Here We Go: The Coal Dispute, Community Video Archives and the Battle for Memory at Orgreave

by Alex Wilson (Sheffield Hallam University)

Abstract: In June 1984, a violent confrontation occurred between police and picketing miners at a British Steel Corporation coking plant in Orgreave, South Yorkshire. It was a pivotal moment in the 1984–85 coal dispute, and one of the most ferocious clashes in British industrial history. Mainstream media perceptions of the event were dominated by a series of de-contextualised images and symbols that reinforced the government side of events. This paper will examine a collection of newly rediscovered documentary video shot from the miners’ perspective in the 1980s. It will explore the possibilities of re-using such material as forensic evidence in any future inquiry into Orgreave, helping to challenge and articulate notions of public truth and memory. It will also consider how to use archives as an active resource for community engagement, helping to reconstruct still-damaged local identities in the former coalfield areas of England and Wales.

Alex Wilson has a decade of professional experience working for audio-visual archives including The British Library, National Jazz Archive, Goldsmiths University and Bridgeman Footage. He is a funded PhD Candidate for the Heritage Consortium at Sheffield Hallam University with a project investigating Yorkshire Arts Association Film and Video, 1970-1990.