Strike84

In 1984 I spent 12 months photographing the Miners' Strike in the UK. The dispute started when the Conservative government, led by Margaret Thatcher, announced the closure of Cortonwood Colliery in Yorkshire. This was to be the first of 20 pit closures with the loss of 20,000 jobs. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) responded by calling for a national strike.

At it's height 165,000 miners were out on strike. They were supported by people from all over the world. In many communities miners' wives pushed the struggle forward, joining picket lines and arranging communal food kitchens. The state responded by putting more and more police into the coal fields. After 51 weeks on strike, a special delegate conference of the NUM voted by 98 to 91 votes to return to work. These pictures document that struggle.

Twenty five years later in 2009, I revisited some of the mining communities that I had originally photographed. This resulted in a touring exhibition called 'Look Back in Anger'. The whole experience has been an uplifting one but tinged with sadness. It was good to see old friends again but at the same time, sad to see what has happened to these once proud communities.

Despite what has happened in the intervening period most of the people I spoke to were proud of the stand they took. These pictures are dedicated to them.

Martin Shakeshaft

Early Morning Picket