WOMEN from the Women Against Pit Closures movement visited publicly-owned Hebden Bridge Picture House to see the controversial film “The Iron Lady” when it was shown prior to the cinema being taken over by Hebden Royd Town Council. Among them was one of the movement’s founder members, Anne Scargill, who is a regular visitor to the Upper Calder Valley.
For more than 30 years Mrs Scargill was married to Arthur Scargill, President of the National Union of Mineworkers, one of the national leaders of the year-long strike against pit closures of 1984-85.
She played a leading role in the mobilisation of thousands of women during the miners’ strike. She is currently an anti-cuts campaigner in her home town of Barnsley.
She was accompanied on her visit to the Picture House by two other activists from Women Against Pit Closures, Sandra Hutchinson and Shirley Haigh. All three were scathing about the film.
“The film didn’t mention the destruction Thatcher carried out on Britain’s miners, their industry, their jobs, their families and their communities,” she said. “Those communities are still suffering today. Our young people were left without a future.“The film was sympathetic to Margaret Thatcher – but not to her victims.”
The Women Against Pit Closures movement was launched at a mass meeting in Barnsley, as the miners’ struggle stretched into the summer of 1984. Women’s groups were set up in pit communities across Britain. For some of the women it was their first experience of picketing, fund-raising, public speaking and other action. It changed the lives of many for ever – women who would not return to their roles as housewives when the dispute was over. Many went into higher education and created new lives for themselves.
There were also hundreds of Miners’ Support Groups across Britain collecting food and raising funds – including a group in Hebden Bridge. Before the strike there were 170,000 coal miners in Britain working at 170 pits. Today there are five pits and less than 2,000 miners. Britain imports more than 40m tonnes of coal a year, having abandoned at least 200-years of coal reserves through the Thatcher Government’s determination to destroy the National Union of Mineworkers.
Mrs Scargill has been a speaker at the Trades Club at Hebden Bridge. She also visits friends including socialist artist Andrew Turner, who lives in Todmorden, and is creating a new banner for the Women Against Pit Closures movement. The banner will be seen in public for the first time when it has pride of place at the front of the march of around 70 trades union banners which marks the start of the annual Durham Miners’ Gala in June. The gala is one of the biggest cultural gatherings of the labour and trades union movement in Europe.
Two films on the True Meaning of Thatcherism
Shown on Wednesday 22nd February 2012 – The Trades Club, Hebden Bridge
The Health Industry Lobbying Tour
‘Watch this short film about how the private health care industry has its tentacles in the heart of government’.
Miner’s Campaign Tapes
‘In 1984 a group of independent film and video makers decided to show their support for the miners’ strike using the tools they had available: their cameras. On the picket lines, at the marches and in the soup kitchens, they recorded the testimonies of the striking miners, their wives and supporters, in a fight against anti-strike propaganda dominating the mainstream media. A testament to solidarity and activism, the tapes tackle issues which continue to occupy us today: the right to demonstrate, police tactics, political double-speak, the role of the media. They are a crucial document of a cataclysmic episode of British history’.
These films are being shown at this time to provide an alternative take on the Holywood film ‘The Iron Lady’. The producer of this film, Damian Jones, wrote in the Daily Telegraph, that ‘The Iron Lady’ is the most powerful piece of propaganda for conservatism.” The Sun called it “a true story of feminism in action.” The reality of Thatcherism is a much darker story.
During the years of the Tory government of 1978 – 1990, Margaret Thatcher accelerated the transfer of wealth to the richest 1% of the population. She removed banking regulation and ‘achieved’ the fastest drop in living standards since the war. She created the worst level of unemployment ever seen in this country with 3.3 million people on the dole and increased VAT from 8% to 15%. In 1982, for first time ever, the UK imported more manufactured goods than exports. British Airways, British Gas, British Leyland, British Rail, British Telecom, National Bus Company, Central Electricity Generating Board, National Coal Board, National Freight Corporation, Associate British Ports were all turned into private monopolies. She broke the link between pensions and earnings and slashed grants to councils. She sold off council houses and restricted council house building to the lowest it had been since the 1920s. Council rents were doubled. She introduced anti-trade union laws and legislated to greatly restrict the right to strike.
The real heroines are the Iron Ladies in groups such as Women Against Pit Closures and the millions of ordinary working class women who are resisting the privatization and cuts in the N.H.S. and to public services in 2012.