Thursday, March 06, 2014

Supporting the Miners Strike at Goldsmiths in 1984/5

It's thirty years ago this week since the start of the miners strike, a long and bitter dispute that defined the mid-1980s in Britain. Ultimately the miners lost, and their claim that there was a secret Government plan to close down coal mines en masse was soon to proved correct. Miners support groups were set up all over the country, and there were all kinds of expressions of solidarity including countless benefit gigs. I was actually living in Kent at the start of the strike and was involved in supporting miners at local pits. There were many support groups in London, and the latest issue of Goldsmiths' student paper The Leopard includes an interesting article by Colin Fancy recalling support for the miners at Goldsmiths in New Cross. Here's a few extracts:

'the first meeting of the Goldsmiths’ Miners Support Group. We rattle buckets all around college crying: “Dig deep for the miners!” We propose a solidarity motion that is debated and passed at a packed Students’ Union meeting. We paste up posters saying ‘VICTORY TO THE MINERS’ all along Lewisham Way and down Deptford High Street.

My department, Media and Communications, announces that lecturers are to be cut from the small staff team. The Student Untion calls a meeting on the College Green to begin action. Some people suggest letters to the College Dean whilst we call for an occupation. The anti-cuts campaign begins with petitions, motions and lobbying the governors but soon picks up speed. Before we know it we are occupying the Administration building (which would later be renamed Whitehead building). James Curran, the recently appointed Head of the Communications department, is known for his book, Power Without Responsibility – and with the addition of a question mark this phrase is emblazoned on a huge banner hung across the occupied building...

Richard Hoggart, the College Dean, is reaching retirement and plays a waiting game rather than call the police – not that we do much to provoke him. With summer holidays approaching we end the occupation after eight days and sit our exams. The cuts to staff are postponed and we cautiously celebrate...
Goldsmiths College Student Union banner on a miners march in Whitehall in 1985
Women from the mining communities are playing a more and more crucial role as the strike fights to sustain itself. Two women from the Shirebrook Colliery in Derbyshire come to our Union meeting. Though nervous and reluctant to speak they tell moving tales of hardship, solidarity and resilience...

.... Surprisingly, Goldsmiths has its own local coalfield  – there are five pits less than an hour away in Kent [think there were only three left at this point  - Betteshanger, Snowdon and Tilmanstone]. One Sunday afternoon in December a coach load of students head down to Betteshanger Colliery with some Christmas presents. We have an evening in the Miners’ Social Club and are put up in miners’ family homes. We rise before dawn to join the other miners and students marching down the dark country lanes to the pit, singing: “I’d rather be a picket than a scab.” Not a single miner has crossed their picket line, but neither have they persuaded the foremen at the pit to join the strike, so the picket is a dignified but frustrating affair and we’re soon back to the social club for sausage sandwiches'.

Read the full article here. If you have any stories of the miners strike, especially as it was supported in South London, please leave a comment.

See also: Lewisham Miners Support Group/Lewisham Women Against Pit Closures 1984/85

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Its absolutely terrible how many hardworking people were affected by the mining strike