Monday, March 14, 2016

What did you do in the strike? A miners strike mix



It is now more than 30 years since the 1984-85 miners strike, the last great stand of what had once been seen as the most militant and powerful section of the working class in Britain. The dispute started in South Yorkshire in March 1984 with miners walking out in response to the announcement that Cortonwood pit was threatened with closure. The miners claimed that there was a Government and coal board plan to close down large parts of the industry, and the National Union of Mineworkers called a national strike.

The strike finished a year later in defeat. The miners’ claims that the industry was under threat were soon proved correct – the last deep mine in the UK closed last December. The full forces of the state were mobilised against the strike. New laws were passed, more than 11,000 arrests were made and almost 200 miners were imprisoned.

On the other side there was significant support for the strike, with miners support groups being set up across the country. On the music front there were many benefit gigs involving a wide spectrum from folk singers to punk bands, and as the strike progressed songs were written about it and records released. What follows is a mix I have put together of music related to the miners strike. It includes songs and tracks about the strike, mostly from the time of the dispute but in some cases looking back in its aftermath. The mix also includes some spoken word recollections from the strike, including my own of one particular day in Mansfield. It reflects the diversity of the musical output related to the strike, so does leap from industrial noise to acoustic ballads – and in some cases mixes the two together. The collision of Norma Waterson and Test Dept sounds great!

The mix is based on a set I played in March 2014 at an Agit Disco benefit night for Housmans bookshop, held at Surya, Pentonville Road, London N1. It included a selection of DJs most of whom had contributed to Stefan Szczelkun’s Agit Disco project/book on political music. The full line up included: Sian Addicott, Martin Dixon, John Eden, Marc Garrett, Nik G√≥recki, Caroline Heron, Stewart Home, Paul Jamrozy (Test Dept), Micheline Mason, Tracey Moberly, Luca Paci, Simon Poulter, Howard Slater, Andy T, Neil Transpontine. Tom Vague and Stefan Szczelkun. I chose to focus on music relating to the miners strike as the event took place in the week of the 30th anniversary of the start of the strike. This is not a recording of the live set, but a mix put together later reflecting what I played that night. If some of the sound quality is not great, hopefully it will stimulate you to search further...

Here's the full playlist with some details of the tracks:

00:00 Keresley Pit Women’s Support Group - You won’t find me on the picket line

From 7” EP ‘Amnesty – reinstate and set them free’ put out by Banner Theatre company in 1985

00: 21 South Wales Striking Miners Choir – Comrades in Arms

From the album Shoulder to Shoulder by Test Dept and South Wales Striking Miners Choir (1985)


01:19 – John Tams - Orgreave

From BBC Radio Ballads: The Ballad of The Miner's Strike (2010), including miners recalling  the Orgreave picket.

03:58 - Test Dept – Fuel to Fight

From the album Shoulder to Shoulder by Test Dept and South Wales Striking Miners Choir (1985)

04:32 – Norma Waterson – Coal not Dole

Song written by Kay Sutcliffe and originally recorded by Eve Bland for the album 'Which Side Are You On: Music For The Miners From The North East' (1985). The song has also been recorded by artists including The Happy End (1987), Chumbawamba (1992), The Oyster Band and Norma Waterson. The song’s popularity perhaps relates to its melancholy anticipation of the actual outcome of the strike – not a heroic victory but the desolation of closed mines and industrial ruins. Sutcliffe asked ‘What will become of this pit-yard, Where men once trampled faces hard?’, imagining a future of ‘tourists gazing round. Asking if men once worked here, Way beneath this pit-head gear’. Now all the pits have closed all that remains is the National Coal Mining Museum

 

07:46 - Dave Burns – Maerdy, Last Pit in the Rhondda

A song written by Dave Rogers of Birmingham-based Banner Theatre, it was recorded by Dave Burns for his album ‘Last pit in the Rhondda’ (1986), released with the backing of South Wales NUM with proceeds ‘to help miners sacked as a result of the 84/85 strike’. Like ‘Coal Not Dole’, the song’s image of the strike-imposed silence of the mine foreshadows its future: ‘There's mist down in the valley and the snow lies on the hill, No men walk through the empty street the pit lies quiet and still’

11:29 – Bourbonese Qualk – Blackout

From the compilation album Here we go: A celebration of the first year of the U.K Miner's Strike 1984-1985 (Sterile Records 1985), featuring bands associated with the industrial scene.


12:00 – Neil Transpontine – Mansfield Memories

My recollections of the violent end to a miners demonstration in May 1984

13:25 - Dick Gaughan – Ballad of 84
 
First performed at a benefit for sacked miners at Woodburn Miners Welfare Club in Dalkeith, Midlothian in 1985, this song recalls the strikers who died amidst the massive police operation:

‘Let's pause here to remember the men who gave their lives, Joe Green and David Jones were killed in fighting for their rights / But their courage and their sacrifice we never will forget / And we won't forget the reason, too, they met an early death / For the strikebreakers in uniforms were many thousand strong / And any picket who was in the way was battered to the ground / With police vans driving into them and truncheons on the head’
 
17:26 – The Enemy Within – Strike

The Enemy Within was John Deguid and Marek Kohn, produced by Adrian Sherwood and Keith LeBlanc with sampled speech from Arthur Scargill. Released on Rough Trade 1984 – insert sleeve included statement – ‘Play this record at six and support the miners' campaign to create a surge of demand for power at six o'clock every evening!’

19:18 Council Collective – Soul Deep

Paul Weller and Mick Talbot’s Style Council with guests including Motown singer Jimmy Ruffin, Dee C. Lee, Junior Giscombe, Dizzy Hites and Vaughan Toulouse: 'Getcha mining soul deep with a lesson in history, There's people fighting for their communities, Don't say their struggle does not involve you, If you're from the working class it's your struggle too'.

19:30 – Ann Scargill

Spoken word reflection on women joining the picket line by one of the founders of Women Against Pit Closures.

22:34 and 24:55 - Alan Sutcliffe

Excerpts from speech by Kent miner, taken from the album Shoulder to Shoulder by Test Dept and South Wales Striking Miners Choir (1985). Last April (2015) I went to a great Test Dept film/book launch at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton. Alan Sutcliffe was there in the audience and said a few words.

25:28 – Nocturnal Emissions - Bring power to its knees

This track was included on the compilation album Here we go: A celebration of the first year of the U.K. Miner's Strike 1984-1985 (Sterile Records 1985).  This version is from the 1985 album 'Songs of Love and Revolution'.

27:33 – Pulp – Last day of the miners strike

‘overhead the sound of horses' hooves, people fighting for their lives’. From the 2002 album ‘Hits’

31:54 - Chumbawamba – Fitzwilliam

From the compilation album ‘Dig This: A Tribute To The Great Strike’ (Forward Sounds International, 1985). 'Smiles for the cameras as the miners return,  They say no one has lost and no one has gained,  But wiser and stronger the people have changed,  And it won't be the same in Fitzwilliam again'.



34:23 – Banner Theatre song group - Amnesty

Includes spoken word by miners from Keresley Pit, Coventry. From 7” EP ‘Amnesty – reinstate and set them free’ put out by Banner Theatre company in 1985

38:50 - The Country Pickets - Daddy (what did you do in the strike)

From the album ‘Which side are you on ?’ (Which Side Records, 1985) – song written by Ewan MacColl, his version was included on a cassette he and Peggy Seeger put out in 1984. ‘Daddy what did you do in the strike’ on their Blackthorn records was 'a musical documentation of the 1984 miners strike' with 'profits to National Union of Mineworkers'.

42:35 - Style Council – A stone’s throw away

An internationalist response linking the miners strike with other struggles across the world at that time: 'For liberty there is a cost, it's broken skull and leather cosh, from the boys in uniform, now you know what side they're on... In Chile, In Poland, Johannesburg, South Yorkshire, A stone's throw away, now we're there'.

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