Other side of the line

When I was living in Manchester, I met lots of wonderfully creative photographers via the analogue ‘mother’ of Instagram – Lomography. One of those photographers is Vanessa Short who is now working on a fascinating personal project documenting the coal miners who returned to work early, breaking the 1984-1985 strike. She is looking into getting funding to help with the cost of putting this project out there into the public sphere, in the hope that she’ll find people to take part. Vanessa told me:

This strike is a part of our industrial heritage, it was a strike not for more money or better working conditions but the right to earn a decent wage from a productive colliery in a community whose survival depended on the working pit. Without a national ballot on 12 March 1984 a national strike was called for NUM members in all coalfields and on the 22nd March the strike was announced official. With Thatcher’s government insisting that Britain’s coal-fired power stations create their own stockpiles of coal ready for industrial action so they would remain running throughout the strike seemed to set the miners up to fail and the only ones going without were the men themselves unable to pay without a wage. The action saw the tapping of union leaders’ phones and rumours of public phones within the villages to prevent miners moving around the country and combat flying pickets at working collieries. The strike cost the country 200m for the police officers for holding back the mass pickets during this year long strike, and the lives of 6 children, 3 picketers and one taxi driver.

It’s a very personal project for me as my family were coal miners based in Wales and Yorkshire during the strike. Unaware the strike was almost over, my father returned to work 3 days before the strike ended. To this day he’s always been known as a scab in the Doncaster village he worked at the time, with phone calls threatening him that they’d not forgotten for the two years he’d remained in Yorkshire. Many other men made the same decision as he and I’d like to record these accounts to mark the 30th anniversary of the strike ending in 2015.

In order to apply for an arts council grant, Vanessa needs to have found private funding first. She has started a crowd funding project with Sponsume and any help you can give would be very much appreciated. There is a website for the project, a blog documenting her progress, and a Twitter account too. Please spread the word and help Vanessa to fund the project and find contributors.

Full details can be found on the project’s Sponsume page: http://www.sponsume.com/project/other-side-line

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