By Robin Richardson
During the Miners Strike of 1984-5, surprisingly – and much to the chagrin of many local hard-boiled Tories – local Labour Party branches in East Anglia held several ‘Miners Galas’ in the town and village halls of the sleepiest areas of the Norfolk and Suffolk, as well as Norwich. This was indeed “far from the minefields”, as the then MP for Norwich South, John Powley (Con) mentioned in Parliament at the time – his constituents apparently finding the strike “abhorrent to their thinking…”
The miners were fighting to keep the pits open and in the public domain – to maintain Britain’s indigenous coal industry and to secure their jobs and the continuity of their close-knit communities. These popular and well-attended East Anglian ‘Galas’ were a mix of speakers, music, food and craft fair, held with the express purpose of expressing solidarity with the miners in their fight against Thatcher’s plan to dispose of the British mining industry to the free market, and to raise funds to support the miners and their families.
Small brass miners were sold with other mining ephemera, such as mining-related jewellery, small figurines and miniature mining implements at these 1984/5 fund raising Galas, although I can find no record of these items provenance anywhere online now. If anyone knows where these came from, and how these were made and distributed, please get in touch.
This little chap was offered as a prize in a raffle held during a Miners Gala held at Rumburgh Village Hall in Suffolk at the height of the action of 1984. My eldest daughter, then aged 11, and in possession of the winning ticket – had the choice of a bottle of whiskey or the brass miner as first prize. I’m proud to say she did not choose the whiskey.
The miner stands on my mantle-shelf resolute and undefeated. He is a constant reminder of one of the blackest period in British Post-war politics, but his reputation is untarnished – he will see Thatcher out.