An ex- miner will take part in a question and answer session after the screening of a new film about the bitter 1984 dispute.
Norman Strike, now 63 and retired, worked the coal face at Westoe Colliery in South Shields, and took to the picket lines with his workmates over the Conservative government’s plans to close down pits.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously described striking miners as “the enemy within”.
A new, partly crowd-funded film, Still the Enemy Within, records the memories of the people who took part in the strike.
He is returning to the region from his home in Essex for the film’s screening at The Gala Theatre, Durham City, on Saturday (October 11).
Mr Strike was arrested four times for picketing and was once held on remand in Durham Prison for four days and was at the infamous ‘Battle of Orgreave‘.
He once appeared on an edition of Channel 4’s acclaimed 1980s pop music show The Tube, which was made in Newcastle.
He was invited on stage by a band called The Redskins to give a speech during one of the songs but viewers could not hear what he said because the microphone was switched off.
> As seen here…
“It was portrayed that we were the violent ones, but I was there and we weren’t the violent ones.
“They said we were trying to overthrow society but that was rubbish. We weren’t. We just wanted to keep our jobs.”
Mr Strike left the region for London after the strike, which cost him his marriage, went to university and became a secondary school English teacher.
He said of the film: “I think it is brilliant, they have done a really good job.”
The film, which won the Sheffield Doc/Fest Audience Award 2014, had its London premiere last weekend and is now showing throughout the country.
The Durham screening starts at 1.45pm and tickets cost £5 from the box office on 03000 266600 and at www.galadurham.co.uk
* On Wednesday, October 22, the film will be screened at the Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle at 6pm.
Still the Enemy Within is a unique insight into one of Britain’s most dramatic struggles, the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike. No experts. No politicians. Thirty years on, this is the raw first-hand experience of those who lived through the UK’s longest strike. Follow the highs and lows of that life-changing year.
In 1984, a conservative government under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declared war on the unions, taking on the strongest in the country, the National Union of Mineworkers. Following a secret plan, the government began announcing the closure of coal mines, threatening not just an industry but whole communities and a way of life.
Against all the forces the government could throw at them, 160 000 coal miners took up the fight and became part of a battle that would change the course of history.
Still the Enemy Within tells the story of a group of miners and supporters who were on the frontline of the strike for an entire year. These are the people that the media dubbed ‘Arthur’s Army’ and who Margaret Thatcher called ‘the Enemy Within’. Many of them have never spoken on camera before.
Using interviews and a wealth of rare and never before seen archive, Still the Enemy Within draws together personal experiences – whether they’re tragic, funny or terrifying – to tell the story of the key moments in the strike. It puts the viewer right at the centre of events.
Follow Norman Strike, from devising ingenious ways of getting past police road blocks in a key battleground, Nottingham, to suddenly finding himself a minor celebrity after a mishap on national television; Paul Symonds, from the optimism and excitement of a young man fighting for his future to the tragic death of his best friend on a picket line; Joyce Sheppard, from her life as an ordinary housewife to becoming a political activist and facing violence as huge numbers of police are sent in to Yorkshire villages to break the strike.
They, along with a range of voices from across the country, give a frank, emotional and ultimately inspiring account of ordinary people at the centre of extraordinary events.
From the infamous Battle of Orgreave, where miners found themselves in a brutal confrontation with over five thousand police, to the hardship endured after almost a year on strike – their story is not just one of personal drama but one that raises questions about the very nature of British society.
Still the Enemy Within shatters the mainstream narrative of the Miners’ Strike. It challenges us to look again at Britain’s past and how it shaped the world today, so that in the words of Yorkshire miner Steve Hammil, “we can still seek to do something about the future”.
The film will premiere at the Sheffield Documentary Festival 2014 in June, followed by a screening on the weekend on the Durham Miners Gala, 13th July in the Miners Hall at Redhill, Durham City.
More info – http://the-enemy-within.org.uk/
Last night the Mayor of South Tyneside carried out an official engagement which transported him back 30 years.
It was not a pleasant trip.
Coun Ernest Gibson attended the preview of an exhibition at South Shields Museum to mark the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike.
As a 19-year-old miner at Westoe Colliery in South Shields, Ernest Gibson watched and experienced the bitter dispute at first hand.
South Shields born and bred, Ernest went straight from school at 16 into mining.
Nine months later, after training, he was working underground at Westoe.
His grandfather and father had worked down the pit and Ernest grew up in a mining community in the Whiteleas area of South Shields.
He has boyhood memories of walking home from church on a Sunday with his grandfather and the friendly greetings and banter they received from mining neighbours on the way home.
“Everyone was friendly. It was the sort of community where, if you were out and it started to rain, somebody would bring your washing in and iron it for you,” says Ernest.
“There were collections for injured miners. People in that community helped each other.”
Then came the strike.
Ernest was lucky in that, as a teenager, he was still living at home, although he had to give up his Cortina car, which was his pride and joy.
“Every miner can tell a different story about the strike,” he says.
“It was a devastating time for miners with families. At Christmas they had nothing to give the children. Marriages were on the line because of money problems.
“The hardship was terrible. Kids went without.”
He believes the miners had no other option but to come out in an effort to save their jobs and communities.
“We were fighting for our communities, for the 2,500 underground jobs at Westoe, and the millions of tonnes of coal which would have lasted well into the future and provided the country with its own energy.
“Arthur Scargill may have made mistakes, but he had to stand up for the rights of the people he represented because Mrs Thatcher was out to break the miners.
“It was a case of break the most powerful union and the rest are easy to get. The miners were on her radar, her personal agenda.
“There was no option but to strike, and the miners at Westoe were totally united.”
They did not want to see the big reserves of coal at their pit sterilised by closure. Although the mayor appreciates that times have moved on and cargoes arriving in the Tyne are good for the port, the sight of coal being imported from abroad into a river which once made its name exporting vast tonnages of the commodity is still difficult to come to terms with.
His strike memories include the food banks, which are nothing new, and the street collections.
“The wider community was generous, and women were the backbone of the strike. They were fantastic, organising collections and soup kitchens,” he says.
What particularly rankles is Mrs Thatcher’s remark about “the enemy within.”
Ernest says: “It was an insult. The miners were working people fighting for the right to work and for their industry.
“Mining communities were family-orientated and had good ethics. They were generous people but they were treated worse than criminals.
“We were fighting to save something important and when the strike ended we marched back with heads held high.”
Ernest was elected as a councillor for Whiteleas in 1999, and is a member of the Harton and Westoe Miners Heritage Group.
The group will be taking part in a march, with mining banners, from the museum on Saturday at around 11am with the Westoe Colliery brass band.
The exhibition, which opens today, will run over the weekend.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 07 March 2014