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Monday 11 December
My.Anglia > Faculties > Alss > Miners strike > Cambridge and the Miners' Strike: Welcome

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Anglia Ruskin University Labour History Research Unit

A Multi-Media Archive and Website on Cambridge and the Miners Strike of 1984-5


Welcome

This website is part of a major oral history project and archive documenting the work of the Cambridge Miners' Support Group, which was twinned with the mining communities in Nottinghamshire in 1984 and also supported miners and their families in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Wales.

The project was inspired by a screening of the feature film Pride at the Arts Picture House in Cambridge in September 2014.  This website was launched after a screening of the same film at the Picturehouse in February 2016 which was followed by a panel discussion in which members of the Labour History Research unit participated.  The website is one of several initiatives set up by the unit to record and document experiences which would otherwise have been lost:

  • A ‘Witness Evening’ in November 2014 to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the support group in which 85 local people participated.
  • A visual display for use at conferences and local history events.
  • A booklet produced jointly  with the Cambridge and District Trades Council
  • A small  archive of primary documents held in the Anglia Ruskin University Library for consultation by students trying to understanding the history of late twentieth-century Britain
  • A set of oral history interviews conducted by our undergraduate students in the summer of 2015 with the families of striking miners and their supporters in Wales, London, Nottinghamshire and Cambridge.

The Oral History Interviews on this Website

The interviews on this website were conducted with the following participants: Tobin Aldrich (London), Philip Brown (Watford), Vivien Bailey (St Albans), Anne Campbell (Cambridge), Tony Carter (Cambridge), Jim Lines and Tony Williams (Abertillery), Mal Howarth, Nicky Glegg (Cambridge), Ann Petty, Geoff Peace, John and Yvonne Woodhead (Mansfield), Sue Kington (Cambridge), Jon Lawrence (Cambridge), Rick Leggatt (Cambridge), Paul Marris (Cambridge), Lucy Munby (Cambridge), Alison New (Cambridge), Bethan Rees (Cambridge), Morag Schiach (London), Frank Wilkinson (Cambridge).

Vivien Bailey was active in the St Albans Miners’ Support Group which adopted the villages of Newstead and Annesley in Nottinghamshire.  Professor Morag Schiach is Deputy Vice Principal of Queen Mary, University of London. Dr Frank Wilkinson is a founder member of the Institute for Employment Rights and Emeritus Reader in Applied Economics at the University of Cambridge. Anne Campbell was the MP for Cambridge (1992 -2005).

Tobin Aldrich is a fundraiser and consultant for the charity sector. Vivien Bailey was active in the St Albans Miners Support Group which adopted the villages of Newstead and Annesley in Nottinghamshire. Dr Jon Lawrence is Reader in Modern British History at Cambridge University. Zoe Munby has recently retired as personal assistant to Frank Field, MP. Bethan Rees manages the Cambridgeshire Race Equality and Diversity Service. Professor Morag Shiach is Deputy Vice Principal of Queen Mary, University of London. Dr Frank Wilkinson is a founder member of the Institute for Employment Rights and Emeritus Reader in Applied Economics at the University of Cambridge.


Rationale for the Project

This is a local study intended to shift attention from the Thatcher/Scargill polarities in which the miners’ strike of 1984 is usually discussed by concentrating on its impact on the lives it directly affected. It gives a voice to those who participated in the strike and the relief effort organised by their supporters and allows them to share their experiences with others who know little or nothing about the strike and its effects upon ordinary people.


‘But there Aren’t any Coal Mines in Cambridge’.

This website explores the connections established between residents in the city of Cambridge and the striking miners and their families including the personal friendships that were formed as a consequence of the strike, some of which have lasted until this day.

Cambridge was one of dozens of support groups across the United Kingdom. Its ‘twinning’ with Blidworth and Rainworth reflected the NUM’s policy of linking mining communities to their supporters elsewhere (Ollerton with Norwich, Welbeck with Harlow, Huntingdon, Stevenage, Newstead with St Albans, etc).  Miners from Maerdy and Abertillery collecting for the Gwent Food Fund were a familiar presence outside King’s College. In addition, collections were organised in council offices, trade union branches, and sections of the Labour Party for Selby in Yorkshire. Bread and cheese lunches and collections of good second hand clothes were organised to raise money for women’s groups in Derbyshire.

In 1984 the Oxford Miners’ Support Group was able to raise £111,000 for the miners and their families in cash and food. They received regular donations from ninety-two trade union organisations in Oxfordshire and forty-five Labour Party organizations, drawing much of their support from trade unionists in Oxford’s industrial hinterland, and the car works in Cowley, in particular. In contrast, Cambridge, which was a fraction of its present size, still resembled a Fenland market town, and had little in the way of heavy industry. However, its lively and well-organised miners’ support group proved remarkable successful in bringing together trade unions, the student population, community groups, political parties, colleges, church groups and academics in a series of imaginative initiatives in aid of the coal fields, raising well in excess of £36000 and unknown quantities of groceries, clothing, children’s toys, items for babies, household equipment, toiletries, medicines and other necessities.


Who is This For?

We hope that the website and this set of oral testimonies will interest all who want to learn about a fascinating if largely forgotten episode in the history of modern Cambridge and that those familiar with the city may come to see it in a new way.

We want these oral statements to be a resource for anyone interested in the history of late twentieth-century Britain especially for students at Anglia Ruskin University and students in other universities the majority of whom were not born at the time of the strike.


What is Oral History?

Oral history is the recording of people's memories, experiences and subjective responses to events they lived through.


How Can we Understand the Strike Rigorously in its Historical Context?

This website complements a third year History module ‘Thatcherism’ taught by Dr Richard Carr. This enables undergraduate students in History to position the strike in its full cultural and historical context and encourages them to ask searching questions about the 1980s and to engage with published academic work on the strike written from a variety of differing critical perspectives.


The Archive

An archive of primary materials (including the personal letters of Lore Burgess, a trilingual artist and tour guide who came to Cambridge from Nazi Germany in the Kindertransport in the 1930s), kindly donated by her daughter, Lore Winning Burgess, is held in the Anglia Ruskin University library. This material enables students to develop their practical skills as historians by working with and evaluating unpublished documents.


The Commemorative Booklet

A commemorative booklet ‘Cambridge and the Miners’ Strike’ was produced jointly by Anglia Ruskin University Labour History Research Unit and Cambridge and District Trades Council in a limited edition of 150 copies which sold out in December 2015. This has now been reissued with four new pages (January 2016) and a small number of copies are available for purchase on request. Please send any enquiries to the Labour History Research Unit.