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Memories of the 1984-5 miners’ strike brought to life at Leeds International Film Festival


A series of short films made by South Yorkshire residents who experienced the miners’ strike of 1984 - 1985, in collaboration with the Northern Film School at Leeds Beckett University, will be premiered at the Leeds International Film Festival this month.

Still from the film Blacker Than Black

Eight short films, collectively named Mining the Memories, will be screened for the first time on Monday 14 November in the Albert Room at Leeds Town Hall from 8.15pm. The evening’s programme will include drama, documentary and animation, as well as live poetry and music and a question and answer session with the filmmakers and writers. 

Using the latest technology available at the Northern Film School, the participants worked closely with students, graduates and staff on the University’s Filmmaking degrees to produce the films, which were shot on location in and around South and West Yorkshire. 

Still from the film Respect
Still from 'Respect'

Sam Morgan, an ex-coal miner with 33 years’ experience, wrote the film, Respect. He explained: “After some tuition by the Leeds Beckett team on how to change my writing preferences from songs, poems and full-length fictional works into a film script, I, along with several similar writers, submitted a script for a short story which I named Respect. The inspiration behind the film is the connection between the mining and the military over the years. Set in a mining village in 1968 (a time when there was far more respect than today), it features an old World War One miner-come-soldier named Jesse.  He is an ex King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) soldier whose last link with his dead comrades on the Somme and other theatres of war is to march around his village in remembrance of the fallen, whilst proudly wearing an old trench cap.

“It meant so much to me to be invited to make the film; especially as the Leeds Becket team allowed me to be hands-on in several aspects of the creation of the film, even allowing me to make a small cameo appearance dressed as a coal miner on his way to inspect an old airshaft. 

“It has been a fantastic experience from start to finish; especially as the mining industry has been finally laid to rest by the establishment. I now eagerly await the finished product when it is cast onto the big screen at the Leeds International Film Festival later this month.” 

David Sables wrote the film, She Had A Dream. He was a coal miner for 23 years: when he joined the industry it employed around 300,000 people and when he left in 2002 the number had gone down to under 8,000. He is now a freelance archaeologist undertaking PhD research into the social history of metal mining in mid-Wales between 1450 and 1800.

Still from 'She Had a Dream'

Still from 'She Had a Dream'

David said: “Before the project, my knowledge of film production was limited to watching documentary films while sitting in a cinema. I had no idea the amount of work involved or the numbers, steps and people it took to produce just a few minutes of film. The process of script writing was at first a bit daunting but the team soon put me at ease and, with their help, I realised that I could write something relevant and have some fun. The filming process itself was stimulating and quite exciting as the director and crew tried to get the best film locations, angles, views needed to move my poem from paper to film and capture the ideas embedded within it. It has been a pleasure to see the pictures in my head turned into pictures on the screen. 

“Coming to terms with being an older person and seeing myself as a wrinkly old man on film was quite an experience in itself. However, being involved allowed me to tell a story of the effects that the murder of “King coal” has had on my self; my family, friends and village in which I grew up. It has been in some way a disturbing process as it’s hard to be forced to remember bad experiences. On the other hand, I was also reminded of the great camaraderie and spirit of mining; something which I still share with other former miners. 

“The story I wanted to tell was of injustice and was one which I had a deep almost primeval need to tell. Living away from mining in rural mid Wales I had began to feel that perhaps I had overemphasised the destruction and that I may have been have been overly bias because of my experiences; however after talking to other people filming their stories and talking to passing people during the filming I realised that many in villages felt the same anger and need to tell the same story; The village was in fact haunted by the events of 1984/85 and the loss of its pit. These stories are being told but they are told to the families of those who were involved in mining or the 1984/5 strike; but these stories will end with the death of those who were involved and be replaced by the official histories of the state. The importance of these films is that they are a record of some of these stories and will go a little way to redressing the balance.”

Jennifer Granville, Principal Lecturer in the Northern Film School of CINAGE Project Leader, commented: “Mining the Memories started off as a research project where we aimed to work with a group of people from mining communities and see if we could develop a script, written by them, to produce. The work that they wrote, during our workshops, was so powerful, that we ended up making all six dramas and two documentaries. Distinguished actors were approached to be in the films and, without exception, were so moved by the material that they agreed to take part. Our students worked on the films and learned inestimable amounts, not just about filmmaking, but about the industrial history of the area that their University is based in and the meaning of community.” 

Still from the film Coke Not Coal
Still from 'Coke not Coal'

Before filmmaking began, the participants were led through a series of workshops by screenwriting lecturers from the Northern Film School, exploring what the strike meant to them and the long-term consequences for themselves and their communities. They then worked on shaping these ideas into scripts.

The workshops resulted in five short dramas - Blacker than Black (pictured top), A Piece of Coal, Respect, She Had a Dream and Coke Not Coal. The films’ casts include Barrie Rutter, Finetime Fontaine and Kate Rutter. Two documentaries were also made: one based on the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign and another made with the Goldthorpe Community Shop. A final film, an animation, was created entitled, ‘The Enemy Within?’  All pieces were written by either ex-miners, miners’ wives or their daughters. 

The Mining the Memories series forms part of the CINAGE project, which began in 2013 with the aim of exploring the EU’s recommendations for healthy, active ageing and increasing the reflection of the needs and concerns of older people in contemporary cinema.

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