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The English Civil War Part II

The Battle of Orgreave re-enactment.

Conceived by Jeremy Deller
Commissioned and produced by Artangel in association with Channel 4
Published by Artangel Publishing
ISBN 1-902201-13-2




In 1984, the National Union of Mineworkers went on strike in response to the Tory government’s plans to decimate the mining industry. Four months into the bitter, year-long dispute, on June 18, one of the most violent confrontations between picketing miners and police culminated in a mounted police charge through the village of Orgreave, South Yorkshire.

On June 17, 2001, artist Jeremy Deller staged a partial reenactment of that event, collaborating with members of historical re-enactment societies from all over Britain and with local people from mining communities in South Yorkshire.

"The English Civil War Part II" tells the story of the re-enactment, with some background on the strike and those it affected. The book is supplemented with a CD, containing interviews, poems, and protest songs.

Having experienced the year long strike first hand, during which time I had my collar roughly felt on a couple of occasions I may add, I was somewhat bemused as to how an event as terrible and bloody as the battle Orgreave could possibly be portrayed as an art form. The expression, "Art for art’s sake", springs to mind. Then I did a little research on the man who conceived the idea, and discovered he was an incredibly talented artist of some standing,

Jeremy Deller was born in London in 1966. The thing that drew Jeremy Deller to re-enactment was it's status as a type of folk art. 'I did a series of works about six years ago that was about proposing exhibitions and events,' says Deller, 'and I did posters for exhibitions that I would like to see or curate, but I also did events and talks that I would like to see, and one of those was the Orgreave thing.'

At first, the Orgreave project was something of a pipe dream for Jeremy Deller, but with Artangel’s backing, the Battle of Orgreave was re-fought and filmed for Channel 4.

After a forward by Jeremy Deller, the book opens with an interview between the author and our very own Dave Douglass. Dave responds to questions such as, "What was Orgreave’s strategic role in the context of the strike of 1984-85", and, "What was your role on the day".
A copy of the letter sent to all miners at the start of the strike, wherein Ian MacGregor tells of the futility of staying on strike, and how everyone should consider returning to work, is also included with the interview.

In the next section of the book, Howard Giles, who was involved in the precise orchestration of the re-enactment, gives a moment by moment analysis of the battle strategy employed in the original Battle of Orgreave on the 18th of June, 1984.
He discusses tactics used by both sides, the timing of the events that took place, and comments on police footage and photographs of the battle.

For many, the strike opened doors that would possibly have remained closed to them, were it not for the need for strong personalities to rise above their everyday existence and rally the miners and their families to take strength from each other during the darkest days of the conflict.

Many miner’s wives found new roles, as fund raisers and speakers, and in the next part of the book Stephanie Gregory describes the way in which she became involved in the struggle.

Already a miner’s wife and a member of the Labour Party, Stephanie attended the May Day Rally of ’84 and became involved with the newly formed women’s movement, "Women Against Pit Closures". She tells how she traveled the length and breadth of the country, raising money and support. She describes her feelings of speaking in public for the first time, and tells of the anger, frustration and pride the women of the mining communities experienced.

Mac McLoughlin was born in Treeton, a small village situated within view of the Orgreave coking plant

In the earlier strikes of the 1970’s his father was a pit deputy and a member of the N.A.C.O.D.S. union, and his brother was a miner and a member of the N.U.M.
In his piece, "A former policeman’s testimony", he recounts how he started work at the pit after leaving school. He then served in the armed forces from the age of 19, before becoming a constable in the South Yorkshire Police force.
It was through his duty in the police force that he found himself at Orgreave on that fateful day in 1984. His account tells us what it was like on the other side of the riot shield, and how his emotions were confused by the role he played, a role which brought him into direct confrontation with the people he’d lived and grown up with.
In a graphic account of the battle, as seen through the eyes of a police officer, he describes the tactics used by those sent there to uphold the law that day. He recalls the inter-force rivalry he experienced, and of the aggression and antagonism prevalent within the "foreign forces", meaning those sections of the police ranks that came from outside of the mining communities.
The following chapter, "The importance of picketing", by Johnny Wood, describes the events of the day from the viewpoint of one involved in the strike as a striking miner. His recollections of ‘84-‘85 tell of cat and mouse games with the police forces of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, which were a way of life for pickets in the early days of the strike. He recounts some of the tactics used by pickets to reach their objective, and the measures they took to avoid detection by the constabulary. With regards to Orgreave, he gives a lengthy and detailed description of the battle’s events, describing scenes of mounted police racing their horses through the masses of pickets, and of riot squads baton charging with bloody indifference.

He says that when he returned home from the battle and watched the evening news, the report had been rearranged, showing the events of the day in a different order to that in which they had actually occurred.

Another point of view follows next, with Ken Wyatt, a South Yorkshire Service Ambulance man. Describing the day from his own unique perspective, as one who was there to care for the wounded, he recalls his memorable afternoon shift of 18th June, 1984.
He was born in Swinton, just three miles from Corton Wood, which was the first pit to feel the savage cut of the Tory axe. Naturally, his sympathies lay with those with whom he lived, worked and socialised.
Ken goes on to tell how, after working his twilight shift, he would sit with the pickets at the gate of Kilnhurst colliery.

Besides giving moral support, Ken was also an activist involved in collecting food and money to help the miner’s cause.

Jonathan Foster reported on the ‘84-‘85 strike at the time for The Observer. His "Intimidation" section of the book starts with a depiction of a miners demonstration leaving Hyde Park in 1992. He then makes observations on different aspects of the strike; from the daily ceremony which took place between Fred, a lone picket, and the pit deputies at the gates of Frickley Colliery - to the exorbitant fines imposed on miners and their families for gleaning barely combustible coal from colliery waste heaps.

The strike of ‘84-‘85 produced many fine songs, penned to rally folk to the miner’s cause. The following part of the book contains the lyrics and background information to over a dozen of the most well known songs, including my own favourite, "Maggie T.", sang to the tune of "Robin Hood".


Maggie T., Maggie T.,
Riding through the glen,
Maggie T., Maggie T.,
With her evil men,
Robs from the poor,
Gives to the rich,
Robbing bitch, Robbing bitch, Robbing bitch.


The final part of the book deals with the Orgreave re-enactment. Following an introduction by Micheal Morris, CO-Director of Artangel, there are twenty five pages of photographs depicting the re-enactment of the battle. The photographs are very emotive and stirring, showing mounted police breaking ranks to charge at retreating pickets, in some very realistic scenes.

Accompanying the book is a CD which contains recorded interviews from those taking part in the re-enactment project.

Although I think the CD is a very good addition to a fine book, there are points where you feel the need to fast skip to the next track. A little editing and pruning of some of the forty three tracks would possibly have made for a more interesting collection of interviews.

Clip1 - Clip 2 - Clip 3


Although the book is primarily an account of the Battle of Orgreave, which is extremely well achieved through the use of original documents, pamphlets, news clippings, anecdotes and photographs, it also provides the reader with a wealth of information about the strike itself, from various viewpoints.

As a guide to the creation of the re-enactment, The English Civil War Part II is essential reading. On it’s own, it is a valuable piece of historical research.




Links to sites and pages which you may find of interest:


Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane's Folk archive

[a-n] Magazine for artists