Stories from the Miners’ Strikes: Billy Elliot Real World Connections Segment 2

Our second story about the real people and history behind the story of Billy Elliot comes from the wife of the miner’s son in segment 1. She was involved with the miners’ strikes and the Labour Party at the national level.

“The women in the pit villages i.e. wives, daughters, mothers, sisters of the miners became fully involved. Money ran out soon and they worked together to run communal kitchens to feed their communities. The Miners’ Wives Support Groups became an essential part of the fight against the closure of the pits. In the bigger towns and cities, trade unionists, Labour Party branches, and women’s groups adopted Miners’ Wives Support Groups and helped them with funds, donations of food, baby and children’s clothes, and equipment.

I regularly did the fresh fruit and veg run on a Saturday evening when the greengrocer shop in Headingley donated everything they had left at the end of business. All of my daughter’s baby clothes, terry nappies, and equipment was donated. Many of the miners’ wives turned out to be brilliant orators and came into the bigger towns and cities to passionately address meetings to build support.

I was invited to speak at meetings of women in the pit villages. The first time I did that I went with my well prepared speech, but the women weren’t having any of the formality of me making my speech and them getting to ask questions afterwards. I soon learned that it was a different style of political meeting to what I had previously known – you just had to try and get a chance to get a word in!

Community spirit was amazing, but Thatcher’s Tory Government was determined to defeat the miners and close the coalfields. A year’s a long time for whole communities to be on strike, and every dirty trick in the book was used to entice those who were wavering to return to work.”