About the project

Jeremy Deller and Mike Figgis
The Battle of Orgreave
17 June 2001

In 1984 the National Union of Mineworkers went on strike. The dispute lasted for over a year and was the most bitterly fought since the general strike of 1926, marking a turning point in the struggle between the government and the trade union movement.

Jeremy Deller's The Battle of Orgreave, staged seventeen years later, was a spectacular re-enactment of what happened on that day. It was orchestrated by Howard Giles, a historical re-enactment expert and filmed under the direction of Mike Figgis for Artangel Media and Channel 4.

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Background

The English Civil War: Part II

"On 18 June 1984 I was watching the evening news and saw footage of a picket at the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire in which thousands of men were chased up a field by mounted police. It seemed a civil war between the North and the South of the country was taking place in all but name. The image of this pursuit up the hill stuck in my mind and for years I wanted to find out what exactly happened on that day with a view to re-enacting or commemorating it in some way. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the strike, like a civil war, had a traumatically divisive effect at all levels of life in the UK. Families were torn apart because of divided loyalties, the union movement was split on its willingness to support the National Union of Mineworkers, the print media especially contributed to the polarization of the arguments to the point where there appeared to be little space for a middle ground."

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Interview with David Douglass

David Douglass is Hatfield Branch Delegate for the National Union of Mineworkers:

"There was something funny about the whole operation. Whereas in Nottingham they put up road-blocks, at Orgreave they had signs telling you where to go - 'this way to Orgreave'... All you needed was an official starter with a flag and a whistle to set us off and we could batter each other for three hours, go for dinner, have a pint, come back and do it again in the second half!

"In strategic terms it was like the scene from The Charge of the Light Brigade, with the cavalry in this field, the horses down that side, rows and rows and rows of the people with the long riot shield, the snatch-squads placed behind them and the whole thing set out. We turned up with pit wit to try and fight them in the way we'd fought them in 1972 and 1974, but the odds were very, very strongly against us."

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