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The Collieries of Wales





This month sees the 20th anniversary of the end of the great coal strike of 1984/85 . BBC’s production ‘Faith’ is a drama set against the backdrop of that strike and those tumultuous events. Its a fiction , insofar as the characters and their lives are fictions, but the events and the location and most of the supporting actors are all real, and actually were part of that defining year. With real miners and their wives as support actors, and with NUM officials picking up inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the film and story line as it went along, this film ought to be at least realistic and it is.

Shot at Hatfield Colliery, where the head gear and pit stand frozen and intact, much as they did for the twelve months of the strike, the scenes are shot in the streets and communities based upon the fortunes of that mine, Stainforth, Dunscroft, Thorne and Moorends. Up to 240 of the local pit folk starred in the making of this film, and not simply as wannabies. They did it because they were concerned events, portraying their lives and real situations they participated in were not sold short. They will not be disappointed.

The story itself is about loyalties, conflicts of loyalties, pressure upon loyalty , truth, fiction, manipulation, duplicity, and heroism, it covers the strike, the strike breakers, the police, local and imported, husbands and wives, lovers and cheats. The scenes are moving and for those who took part in those events some will be heartrending and provoke memories only just now either starting to fade or else taking on new found significance. 20 years down the line and the tremendous importance of that strike and everything that was fought for is perhaps clearer now than it was then, although now it is too late to do anything about it, and one is only left with the memory of where you were standing at that time.

There are things wrong with the film in terms of accuracy of course, this is a drama we have to keep telling ourselves. Pickets did not come back from the picket line, with their heads split open and faces bloody and stand in the bar having a pint. We went home first and had a bath. Cops would not have been served in the local pubs during the occupation, they didnt get served in many paper shops or fruit stalls ner mind pubs. We were not on some out of control roller-coaster which we couldn't stop, this was our strike, our stand and by enlarge the ordinary miners and their communities kept it on the rails . The outcome was never a forgone conclusion, we never were on hiding to nowhere, truth is despite all the obstacles and overwhelming problems we came close on more than one occasion of actually winning the whole thing.

That bigger picture is perhaps not even attempted here, and that's fair enough. Its a damn good drama as it stands in tight focus and one which will provoke much debate not simply among those who were there, but all those young people growing up in its shadow 20 years down the line who are left with the legacy of its defeat.

David Douglass. NUM Branch Secretary Hatfield Main.