Riot police with shields during the miners' strike

A piece of art, based around a key event in the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike, is to be exhibited in the north east.

The film The Battle of Orgreave (An Injury to One Is an Injury to All), by Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller, will be showing at the Woodhorn Museum in Ashington. A number of objects, images and recordings connected with the strike – gathered for research purposes by Mr Deller – will also be on display.

The Battle of Orgreave was a confrontation between striking miners and riot police on June 18th 1984. The miners were trying to prevent lorries leaving a coking plant in Orgreave, near Sheffield, South Yorkshire.

The miners, who were striking to try to stop a government plan to close pits, had organised a mass picket at the plant. 5,000 miners from all over the country, including the north east, were faced with 6,000 police officers.

The protest turned violent, with each side later accusing the other of starting the disorder. The police said they were pelted with rocks and bricks whereas the miners claimed they were protesting peacefully when they were attacked by baton-wielding mounted policemen.

In 2001, Mr Deller reconstructed and filmed the events at Orgreave. Almost 1,000 people took part in the reconstruction, including pickets and policemen who had been involved in the original confrontation back in 1984.

The other participants in Jeremy Deller’s film were local people and members of battle re-enactment societies. The Battle of Orgreave project was commissioned by the arts organisation Artangel.

Mr Deller said,

“For years, I had had this idea to re-enact this confrontation that I had witnessed as a young person on TV – of striking miners being chased up a hill and pursued through a village.”

“It has since become an iconic image of the 1984 strike – having the quality of a war scene rather than a labour dispute.”

“I received the commission (from Artangel), which I couldn’t believe because I didn’t think it was possible to do this.”

The re-enactment was filmed by the director Mike Figgis, who grew up in the north east, and shown in a documentary on Channel Four.

Phoebe James, a curator at Artangel, said, “Jeremy Deller’s The Battle of Orgreave installation continues to feel urgent to audiences across the country and Artangel are very happy to collaborate with the Woodhorn to bring the work to a former colliery where it has particular resonance.”

The chief executive of the Woodhorn Museum, Rowan Brown, said, “At the time of the Miners’ Strike, thousands of local men and women were still employed in the coal industry and supporting enterprises.”

“As in South Yorkshire, passions ran high in the Northumberland coalfield. The Deller work is certain to bring the issues and events of that traumatic time back into focus.”

After the Battle of Orgreave, 95 miners were charged with riot, unlawful assembly and violent disorder. The trial of these men later collapsed and South Yorkshire Police were forced to pay out £425,000 in compensation.

The events at Orgreave – at which 123 people were injured – have remained controversial until the present day, especially regarding the conduct of the police.

The civil liberties group Liberty said of Orgreave, “There was a riot, but it was a police riot.”

Another controversy concerns a BBC broadcast of the incident. The BBC edited footage to make it appear that miners threw stones at the police before the police charged them. In reality, the charge had occurred before the stone throwing took place.

For years, pressure groups, like the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, have demanded an inquiry. There was disappointment among campaigners last year when home secretary Amber
Rudd declared there would not be an official inquiry into the policing of Orgreave.

The government did, however, say last year that official files concerning the Battle of Orgreave would be made public.

The Battle of Orgreave (An Injury to One is an Injury to all) will be at the Woodhorn Museum, Ashington, from March 18th to July 9th 2007.

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