Jeremy Deller: The Battle of Orgreave

A live re-enactment, filmed under the direction of Mike Figgis for Artangel Media and Channel 4.

17 June 2001, Orgreave, South Yorkshire

Photograph by Martin Jenkinson

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.

On 18 June of that year, the Orgreave coking plant was the site of one of the strike’s most violent confrontations. It began in a field near the plant and culminated in a cavalry charge through the village of Orgreave.

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 the former director of English Heritage’s event programme. More than 800 people participated in the re-enactment, many of them former miners, and a few former policemen, reliving the events from 1984 that they themselves took part in. Other participants were drawn from battle re-enactment societies across England.

The Battle of Orgreave was filmed by Mike Figgis for Artangel Media and Channel 4, and aired on Sunday, 20 October 2002. The film intercuts dramatic photographic stills from the clashes in 1984 with footage of the clashes re-enacted in 2001, together with moving and powerful testimonies, to tease out the complexities of this bitter struggle.

Mac McLoughlin, a former miner and serving policeman on the field that day, reveals details about the build-up within the police force prior to the stand-off; David Douglass (NUM) talks about the meaning of the confrontation in relation to the trade union movement in England; Stephanie Gregory (Womens’ Support Group) reminisces about the effects on family life; Tony Benn talks about the media's role in covering up the truth about the strike in 1984; and Jeremy Deller contextualises this event and highlights its contemporary cultural relevance.

Jeremy Deller proposed his project to Artangel via The Times/Artangel Open, conceived to give artists a unique opportunity to realise unusually ambitious projects. For the first time Artangel opened its doors for proposals from artists, rather than inviting them individually. Some seven-hundred proposals were tendered. The Battle of Orgreave was selected by a panel comprising Brian Eno, Rachel Whiteread, Richard Cork and Artangel Co-Directors James Lingwood and Michael Morris. The other selected project, also staged in 2001, was Michael Landy’s Break Down.

The film The Battle of Orgreave is included in The Artangel Collection.

This project was supported by Arts Council England, Special Angels and The Company of Angels.