Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lewisham Miners Support 1984/5

 During the miners strike of 1984/5, which started 30 years ago this month, there were support groups set up across the country. Previously here we have mentioned support at Goldsmiths in New Cross. Another local group was Lewisham Women Against Pit Closures. This flyer from January 1985 tells us that:

1. The group held planning meetings at Lewisham Labour Club, Limes Grove SE13.
2. They 'invited women from the mining community of Shirebrook to Lewisham to speak to local people about the dispute'.
3. One of the women from Shirebrook was due to speak to a Lewisham Miners Support Group meeting at the Albany in Deptford on 24 January 1985.
4. There was a 'Women's Party' planned to take place at Women's Employment Project, 28 Deptford High Street, to raise funds for Shirebrook Women's Action Group (Shirebrook Colliery was in Derbyshire)

Neil Stoker wrote a little about Lewisham Miners' Support Group on the 20th anniversary of the strike in 1984:

'My father is from the Caribbean and my mother's Irish. The black community in south east London at that time was under constant abuse from the whole structures of society--the police, the government, the executive. The 'sus' laws had gone, but in terms of police brutality, mental health issues, housing, no one really cared what was going on. What struck me was the huge collective nature of the struggle. We got a collective spirit from a part of society that I didn't know and that was completely alien to me. There was a great sense of these people getting to know and understand what we suffered in terms of oppression, and vice versa. In a sense, we were somewhat cocooned by Thatcherism: we'd not had the same levels of redundancies, etc, in London as they had in the north of England. I got an understanding of what was really happening north of the Watford Gap.

Small events had a big impact: a miner from Dennington colliery came to stay with me and my family while he was in London collecting money. He came down to breakfast one morning and said, 'I've got to apologise.' My parents looked at each other--we thought maybe he'd broken a vase or something--and said, 'What for?' He said, 'I worked in a mine in South Africa in the early 1970s, and I feel really guilty about it now.' Things like that politicised people. There's a culture that miners and miners' support groups and Women Against Pit Closures hadn't been aware of before, and there's a culture that we took on as well.

We did a huge benefit at the Albany Empire in London with a Welsh male-voice choir, and a band called Test Department. I can only describe Test Department as a band which filled plastic drums with water and sand and banged them in a rhythmic way. It was a bizarre night--these Welsh miners came down in a coach and were stuck in the middle of Deptford with these punks banging plastic drums--but there were a thousand people there!

The miners' strike created this level of cultural understanding in a way nothing else could have. I remember going to the Notting Hill Carnival the year of the strike, and one of the most popular badges was 'Black people support the miners--oppose police violence'. (Socialist Review, March 2004)

No comments: