Presenting all sides of the 1984 miner's strike at the Galleries of Justice

By Ed Sexton | 26 August 2009
a large group of police officers clashing with protestors

A police tactic known as the wedge used to stop striking miners from gaining entry past the picket lines. © Galleries of Justice

The first ever exhibition funded as part of a PHD, opens at the Galleries of Justice in Nottingham on September 19. Strike will mark the 25th anniversary of the Miner's Strike of 1984 – a period of time which had a huge impact on the Midlands city.

PHD student Laura Allen was awarded a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council for Collaborative Doctorates to put together the show with the Museum, choosing to explore the miners' strike for its controversial nature.

"I chose the miners' strike because many museums that deal with crime take a very linear approach and tend to shy away from controversial issues," explains Laura.

The exhibition also represents a real coup for the Galleries, as it is the first time the Scotland Yard Museum of Crime has agreed to loan objects to an exhibition.

"The strike is an area of police history that is not black and white," adds Laura. "There are several points of view that have to be represented and I wanted to explore this controversial issue and look at every side of the argument.

"A lot of previous miners' strike exhibitions have just looked at what happened from the point of view of the striking miners, but this exhibition will look at what happened to the miners who kept working and what they went through, which is especially relevant to Nottingham."

In the Nottinghamshire coalfields, many miners refused to back the strike without an official ballot, which led to local working miners crossing picket lines manned by striking miners – flying pickets – from pits elsewhere across the UK.

The result was a dispute that divided colleagues and split communities. Many felt that Nottinghamshire was effectively turned into a Police state during the strike as the authorities desperately tried to keep pits open and stem the flow of pickets.

"I have carried out a small number of oral history interviews with miners from the local area that will be included in the exhibition," adds Laura who has worked to ensure its content offers a balance to all the groups involved.

"There is a lot of memorabilia from the striking miners and we have riot shields, helmets and public orders from the police side," she says.

"The exhibition looks into the history of the police and public disorder. The riots in the 1980s had a lot to do with the police force changing tactics. We have one riot shield that was used in the Brixton riots, which has been badly fire damaged.

"The police lost control and had to get that back and show they were strong. The miners' strike was the first instance where these new public order tactics were used."

The Galleries of Justice is promising a thought-provoking exhibition that will enhance the understanding of how and why violence escalated on the picket line, with, perhaps for the first time, the views of all sides taken into account.

For more information on Strike, which runs at the Galleries of Justice between September 19 2009 and August 19 2010, visit the Galleries of justice online or call 0115 952 0555.

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