ON THE FRONT LINE – miners strike documentary

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I was walking down King Street in South Shields when I noticed a group of lads walking up the street laughing, joking and looking as if they didn’t have a care in the world. I wondered if any of them had jobs? Were they killing time until their next shift at work ? Or their next giro? This led me into thinking about the unemployment problem in my hometown. 

I sat down on a bench where two old men were. I overheard them talking about how they had spent their working lives down the mines. Westoe Colliery used to be nearby. Listening to their banter, made me think back to when the strike began in March 1984. I was 18 at the time, about the same age as those young lads who passed earlier. It was always on the telly. Scargill, Thatcher, pickets and police. TV footage of the battle of Orgreave. Explosive scenes of a class war. 

Reality was that thousands of men weren’t working. There was no money coming in to pay bills and feed kids. How did their families survive ?  Whole communities were brought to their knees due to financial insecurity. Families torn apart. I thought it would be interesting to find how people coped in that time of crisis. People who were directly involved given a voice to record their cold, hard and bitter truths. 

During research for the film the stories that I heard were laughter, sadness, courage and pride. Some people didn’t want to talk about the strike, or for any of their comments to be recorded. After all these years feelings still ran deep. Emotional scars. 

The years have rolled on and out of the ashes of the pit’s new business’ and housing developments have appeared. But the mining industry will never be forgotten.

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Gary Alikivi.