I’ve moved this blog over to my website, for new posts please visit the photography site – blog
The crowd funding appeal is up and running, and I’m still continuing with my search to find participants in the project.
Decided to try Neil Greatrex again, I can’t believe someone so active all these years with his opinion of the strike will not talk now. I’ll write a personal letter explaining the project and post it to his solicitor in the hope they will pass it on for me, we can but try in these things.
I’ve found two articles in online newspapers of ex-coal mining reunions. I’ve wrote to both papers in the hope these will pass on my details and the men will get in contact with good news. I need some right now, I’ve been working so hard on this lately but not getting anywhere. A much needed break needs to happen soon.
I’ve also been hitting facebook a lot lately seeing if that hold any luck in finding people, I feel thats half the battle, there are many names flouting about but most are from men on the picket lines and not those that retuned. I joined a group called “friends of Ellington/Lynemouth Colliery” and posted a link and some text explaining the project and asking people to come forward. I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be but it seems this page is not the page for me. Not giving up on facebook I’ve also sent a few private messages to people I’ve noticed worked down the pits. Nothing as yet to a reply but its still early days, I’ll follow up with a second message next week and then put a line though that method.
Other searching has got me two men celebrating the 75 birthday, other photography coal mining project and recently looking into getting ex-pits now coal mining museums to help get the message out there. A few have replied to my emails some with good news offer to put in on their website and one also said they’d happily include it in their newsletter. It has unfortunately just gone out but will be included in their next one. I’ve not hear back since sending through any text, will wait another week and again follow these up with museums that have yet to respond.
I did speak to a nice man at the Big Pit in South Wales, who explained he’s tried to get people talking for the 25th anniversary but could only get those that has stayed out until the end. He wasn’t aware of anyone still in the area that had broken the strike to forward my details onto but wished me luck and send me a magazine they published for the 25th anniversary of the strike. I’ve since re-mailed to see if they’d put a call out for people to come forward on their blog and expecting a reply via telephone on Tuesday. Finders crossed for that one but I’m guessing the need to give me this news means it can’t be in my favour.
The other big museum to reply was the NCM, National Coal Mining Museum. I was excited from the reply I received and was to expect a call with a few ideas they had on locating people. The only convent time we’d both be available was 5 days later. I told everyone about this call, couldn’t believe my luck was about to change. There was no guarantee this new search would bring anything but it was a new avenue to look down and that was good enough foe me, I’ve grown used to these turning up nowt. Unfortunately they’re recommendation was to contact the UDM, union of democratic mine workers. I felt so deflated at this call, I’d gone from being so excited about this call to believing I’d never get anywhere with this project. To believe in something so much and to continuously being a wall at each new turn is one thing, but to know there was no new avenue to look down dishearten me. I explained I’d looked into this option already and been given what seemed like the brush off. My emails are always ignored and it wasn’t until being persistent with calls did I get a reply with an answer that doesn’t make sense. Sending out a news letter to its members with my details is not breaking the data protection act, giving me their details would being doing this but I’m not asking for this.
With their recommendation I’ve recontact the UDM and again waiting for a reply to the email. Will follow this up with a call this week. So many follow ups.
I’ve also been looking at the structor of the collieries, who worked own the pits. Their roles within the company, the union they would have been part of and where they fall within the hierarchy of the workplace. It seems there are three unions within the pit, The NUM or UDM for the miners, during the strike this would only have been the NUM as UDM formed after the strike ended. The NACODS ran for the colliery overmen and deputies whilst the third was for the management, The Colliery Manager, Deputy manager and the under managers. This at that time know as BACM but has since changed to BACMTEAM when it branched out into other industries in 1994 and changed the name in 1998 to add the TEAM - technical, energy, administrative staff and management members.
The deputies are men that crossed the picket lines of collieries not open during the strike to do maintenance and check for gas whilst the NUM was out on strike. With this in mind I feel it is important to also record how they felt about having to go underground and cross the line in order to maintain the safety of working seams with in the pit and if they’d too come out on strike refusing to cross how this could have affected the duration and outcome of the strike.
I’ve recently started a crowd funder with Sponsume to help raise the private funds needed be able to apply for an art grant. I looked at getting sponsorship from BP and a few other companies but was unsuccessful.
Its going well, still a long way to go but I’ve made a start. Friends and family have been very supportive in getting it going but I also need to find others will to help reach my target. There are some good things on offer for anyone wanting to back the project like all good crowd funders. Check it out and get onboard. Sponsume – other side of the line - its an amazing project that I believes is worth documenting.
I did the maths and would either need people to back it for:
Its been two months and a lot has happened on such a slow progressing project. I did head up to Nottinghamshire and interview an ex coal miner. I had previously thought of waiting until I had more people from the area but chose to get it recorded as soon as possible and onto the website for people to view,
Very happy with the results – Clipstone
Now to find others….
Other major news is the death of Margaret Thatcher on the 8th April, age 87, I worry this news will affect the project and peoples decision to talk. Only time will tell.
