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Monday 11 December
My.Anglia > Faculties > Alss > Miners strike > Piecing Together What Happened in Cambridge

Piecing Together What Happened in Cambridge

Badge reads ‘a token of thanks for a year’s support’.

Until very recently many of the men and women in the miners’ support groups, and those living in Cambridge were no exception, were reticent to speak about themselves. This was often because they felt that what they did in the strike was insignificant. However, inspired by the revival of interest in the miners’ support groups after the popular success of the independent feature film Pride (2014), commemorating the work of Mark Ashton and some London based lesbian and gay supporters of striking miners and their families in the Dulais Valley, local historians began to piece together what had happened in the city and its surroundings.

But like many other support groups, Cambridge did not appear to have kept minutes of its activities. As Alison New put it, ‘we were too busy making history to keep a record of what we did.’ It therefore seemed that the traces of this remarkable year in Cambridge’s history had been lost until a chance visit in September 2014 by a member of the Anglia Ruskin Labour History Research Unit to the house of Lucy Munby, the former Treasurer of the group. Lucy was able to point to three carefully annotated scrapbooks on top of a high book case in which she had pasted dozens of press cuttings, photographs, flyers, receipts, letters, etc - virtually no document relating to the strike in Cambridge had been thrown away.

The story of what happened in Cambridge during the strike is one of commitment, resourcefulness and generosity. It is a story in which   ordinary people, many still living in the city today, put their own activities ‘on hold’ for a year to support people they had never met, in parts of the country that they could not have identified on a map, because they knew they were struggling to defend their own communities with great courage and resilience.

Letters of thanks from men and women in the coalfields who had never written a letter since they left school arrived from time-to-time in Cambridge letter-boxes. These handwritten letters deeply enriched the lives of those to whom they were sent: ‘It was an amazing year in my life and quite unforgettable’, ‘Of course, I have no regrets. Helping the miners was among the most important things l have ever done’ are common refrains from those in Cambridge who still remember those turbulent days. Thirty years later we believe the history of the Cambridge Miners’ Support group represents the traditions of the   labour movement at their very best.

 Cambridge’s work in support of the mining districts is, of course, a small segment of a much  wider picture replicated in hundreds of miners’ support groups, in towns, cities and villages  throughout the country, whose records are being made  available in public libraries, local archives and  digitally online. This account could not have been written without one important source: Lucy Munby’s scrapbooks.

These scrapbooks have enabled us to produce the chronology of the strike and they also formed the basis of the photographic exhibition that we were able to mount for the ‘witness evening’ on November 17 2014. We are deeply indebted to Lucy for their use, to those miners, their families, and their supporters in  Cambridge and the former coalfields who are no longer with us and who are  remembered with affection and respect, and to all who have come forward and shared their personal memories of the strike.

Cambridge Miners Group newspaper article