The Hucknall Hammer Supports The Miners
We walked up to the meeting point – Knottingly Town Hall in West Yorkshire, and I was immediately handed an Orgreave Truth & Justice leaflet outlining the campaign for the release of all papers and demanding a public inquiry into the terrifying police led violence which took place during the great miners strike of 1984/85.
Upon lifting my eyes from the leaflet, I glanced to the right to see the worn but defiant banner emblazoned with ‘Lesbians & Gays Support The Miners’ – which was the original banner as featured in the hit film ‘Pride’ held by two wind swept men.
After another bone chilling, icy blast of Yorkshire wind I held onto my hat, looked back at the people now lining up behind artistic miners banners with the distant sound of a proud brass band assembling at the front, ready to lead the march.
For a split second I could have been forgiven for thinking I had stepped into a time machine and transported back in time to 1984. Why are the miners on the march again in January 2015? Because the UKs last 3 remaining pits are on the verge of closure and time is running out to save them.
It was Saturday afternoon on 31st January 2015, the march had been called by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to finish with a rally & refreshments at Kellingley Miners Welfare.
The march took off and we were placed in front of the Nottinghamshire pit – Thoresby NUM banner. Halfway round a camera man accompanied by a young female TV presenter from the BBC accosted a man waving a Union of Construction & Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) flag. The question followed from the presenter ‘why are you marching today?’ to which the man fired back ‘because if this town loses the pit, it loses everything’
We managed to thaw out in the Miners Welfare and were herded into the main conference suite of the club where a table full of Labour MP’s sat with the General Secretary of the NUM. The rally got underway first with the local MP Yvette Cooper stating her support for the campaign but dodged questions from the audience on Labours energy policies.
After supporting speeches from Welsh MP Sian Jones and the NUMs Ex National President Ian Lavery MP, the key note speaker shot to his feet- the legendary coalfields MP Dennis Skinner.
Dennis spoke of the ‘most honourable dispute in history’ (miners 84/85 strike) the electoral threat UKIP poses, and the future of coal mining in Britain. ‘This is the last throw of the dice and we need to re-kindle the spirit of 84/85 to save these 3 pits’ the Beast of Bolsover blasted.
He stated that Labour is doing all it can to keep the pits open by lobbying ministers and keeping the pressure up, but insisted the campaign needs as much support as it can muster.
Taking a pause, Dennis finished in typical Skinner style by thundering ‘what we need is public ownership of the mining industry and energy utilities as a whole! Thank you very much’ which brought the whole club to its feet in rapturous applause.
This event was supported by local Hucknall people including ex miners and their families, and Sherwood Labour Parliamentary Candidate Leonie Mathers. The bitter memory of the 1984/85 miners strike still resonates with many in the community after Hucknall number 2 colliery was finally closed in 1986 leading to thousands of men losing their jobs and the community losing its focal point. Marching to save Kellingley, Hatfield and more locally (Nottinghamshire) Thoresby pits demonstrates the miners are still united and will never be defeated.
The question is – will this be enough to save the coal mining industry in the UK?