During the '84-'85 strikes ‘Coal not Dole' was vocalised, printed and worn by striking miners and their supporters.
"You have worn our badge, "Coal not Dole", and you know what harassment means, as we do. Now we will pin your badge on us, we will support you. It won't change overnight, but now 140,000 miners know that there are other causes and other problems. We know about blacks, and gays, and nuclear disarmament. And we will never be the same." - South Wales miner David Donovan at the 1984 Pits & Perverts benefit gig, put on by Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM)
On 1st March 1984 the closure of Cortonwood pit in South Yorkshire was announced and on 6th March further plans to close 20 pits in 1984, with a loss of 20,000 jobs, were revealed.
By 9th March a number of area strikes had been called and many felt a national strike was needed, but it was feared areas against strike action might swing a no vote in a ballot. So Arthur Scargill took the decision to call a strike without a ballot and on 12th March around half of the UK's miners came out on strike.
No ballot meant the action was illegal, leaving those on strike ineligible for benefits and with no income. So they relied on support groups. One of these was Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM).
LGSM was born out of a meeting held at the University of London Student Union following an impromptu collection for striking miners at the 1984 Gay Pride March. Of the eleven LGSM groups formed, London (linked with Dulais in South Wales) was the largest.
They carried out fundraising activities from collections outside the Gay's the Word Bookshop in Bloomsbury to jumble sales, and raised a total of £20,000. Their largest fundraiser was the ‘Pits & Perverts' benefits gig at the Underworld in Camden, its controversial name reclaimed from a charming phrase used by The Sun to label the relationship between miners and the gay community. The event raised £5,000.
Despite such efforts, financial hardship took its toll and on 3rd March 1985 the NUM National Executive voted for a return to work. The LGSM was disbanded but links between the communities remained. When LGSM was formed some thought offering support to workers who were traditionally seen as homophobic was naive; the Pride ‘85 march was led by an NUM banner and men, women and children from the Dulais mining community.
"Since my involvement with lesbians and gay men during the strike, I now know that if any of my children came to me and say ‘I'm lesbian' or ‘I'm gay', I'll understand." - Sian James, from Dulais, speaking to a crowd of thousands at Pride ‘85
An expanded version of this article, illustrated with photos from a LGSM disk held as part of the Library's collections, is at http://unlockideas.wordpress.com/
Click here for more information about the Miners' strike
Resources in the Library about the mining industry and its unions
Miners’ Federation of Great Britain, Annual reports 1893, 1898, 1900-1944 - Shelfmark: T15
Lancashire and Cheshire Miners’ Federation, Annual reports 1897-1944 (not complete) - Shelfmark: T20
National Coal Board, Memoranda of agreements 1945-1986 (not complete) Shelfmark: T19
National Union of Mineworkers, Annual reports 1945-1957, 1968-1991 (not complete) - Shelfmark: AF Mining Box 5
Miners' strike 1984-85:
Personal accounts including:
- Norma Dolby, Norma Dolby's diary: an account of the great miners' strike (1987) - Shelfmark: FR01
- David John Douglass, A year of our lives: a colliery community in the great coal strike of 1984/85 (1986) - Shelfmark: H32
- R Forbes, and D Smithson, Feelings alive '84/85: poems of the miners’ strike in Durham (1986) - Shelfmark: AE Miners Strike Box 6
- Jackie Keating, Counting the cost: a family in the miners' strike (1991) - Shelfmark: S45
A large box containing a pasted-up collection of locally-generated leaflet material, press cuttings etc
A collection of over 100 posters
National Union of Mineworkers, Nottingham area, Gedling branch: branch records
1985-1993 including minutes, letter book, cash book and other papers (Shelfmark AF Mining Boxes 7-18)
Archive of Lancashire Women Against Pit Closures – two banners, plus 14 boxes of material from 1992 to 1995, including letters of support and letters sending donations, minutes and accounts, media including publicity materials, literature relating to Parkside Pit Camp, petitions, address lists and visitors' book, papers relating to fundraising, videos, photographs, poetry and songs (Shelfmark AG LWAPC)
Search the catalogue for more material about the 1984-85 miners' strike, and mining unions more generally.
Resources held by the Modern Records Office
Other records are held at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick:
Mineworkers' Federation of Great Britain (MFGB) and its constituent associations/National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) (MSS.45/MFG, MSS.429/MFG, MSS.822/MFG, MSS.1018/MFG)