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.The Justice for Mineworkers Campaign

Newsletter March 2003

History of the North Staffordshire Miners Wives Action Group

[The North staffs Miners Wives Action group now has its own web site. Click HERE to view it.]

North Staffs Miners Wives was formed in 1985 from the members of the ten food centres which were set up in the 1984 strike around the North Staffs coalfield. When the strike ended, our aims were to give support to the sacked miners and their families and to make sure they were never forgotten for the sacrifices they gave to the strike. We became members of the Justice for Mineworkers Campaign.

When the strike ended it was really the beginning for our group, because for us there was no going back and the group gave solidarity and support to others in struggle and got involved to help trade unionists at Wapping, Silentnight workers, Seafarers, Liverpool Dockers, women workers at Downing Street and Anti Deportation campaigns and many more disputes all over the country. The group travelled as far afield as Belfast, where on one of their trips the women got arrested by police at Manchester airport under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and were held by Special branch officers for eight hours.

In 1985 the group put on a "Here we go in North Staffs" exhibition at the Potteries Museum which was opened on October 12th by Arthur Scargill. The exhibition told the story of how men and women and their families from the mining community came together in the struggle against pit closures and the fight that was put up against the police, the courts and the media for twelve long months and why that struggle continues.

In January 1986, resulting in political involvement with Banner Theatre Group from Birmingham, the group were given a grant from West Midland Arts to work with Banner on singing and writing songs about their experiences which resulted with the group putting on their first show called "Unfinished Business". This was followed by a long list of tours and gigs all over the country with workers and trade unionists booking the group to hear their songs of struggle.

No Going Back
In 1989 the group travelled to Consett County Durham to record a tape of their songs and experiences and this resulted in a tape being produced and a new show which were both called "No Going Back". All monies raised would go to the Justice for Mineworkers Campaign.

Cover of the 'No Going Back' cassette, 1989

Commemorative Sculpture
After two years of fundraising and campaigning the group were proud to commission a sculpture dedicated to Joe Green and David Jones two Yorkshire miners who were killed on the picket lines. This was unveiled at the Potteries Museum in Hanley, Stoke on Trent in 1991 were it is now on permanent display in the community history gallery. The sculpture was the work of Frank Casey from St Albans and was unveiled by David Jones family.

To coincide with the unveiling the group held a week of events around Stoke, which premiered Ken Loach's film "Hidden Agenda" and a "songs of struggle" show at the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle, Staffs.

".....looking at this brilliant sculpture today, it does indeed reflect and depict what took place in 1984 and 1985....in the course of that dispute we saw the birth of the magnificent Women's Support Groups....(they) have not gone away....they're fighting not only for the mining industry but inequalities, injustice, wherever it raises its ugly head...." (NUM President Arthur Scargill)

"That strike is etched in my memory and always will be. It's part of everything I do every day. When I see those swines opposite, the strike is just helping me, guiding me, knowing what my job has to be." (Dennis Skinner MP)

Trentham Pit Camp
In 1992 the Tories announced the pit closure programme and once again the group sprang into action to fight against the pit closures and to save their own and last pit Trentham Colliery.

Following a meeting of National Women Against Pit Closures in Sheffield the group set up the first of many pit camps outside the gates of Trentham Colliery. The support and solidarity the group received was great and people visited the camp on a daily basis, not only from this country but all over the world. Interest in the pit camps began to fade from the media so in the middle of the night on Tuesday 11th May 1993, three women from the group, to highlight the campaign, broke through the tight security of the colliery and chained themselves to railings by the two mile deep No 1 pit shaft and stayed there for three days and four nights, leaving a fourth member of the group to co-ordinate outside.

"The Pit Camp was set up on the 11th of January 1993 in the early hours of the morning by the North Staffs Miners' Wives ACTION Group. Within hours of it being set up, it became the focal point for the local community to show their anger at the government's decision to shut Trentham and turn the local area into an industrial wasteland, as not only would 1,400 miners be thrown on the scrapheap but another 5,000 jobs would also be threatened, leaving little hope for the future. Offers of support have inundated the camp, from people in all walks of life. Particular thanks must go to Brent Miners' Support Group who have provided the caravan. Let's all stand together in the fight for jobs, as together WE WILL WIN!" (Text of Pit Camp leaflet)

Stage Play – 'Nice Girls'
In 1993 they were contacted by Peter Cheeseman the then director of the New Victoria Theatre in Newcastle under Lyme, Staffs to make a documentary play of their story of the occupation of Trentham. This was to become a musical documentary play called "Nice Girls" which ran for many months at the theatre and then went on to tour in Paris and was later chosen by the London Theatre Museum for its Video Archive of Stage performance to be recorded on film for future generations.

Occupying Trentham Colliery 11th - 14th May 1993

After the success of the play the group's next project in 1994 was to make a video tape about the memorial sculpture and the tape pays tribute to the historic miners strike and all those who played a part in that struggle against pit closures. It marked the 10th anniversary of the strike and all proceeds from the sale went to Justice for Mineworkers Campaign. The video was named "We are not Defeated."

The group continues its work with and for victimised miners fighting in defence of jobs, unions and victimised workers. The group has recently been campaigning on the picket lines with striking fire fighters and on peace marches against the war in Iraq.

Next year (2004) is the 20th anniversary of the miners strike and the group is fundraising for events to take place throughout the year. These include a fitting plaque to stand beside the memorial sculpture, a photographic exhibition of the strike and a celebration and weekend gathering of National Women Against Pit Closures and many plans for further events all over the country. We will not let the historic miners strike be forgotten – it was a strike that inspired working people everywhere.

We came together in 1984/85…..we're still here…We're still fighting…..we are not defeated.

The North staffs Miners Wives Action group now has its own web site. Click HERE to view it.

Date this page updated:
September 29, 2006