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Well-drawn lessons of class war from miners’ strike

Orgreave: An English Civil War 

Theatre In The Mill, Bradford


THIS is an astonishingly good production by Northern Lines because not only are all but one of the 13 actors complete amateurs — many have never performed before — but also because it comes at a time when the true history of the Thatcherite assault on our manufacturing industry needs to be told.

It is also astonishing in its sophistication as it jumps across decades cinematically and uses multimedia techniques of slide and sound to tell the human stories of contradictions at the heart of the ruling class and the agony in mining communities as their bloodied heroes are targeted by the forces of so-called law and order.

These are not the “big hewers” of Ewan MacColl’s legendary songs but men and women with very human flaws. We see them grow or fall by the wayside, focusing in particular on miner Steve (Usmaan Ishaq) who is all gung-ho militancy at the beginning of the strike yet lost in despair at its end. 

His wife moves from trying to dissuade him from joining the daily struggle at the outset to becoming a power in home and community from her involvement in Woman Against Pit Closures.

The historical canvas Javaad Alipoor’s drama covers is so vast that it is not surprising that there are some omissions. 

Nothing is said of the collections for the miners going on at every street corner in the land nor of the international solidarity, notably from Soviet pitmen, though there is a reference to support from Irish civil rights campaigners, who saw analogies with their struggles. 

Nor is there any mention of the class treason of some in the then Communist Party of Great Britain leadership who concentrated on expelling their most militant members when they should have been spearheading the campaign to victory.

There does not seem to be any plan to tour this production at the moment, an omission which should be remedied urgently. This play is a valuable weapon in the fight-back against institutional oppression. 

A longer version of this review appears in

Karl Dallas


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