Civil War Part II
The Battle of Orgreave
Conceived by Jeremy Deller
Commissioned and produced by Artangel in association with Channel
Published by Artangel Publishing
|In 1984, the National Union of Mineworkers
went on strike in response to the Tory governments plans to
decimate the mining industry. Four months into the bitter, year-long
dispute, on June 18, one of the most violent confrontations between
picketing miners and police culminated in a mounted police charge
through the village of Orgreave, South Yorkshire.
On June 17, 2001, artist Jeremy Deller
staged a partial reenactment of that event, collaborating
with members of historical re-enactment societies from all
over Britain and with local people from mining communities
in South Yorkshire.
"The English Civil War Part II"
tells the story of the re-enactment, with some background
on the strike and those it affected. The book is supplemented
with a CD, containing interviews, poems, and protest songs.
Having experienced the year long strike
first hand, during which time I had my collar roughly felt
on a couple of occasions I may add, I was somewhat bemused
as to how an event as terrible and bloody as the battle Orgreave
could possibly be portrayed as an art form. The expression,
"Art for arts sake", springs to mind. Then
I did a little research on the man who conceived the idea,
and discovered he was an incredibly talented artist of some
Jeremy Deller was born in London in 1966.
The thing that drew Jeremy Deller to re-enactment was it's status
as a type of folk art. 'I did a series of works about six years
ago that was about proposing exhibitions and events,' says Deller,
'and I did posters for exhibitions that I would like to see or curate,
but I also did events and talks that I would like to see, and one
of those was the Orgreave thing.'
At first, the Orgreave project was something
of a pipe dream for Jeremy Deller, but with Artangels backing,
the Battle of Orgreave was re-fought and filmed for Channel 4.
After a forward by Jeremy Deller, the book
opens with an interview between the author and our very own Dave
Douglass. Dave responds to questions such as, "What was
Orgreaves strategic role in the context of the strike of 1984-85",
and, "What was your role on the day".
A copy of the letter sent to all miners at the start of the strike,
wherein Ian MacGregor tells of the futility of staying on strike,
and how everyone should consider returning to work, is also included
with the interview.
In the next section of the book, Howard
Giles, who was involved in the precise orchestration of
the re-enactment, gives a moment by moment analysis of the
battle strategy employed in the original Battle of Orgreave
on the 18th of June, 1984.
He discusses tactics used by both sides, the timing of the
events that took place, and comments on police footage and
photographs of the battle.
For many, the strike opened doors that
would possibly have remained closed to them, were it not for
the need for strong personalities to rise above their everyday
existence and rally the miners and their families to take
strength from each other during the darkest days of the conflict.
Many miners wives found new roles, as fund raisers and
speakers, and in the next part of the book Stephanie Gregory
describes the way in which she became involved in the
Already a miners wife and a member
of the Labour Party, Stephanie attended the May Day Rally of 84
and became involved with the newly formed womens movement,
"Women Against Pit Closures". She tells how she traveled
the length and breadth of the country, raising money and support.
She describes her feelings of speaking in public for the first time,
and tells of the anger, frustration and pride the women of the mining
Mac McLoughlin was born in Treeton,
a small village situated within view of the Orgreave coking plant
| In the earlier strikes of the 1970s
his father was a pit deputy and a member of the N.A.C.O.D.S.
union, and his brother was a miner and a member of the N.U.M.
In his piece, "A former policemans testimony",
he recounts how he started work at the pit after leaving school.
He then served in the armed forces from the age of 19, before
becoming a constable in the South Yorkshire Police force.
It was through his duty in the police force that he found himself
at Orgreave on that fateful day in 1984. His account tells us
what it was like on the other side of the riot shield, and how
his emotions were confused by the role he played, a role which
brought him into direct confrontation with the people hed
lived and grown up with.
|In a graphic account of the battle, as seen
through the eyes of a police officer, he describes the tactics used
by those sent there to uphold the law that day. He recalls the inter-force
rivalry he experienced, and of the aggression and antagonism prevalent
within the "foreign forces", meaning those sections of the
police ranks that came from outside of the mining communities.
||The following chapter, "The
importance of picketing", by Johnny Wood, describes
the events of the day from the viewpoint of one involved in
the strike as a striking miner. His recollections of 84-85
tell of cat and mouse games with the police forces of Derbyshire
and Nottinghamshire, which were a way of life for pickets in
the early days of the strike. He recounts some of the tactics
used by pickets to reach their objective, and the measures they
took to avoid detection by the constabulary. With regards to
Orgreave, he gives a lengthy and detailed description of the
battles events, describing scenes of mounted police racing
their horses through the masses of pickets, and of riot squads
baton charging with bloody indifference.
He says that when he returned home from the
battle and watched the evening news, the report had been rearranged,
showing the events of the day in a different order to that in which
they had actually occurred.
Another point of view follows next, with
Ken Wyatt, a South Yorkshire Service Ambulance man. Describing
the day from his own unique perspective, as one who was there to
care for the wounded, he recalls his memorable afternoon shift of
18th June, 1984.
He was born in Swinton, just three miles from Corton Wood, which
was the first pit to feel the savage cut of the Tory axe. Naturally,
his sympathies lay with those with whom he lived, worked and socialised.
Ken goes on to tell how, after working his twilight shift, he would
sit with the pickets at the gate of Kilnhurst colliery.
Besides giving moral support, Ken was
also an activist involved in collecting food and money to
help the miners cause.
Jonathan Foster reported on
the 84-85 strike at the time for The Observer.
His "Intimidation" section of the book starts with
a depiction of a miners demonstration leaving Hyde Park in
1992. He then makes observations on different aspects of the
strike; from the daily ceremony which took place between Fred,
a lone picket, and the pit deputies at the gates of Frickley
Colliery - to the exorbitant fines imposed on miners and their
families for gleaning barely combustible coal from colliery
The strike of 84-85 produced
many fine songs, penned to rally folk to the miners cause.
The following part of the book contains the lyrics and background
information to over a dozen of the most well known songs, including
my own favourite, "Maggie T.", sang to the tune of "Robin
Maggie T., Maggie T.,
Riding through the glen,
Maggie T., Maggie T.,
With her evil men,
Robs from the poor,
Gives to the rich,
Robbing bitch, Robbing bitch, Robbing bitch.
The final part of
the book deals with the Orgreave re-enactment. Following an introduction
by Micheal Morris, CO-Director of Artangel, there are twenty
five pages of photographs depicting the re-enactment of the battle.
The photographs are very emotive and stirring, showing mounted police
breaking ranks to charge at retreating pickets, in some very realistic
Accompanying the book is a CD which
contains recorded interviews from those taking part in the
Although I think the CD is a very good addition to a fine
book, there are points where you feel the need to fast skip
to the next track. A little editing and pruning of some of
the forty three tracks would possibly have made for a more
interesting collection of interviews.
2 - Clip
Although the book is primarily an account
of the Battle of Orgreave, which is extremely well achieved through
the use of original documents, pamphlets, news clippings, anecdotes
and photographs, it also provides the reader with a wealth of information
about the strike itself, from various viewpoints.
As a guide to the creation of the re-enactment,
The English Civil War Part II is essential reading. On its
own, it is a valuable piece of historical research.
Links to sites and pages which you may find of interest:
Deller and Alan Kane's Folk archive
Magazine for artists