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
> The following was forwarded by email and is reproduced with permission.
Hi,I enjoy reading your blog, I felt i had to write to someone to express my astonishment at the actions of Killingworth (North Tyneside) job centre.
My son has just been sanctioned by them. He asked for a hardship form to get some kind of help.
I know he shouldn’t have done but in filling it in he said he might have to resort to shoplifting to survive !
Very much to my surprise at about 6.30pm tonight was a loud knock on the the door my partner answered to be confronted by 2 policemen.They asked for my son by name, they asked if he had written those things on the from.
He said he had because he was very annoyed with being sanctioned, they asked if he was intending to go shoplifting, he said no, they both laughed at the stupidity of the situation, apologized for disturbing us and left.
I just cannot think why the job centre informed the police as no crime was commited, just them being vindictive i think!
Anyway got that off my chest and keep up the good work!!
> John added that I have contacted my MP Alan Campbell and his assistant spoke to my son and they are taking it up with the jobcentre, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens.
I often think I’m immune to being suprised when it comes to the behaviour of some Jobcentre staff, but the fact that someone actually took it upon themselves to contact the police and make a complaint…I think anyone with any sense would see a comment like that for what it was – an expression of frustration, and surely they must have heard similar sentiments many times.
Perhaps it was the fact it was in writing that caused them to take this action. I guess the moral is, say it but don’t put it in writing.
I just hope the police get back to the complainant and caution them about wasting police time.
The North East has more than 1,000 fewer police officers than it did five years ago after five consecutive year of job losses.
New figures show that Northumbria, Cleveland and Durham police forces all lost officers last year, and though there were small rises in the force numbers for Cumbria and North Yorkshire, the total number of officers in the region fell below 9,000 for the first time since records began in 2003.
By contrast, there were 10,142 policemen and women in the North in 2010 when the coalition Government came to power.
Among biggest losers in numbers this year was Cleveland Police, which contracted by 5.6% this year, one of the biggest reductions in the country and far more than the 1.3% reduction nationally. 81 officers left the force in the past year – more than three a fortnight.
Northumbria, the region’s largest force, lost 104 officers in the year, a 2.8% drop, while Durham lost 74 officers. Its 5.4% reduction was also one of the biggest in the country.
Police Federation general secretary Andy Fittes said: “The latest police workforce national statistics for England and Wales show that numbers of police workers are now at a 12-year low.
“Cuts to policing have put a strain on all aspects of the service and while officers have been doing an incredible job to bridge the gaps, cracks are beginning to show and they are telling us they are feeling the pressure.
“The nature of offending is starting to change but we have seen many of our specialist teams and units, who work to address these changes, cut or under threat.
“While officers throughout the country continue to work incredibly hard on a daily basis keeping society safe, it would be wrong to assume these cuts aren’t starting to have a noticeable effect.”
Nationally, nine of the 43 police forces in England and Wales increased their numbers between 2013 and 2014. Cumbria added 29 new members of staff while North Yorkshire added 38. The biggest increase was to the British Transport Police, which got 260 new members of staff.
Nobody was available at the local forces for comment.
Source – Sunday Sun, 20 July 2014