I also heard from the UDM, I’d called recently and been advised to email over my project and a little information. I’d not heard back so followed with a second call, it was after hours and left a message. I got the call the next day, unfortunately due to data protection they wouldn’t be able to contact their members with my details and ask if anyone would be interested in sharing their memories of the strike. I will try to see if they are willing to put something on the website, I was told they’d help if they could and would contact me if they thought of anything.
I managed to get hold of Neil Greatrex’s solicitor who agreed to write to her client regarding this project and ask if he’d allow me to visit and record he’s accounts that lead to his return during the strike. On the 19th February I received a reply for Deborah, his solicitor, it seems Mr Greatrex is not interested in meeting but wishes me all the best with project. Its came as a little suprise, he’s spoke of the strike so much over the years, and I had assured his solicitor I had no interested in his recent case but never the less I won’t be documenting his story.
I did receive good news and soon there will be a second person sharing their accounts, doubling my numbers from 1 to 2 accounts. I will travel up there later this year. I hope to get more before making such a long journey but think it may be best to head up there sooner that later and get it on the web.
On the 6th February the Rhyl Journal posted a call to anyone that worked down the mines during the strike to get in touch. Its still early day and I hope to receive more that the two replied I have done so far. One wanting to make contact with my father, the other an ex colliery worker who didn’t return to work and remained on strike the full 12 months. Not the best response to an advert but early days.
A friend contacted a few miners he knew asking if it would be ok for me to contact them. I’ve made a few calls but they all seemed to have stayed the full term on the picket lines. One has offered to see who he can find in the area so fingers crossed this turns something up. I must admit I was a little nervous making contact. One continually referred to them as scabs but did also make the comment murders only get 15 years. 28 years on and some people still holding a grudge seems a little harsh .
Other ads are going up too, Wrexham council has posted it on their facebook page, I’ve to put something together for another council to help with the call outs. Designed a poster for some libraries on Scotland. Will also contact other libraries to see it they too will advertise the project. Kirklee’s council have placed a call out on their site, got the email it went live today. http://www2.kirklees.gov.uk/involve/entry.aspx?id=473
Also received an email for someone who was a policeman during the strike the evening, must reply and find out were he heard about the project. Its not the angle of Other side of the line but would be nice to hear from him.
At the moment I’m looking into arts funding to help with a two year project to locate and interview as many colliery works as I can that would be willing to talk to me. Writing my proposal and looking for newspapers in ex coaling communities in hope an advert will help track these men down. I’ve contacted most and received quotes of the cost, just waiting on the last few.
I’ve also sent of the proposal to a contact at the Tate who should be helping me pass it onto BP with a request for funding. I figured they seemed the most appropriate people to chase for some of funding, they’re fossil fuel the same as coal.
I found an article on a Nottinghamshire ex miner who wrote a play called Scab by former Nottingham miner Alan Dawson, documenting the treatment some men who crossed the picket lines received. article about Scabs play
An article on two men friends from childhood until the strike and rekindle friendship afer 27 years – Reunited… at last: The striker and the scab by Jonathan Owen. I contacted Jonathan regarding his help put me in-touch with Leslie Saint, he said he’s see what he could do. Its a start in finding people and if it works its doubled my numbers already.
Received this letter from Nottingshire prison, I’d contacted them hoping I’d get through to Neil Greatrex, I’d assumed he’d be serving his sentence in Nottingham. A friend has since found the barrister who defended him. They directed me to the solicitors and a letter is being sent to him on my behalf, it should take 2-4 weeks to hear back so I’ll just have to wait.
I’ve also Contacted and met up with the photographer Charles Milligan, who went down a South Wales coal mine in 1992 to photograph a working colliery before its closer. 20 years on Charlie retraced the men - Coal miners, a life twenty years on – South Wales. His images were beautiful, I hope to see them in an exhibition soon.
My initial idea was to contact the NUM, National union of coal miners, it was a long shot but I hoped they’d be able to help track down ex and present miners who worked during the strike. I knew there must be some record of these men and as my father’s story suggests they’ve not forgotten.
All colliery workers have to pay union fees to work down the pits, you can opt out of the union and I’ve heard some did but even then the money would be still taken from your wage and given to a charity of your choice. The union had achieved a lot over the years for the miners and it seemed unfair that they all got to benefit from this if not all the men paid and so everyone automaticity paid fees mostly to the union and some to charity.
With this in mine every man that returned to work before the 3rd March 1985 would have been recorded as paying their subs, something that wouldn’t have happened if they were out on strike. This was going to be easy, the NUM could pass on my details to those men that paid union fees during the strike and soon enough I’d have calls and letters from men wanting their accounts heard.
This is my reply to the letter I sent, I can understand them not wanting to help. These men broke the strike and went against the NUM but a year is a long time to be out of work and 27 years later is enough time to let bygones be bygone. They were happy to take the money during the strike and the years after but not willing to move on. A shame really, help from the union could help heal old wounds but it looked like I’d have to do this without them.
I searched the internet finding a few forums with strike supporters and ex coal miners talking about the UDM scabs but nothing of much use. The UDM was a brake away union set up after the strike in Nottinghamshire.
It was around this time I discover Neil Greatrax, one of the men that helped set up the UDM, was facing jail Guardian article. He was ordered to pay back the money and has been jailed for four years. I’m still trying to locate him.