I’ve written this for the Orgreave mass picnic and festival this Saturday at Catcliffe Recreation Ground, South Yorkshire, which commemorates the 30th anniversary of the battle of Orgreave during the 1984 miners’ strike.
I am so honoured to be compering the main stage. Hope to see you there.
I remember my stepfather moaning
In the first strike in ’72
‘Miners holding the country to ransom…..’
I was fourteen. I thought about you.
You worked underground, often in danger.
Hewed the coal we depended upon.
He earned more checking tax forms in Brighton.
I knew then just whose side I was on.
I remember Kent pickets at Shoreham
When our port bosses shipped in scab coal.
By the time they were back twelve years later
A new anger burned deep in my soul.
You’d won once, but this time would be harder
For your foe was no bumbling Heath.
It was Thatcher, revenge her agenda.
A class warrior, armed to the teeth.
You were miners on strike for your future:
For your pits, your communities, ways.
We were punks, poets, anarchists, lesbians.
Theatre groups, Rastafarians, gays.
Different worlds in a rainbow alliance
Standing firm and determined to win.
And Thatcher lumped us all together:
Punk or miner. The enemy within.
As a poet, I crisscrossed the country
From Durham to Yorkshire to Kent
Doing benefits, arguing, learning.
Raising funds that were so quickly spent.
Did my tiny bit in that great battle
That you fought so hard right to the last.
A battle so proudly remembered
Now that thirty long years have passed.
I remember those pictures from Orgreave.
Police faces contorted with hate.
The communities brutalized, shattered
By the raw, naked power of the state.
If it took guns and tanks to defeat you
She’d have used guns and tanks on you too.
The veneer of democracy shattered.
The paid thugs of the privileged few.
After Orgreave came Wapping, then Hillsborough.
With the press and police on her side
Thatcher smiled as the printers were beaten
And those ninety six football fans died.
She had a quite open agenda
Summed up well when she famously said
That there’s not such a thing as society.
Don’t blame us for being pleased that she’s dead.
Now the bankers destroy the economy
And the jobless and sick get the blame
And our once mighty, proud labour movement
Is shackled, and timid, and tame
But this poet will always remember
All the brave men and women I met
We will carry on fighting for justice -
And we’ll never, no never, forget.
Full details of the event are available at www.otjc.org.uk.