It is 30 years now since the Miners Strike but in a church hall in Easington Colliery the struggles, the camaraderie and the bitter feuds and divisions were remembered as if it was yesterday.Community Arts theatre Company One For All Productions told the story of that fateful strike from the perspective of the women that were the glue in the north east coalfield community. The four members of the acting cast and one singer drew on stories and anecdotes from the women that fed and sustained the society and stood side by side with men on the picket lines. What made it all the more poignant for me was that many of the women whose stories were being voiced were sitting in the audience reliving it all again.
Interspersed with snapshots of lives from 1984 were the often heart wrenching testimonials from young girls that worked down the pits before the 1842 Royal Commission sent them back to the surface. With poems from Keith Armstrong, Christine Hogg and Florence Anderson and songs by Elvis Costello and Billy Bragg this play took you back into the sitting rooms and soup kitchens of 1984.
It was inspiring to hear of how the pit villages initially banded together and it was almost wartime like community spirit. But we heard shocking evidence of the attacks from without and within. There was extreme police harassment on the main streets of Easington as the coalfields became the frontline in a political battle field against an enemy within.
One For All were not seeking to re fan the flames of the blame game but were laying out the record from both sides and exposing the impact on the lives of the real women and their families. There was compassion but also hatred and real suffering for their cause. Food was scarce. Bills went unpaid. Stress and depression stalked the streets at night. There should have been no Christmas in Easington that year and yet they all rallied round to make it a special time.
Sad to think that the end of the strike was all too soon after followed by the end for the pits and with it a way of life and community. But in amongst the sadness there was a final defiant message that the women of that community were still there and fighting back.
Some of the words expertly voiced by the women on stage were from Heather Wood seated in the front row of the audience. After 30 years she is regaining her confidence to organise and rally the community to a cause, this time for the church whose fabric is in perilous condition. In a moving final scene the cast joined together to sing the stirring strike anthem, Women of the Working Classes. At the onset of the strike they were normal housewives, mothers, sisters and daughters yet many found a strength and a voice in a very dark hour when their community was being wrenched apart.
I felt very privileged to part of this special evening when the story of the women from the striking coalfields as told again. It was more memorable still that many of those women were seated in the audience and 30 years on their tales of heroism and defiance were given a platform and accorded deserved recognition. An inspiring story.
“Brilliant! Really good to hear the women’s perspective. Made me laugh + almost cry. Great acting, singing + script. Lush! Thank you”
“I think the quality of the acting and the way it all came together were very impressive. Informative with a welcome touch of humour. First class.”
“Brilliant. Very emotive.” “Amazing” “Very moving.”
“Very emotional & humbling play. Never got bored. Always something happening. Made me proud to be a woman. The camaraderie, humour & sadness of the situation was communicated so well. I laughed and cried. “
84 was brought to life by five very talented actresses. We shared their solidarity, their pain and loss as we watched. It is an important lesson in our social history, one that should be seen by the younger generations of the communities involved and beyond.
Winner – ‘Best Editing’ – Profire Short Film Festival – UK – 2012
Winner – ‘Best Fiction’ – South West London International Film Festival, UK – 2012
Winner – ‘Platinum Remi Award’ – Fantasy Horror Short Film – Houston International Film Festival, USA – 2013
Winner – ‘Best Film’ – Middlesbrough International Film Festival, UK – 2013
Winner – ‘Best Cinematography’/’Best Actor’ – Horror Realm International Film Festival, USA – 2014
Winner – ‘Best Director’ – Phoenix Comicon Film Festival, USA – 2014
Winner – ‘Best Foreign Short Film’ – Tuscon-Sci-Fi & Fantasy Film Festival, USA – 2014
Winner – ‘DFS Selection Award’ – Dream Film Showcase, USA – 2015
Winner – ‘Honourable Mention’ – Fantasmagorical Film Festival, USA – 2015
Winner – ‘Best Experimental Foreign Film’ – 5th International Film Festival of Kashmir, India – 2015
Winner – ‘Best Practical Effects’/’Audience Choice Award’ – Focus International Film Festival, USA – 2016
Winner – ‘Best Short Film’ – Space and Time Film Festival, Canada – 2016
Winner – ‘Best Sound Design’ – World Horror Con, USA – 2016
Winner – ‘Best Cinematography’ – Scares That Care Film Festival, USA – 2016
Winner – ‘Best of Fest’ – Strange Film Awards, Canada – 2016
Winner – ‘Audience Choice Award’ – Exposure Short Film Festival, UK – 2017
“Funded through Northern Film and Media/UK Film Council”
Girl And A Scar
Winner – ‘Best Horror (Short)’ – ALT Alternative Film Festival, Canada – 2017
Winner – ‘Best Horror’ – iChill International Film Festival, Philippines – 2018
Winner – ‘Best Fantasy’ – Cabin Fever Film Festival, USA – 2018
Winner – ‘Critics Choice Award’ – Cardiff Int. Film Festival, UK – 2018
Winner – ‘Best International Film’ – Chandannagar Int. Film Festival, India – 2018
Winner – ‘Best Short Film’ – Space & Time Film Festival, Canada – 2019
“You Think You Know Me”, participants (Changing Lives).