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Monday 23rd
posted by Morning Star in Arts

In Loving Memory of Work: A Visual Record of the Miners’ Strike by Craig Oldham (Unified Theory of Everything, £29.99)

CRAIG OLDHAM, the son and grandson of Barnsley miners, was born weeks after the end of the miners’ strike in 1985.

Stories from that time — of people doing extraordinary things as they lived through life-changing times — were the backdrop to his childhood.

In this book, which draws on the range of creative activity during those months, he’s assembled a lavishly illustrated work of cartoons, banners, badges, posters and photos which had some influence on the strike’s course.

The stories of people involved through the images they produced and used is, he says, “the story of a brutal and ongoing class war.”

The book demonstrates how unusual political periods throw up a wealth of artistic initiatives and the images here are an immediate and unambiguous expression of the miners’ demands.

John Harris’s photo of Lesley Boulton being attacked at Orgreave, possibly the most iconic image of the strike, became a unifying factor in the material produced by different mining areas and it was reproduced on posters, badges and T-shirts nationwide.

Included too is the anti-Thatcher poster “Government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich” by Sid Brown, a personal hero of Oldham’s, who was the in-house cartoonist for the Daily Worker and the Morning Star and who also designed badges for miners wanting to express their resistance to police occupation of mining areas.

There are interviews with John Harris, artists Alan Hardman, Paul Morton and Alexei Sayle, activists such as Aggie Currie, Anne Scargill, Betty Cook and Lesley Boulton and sections on the progress of the strike.

One chapter is devoted to the Battle of Orgreave and proceeds from the book will be donated to the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.

A testament to the dissent and creativity of mining communities, the book is a shining example of the need for the arts to be involved in political movements.

Review by Sue Turner