Spectacular re-enactment of a legendary fight of miners & policemen

Jeremy Deller – Battle of Orgreave, 2002
Jeremy DellerBattle of Orgreave, 2002

Introduction

There are several ways we can understand history, but art is one of the most persuasive of all ways. Jeremy Deller is a well-known British and has been scaling his career through some projects such as Battle of Orgreave. His project reveals events from the famous clash. It also exposes the details built-up within the police force before the fight happened.
 
In 1984 there was a nation-wide1 strike organized by the National Union of Mineworkers. This dispute took almost a year before it was sorted out. This event was the most bitterly fought since the general strike of 19262 and created a turning point in the struggle between the government and the Union movements. 

The big strike of 1984

Orgreave coking plant3 plant was the battle point and place of the miner’s most violent confrontations with authorities. The fight began after a meeting near the plant and culminated in cavalry riding through the village of Orgreave. 

Why is this event important?

The events that took place during this confrontation have significance far beyond the immediate consequence. Most of the people remember this day as a day when the government smashed Union Power in Britain. At this time, the government began dismantling the British industry. 

Most of the TV coverage made this seem as if the striking workers were entirely responsible for the violence. This was not the case. The workers wanted their rights to be observed and to be assessed the right way.  In Britain, the union and the miners were seen as the enemy within. The events of 1984 were not just considered as a strike but as an act of violence.

Why did Jeremy Deller react the famous clash?

The work of Jeremy Deller came 17 years later. It was as a spectacular reenactment of what happened in the day of demonstrations. During the enactment, the majority of miners and police officers participated, in total, more than 800 people. Their goal was to relive the events from 1984. A historical expert and former director of English Heritage’s event programmer, Howard Giles, scaled the whole artwork.

You may be wondering why Jeremy Deller reacted to this famous clash. He wanted to refer people to the struggles that the majority of the oppressed pass through before getting their freedom and rights observed. The artist also wanted to connect his artwork with the occurrences in society. 

The documentary ‘The Battle of Orgreave’

The Battle of Orgreave aired on Sunday, 20th 2020 on Channel 4. Mike Figgis filmed it for Artangel media. This film intercuts the dramatic experiences with stills from the clash in 1984. There were also powerful testimonies that aimed at making the public taste the complexities of this bitter struggle. 

Some of the testimonies were from the police and former miners. Mac McLoughlin, a former miner, and serving policeman, was on duty when the strike happened. He explains every detail about the buildup in the police force days before the encounter. 

Miners recount this particular encounter and how it affected them economically. They also recount their political struggles over the decades and the trials they endured for 48 days when some were charged with life imprisonment. 

In the film, David Douglass reveals the meaning of the confrontations concerning the Trade union movement in England. There were very many other groups that emerged to talk about the effects of the clash on families. One of these groups is the Women’s’ Support Group, facilitated by Stephanie Gregory. They took time to reminisce about how this clash affected family life.

Another group speaking out is the media. They wanted to reveal the role of their institutions in covering every event that took place during this famous clash. Tony Benn stood on behalf of the media and helped people understand their role in covering the activities of the strike in 1984. 

1h 3min 15 sec

Book: The English Civil War part II

Jeremy Deller also published a book titled The English Civil War part II in 2002. The book contains a series of personal encounters with the police and counts of people present at the scene. All of them recounted in different ways. That brings a better understanding of what was happening. 

The majority of those people recounting the experiences were involved in the strike. The texts come with images, pamphlets, photos and news clippings from people personal scrapbooks, together with a section with photographs of the enactment. The CD contains interviews with former miners and some wives that run for almost one hour.

They are shown with precision to make sure everybody can genuinely understand the details from the historic clash between the minors and the police. The miners suffered a lot, and they didn’t have a new way of showing their pain rather than just getting into public participation. 

Photos

Jeremy Deller - Battle of Orgreave
Jeremy DellerBattle of Orgreave, 2002

Jeremy Deller - Battle of Orgreave
Jeremy DellerBattle of Orgreave, 2002

Jeremy Deller - Battle of Orgreave
Jeremy DellerBattle of Orgreave, 2002

Jeremy Deller - Battle of Orgreave
Jeremy DellerBattle of Orgreave, 2002

Jeremy Deller - Battle of Orgreave
Jeremy DellerBattle of Orgreave, 2002

Jeremy Deller - Battle of Orgreave
Jeremy DellerBattle of Orgreave, 2002

All images by Martin Jenkinson/mjimages.pressphotos.co.uk for Jeremy Deller/jeremydeller.org unless otherwise noted. Mike Figgis filmed this reenactment for Artangel media.

Video: Full-length documentary

Miners recount their own history, their economic and political struggles over decades and the trial they endured for 48 days in Sheffield when charged with the riot at Orgreave – facing life imprisonment.

52min 32sec

Related works

Related readings

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_miners%27_strike_(1984%E2%80%9385)
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1926_United_Kingdom_general_strike
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orgreave_Colliery
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