council said the people of Newcastle needed to prepare themselves for a much dirtier city as the authority attempts to shave £90m from its budget over the next three years.
Coun Stephenson, city council cabinet member for communities and neighbourhoods, said:
“The council does not drop litter. The council does not fly tip. People drop litter. People fly tip.
“People need to take responsibility for their area. The council cannot continue to do it all.”
A reduction in council services, including fewer small street bins, is a fact that people will have to accept, according to Coun Stephenson.
“The reality is front line services are being cut and we are losing a lot of services that people take for granted.
“I am not saying that people need to replace core council services. What I am saying is that we all need to work together,”
said Coun Stephenson, who was addressing the council’s cabinet as they discussed draft proposals for the 2015-2016 budget.
She used the area of Benwell as an example of families cooperating to improve their community.
“Residents put up little notes in the streets, reminding people of the simple things that they can do to make a difference.
“Warnings against dropping litter in the road and letting your dog foul in public had a big impact.
“It seems common sense but people sometimes need reminding. Those little letters made a big difference.”
She went on to suggest littering was a generational issue.
“People are changing. Years ago this problem was not there. It is cultural and differs across generation.
“When I was younger dropping litter was unthinkable. For some people today, sadly, it is not.”
The councillor did however praise the work of some schools :
“Some schools do a great job of encouraging their students to take a greater responsibility with regards to litter.
“Making the younger generation aware of the problems that are caused by rubbish in our streets is a great way of changing attitudes.”
Newcastle City Council director of communities Mick Murphy said:
“People need to show more commitment and community spirit. It is a common sense thing.
“Think about what happens to your waste once you have thrown it away. Someone has to pick it up after you.”
So far £151m has been cut from the council budget since 2010 which led to some libraries being transferred into community ownership and the City Pool closing.
Coun Forbes said the financial year 2015 to 2016 would see the authority facing a series of ‘fiscal cliffs’ and plans are in motion to transfer city parks to civic trusts, reduce the number of small litter bins and redevelop Sure Start services.
Unison is also warning that up to 400 council jobs could go over the next three years.
Source – Sunday Sun, 02 Nov 2014
Staff at a Hartlepool firm showed community spirit is alive and well after buying stacks of food for a town charity.
Employees at engineering specialists Doosan Babcock, based at Hartlepool Power Station, raised more than £500 which they spent on boosting stocks at Hartlepool Foodbank.
The workers bought bagfuls of food and delivered it to the charity’s warehouse.
They then saw how their donation will help people in crisis when they visited the foodbank’s distribution centre in Church Street, Hartlepool.
Hartlepool Foodbank co-ordinator Al Wales said:
“We are extremely grateful for the support of Doosan Babcock Ltd and their generous food donation.
“It’s great to be partnering with local businesses and industry to support those in need in Hartlepool.
“Since opening nearly two years ago Hartlepool Foodbank has supported over 3,000 households.
“The continued support of the project by so many indicates that community spirit is alive and well in Hartlepool.”
John Turner of Dosan Babcock in Hartlepool said:
“It was head office’s suggestion to support the foodbank to help the needy.
“We raised a total of £505 for the foodbank.
“We then did a shop for a variety of non-perishable food which we donated. We were pleased to help them.”
The foodbank, run with the Trussell Trust charity, can get through up to half a tonne of food a week.
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 30 Oct 2014
A petition against Benefits Street being filmed in Stockton has gained more than a 1000 signatures.
The campaign was started on change.org by two Stockton mums Charlotte Hall and Di Hewitt little over a week ago and has been shared across social media.
In total 1,409 people have signed the petition on the site – which is the world’s largest petition platform – against the show being filmed on Kingston Road at Tilery, Stockton.
They took to Stockton High Street today to collect yet more signatures.
Their Twitter account @StocktonSaysNo also has more than 500 followers – and Twitter users have joined discussion of the topic using #NoBenefitsStreet.
Once the pair have finished collecting signatures they will be delivered to both Channel 4 and the production company Love Productions.
Social worker and mum of two Di, who lives in Eaglescliffe, said:
“Through my work, I’m impressed by the strong community spirit in the North- east and feel that it is important that outsiders see this rather than negative stereotypes.
“I’m not originally from Stockton, I moved up from the East Midlands 22 years ago and think that Stockton is a fantastic place to live and raise children.
“I want my kids to feel that Stockton is a good place to live and work and that there are endless opportunities for them.”
Carer and mum of two Charlotte, from Stockton, said:
“I was born in Stockton and have lived here all my life.
“Only a few weeks ago after enjoying SIRF and attending the 1245 Sunflowers events I was saying how far Stockton has come and how there’s so much to get involved in.
“I don’t want to see that hard work ruined by our town being associated with a stigmatising programme like Benefits Street.”
Chris Flanagan, from Stockton, said on the petition page:
“Sixth best place to live one week…Benefits Street the next!”.
Emma-Bliss Harding, from Norton, said:
“I live in Norton and heard they were filming at the duck pond which is near my house.
“I don’t want the area that I love in displayed in a bad light.
“This programme is nothing but negative.”
Hayley Garland, from Stockton, said:
“We are proud of our town, our heritage, arts, culture and thriving independent shops.
“Take your sensationalist TV somewhere else!”
Christine Thompson, from Stockton, said:
“My hometown is starting to get back on its feet and I fear that this will be a big backward step.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 04 Sept 2014
A new political party has been launched with the aim of bringing devolution to the North-East.
The North East Party is aiming to secure powers similar to those in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
It intends to contest 12 seats in the region at next year’s general election, funded through membership and donations from people who want political independence from Westminster.
The North East Party (NEP) wants to take control of issues such as job creation, public services, including health and social care, as well as education and public transport. It also says it wants to ensure world class science and research is carried out in the region.
The party’s chairman is Hilton Dawson, former Labour MP for Lancaster and Wyre, who lives in Warkworth, Northumberland, and is from the area.
The 60-year-old social worker, who has a wife, two daughters and is a grandfather-of-four, said: “We are the most neglected region in England and until we have real power and real decision making here we won’t be to address the fundamental issues of the North-East.
“This is the poorest region in the country with the highest level of unemployment and the highest level of social deprivation.
Susan McDonnell, a former Peterlee Town Councillor and Labour Party member, is considering standing against Easington MP Grahame Morris in the general election next May.
The 49-year-old, who lives in Peterlee with her husband, and has one son, narrowly missed out on a seat on Durham County Council last year.
Ms McDonnell, the party’s administrator, who works as an office manager for an email marketing company in Newcastle, said: “The purpose of the party is to bring political representation to the North-East.
“We had a referendum on regional assembly and that failed because it was dressed up as another level of bureaucracy.
“What we would aim to try and do is get true devolution for the North-East so we are not beholden to Westminster. We would decide on the key issues that affect the region with our own Government.
“It won’t be a separate country, but we will have devolved power so decisions that affect the North-East will be made here in the North-East by North-East people.”
The first gathering of the North East Party will be held at the Durham Conference Centre on Monday, June 16 from 6pmto 9pm.
For more information:
Source – Durham Times, 27 May 2014