Miners’ strike photo exhibition at Wakefield’s Unity Hall

Launch of a photographic exhibition on the 1984-5 miners' strike with John Harris and others. Part of events to mark 30 years since miners returned to work at the end of the year-long dispute.'pictured John Harris
Launch of a photographic exhibition on the 1984-5 miners' strike with John Harris and others. Part of events to mark 30 years since miners returned to work at the end of the year-long dispute.'pictured John Harris
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The conflict and camaraderie of the 1984-5 miners’ strike is captured in two powerful photographic exhibitions.

Pictures by photographers who braved the picket lines are on display at Wakefield’s Unity Hall ahead of a day-long festival tomorrow to mark 30 years since the end of the dispute. Photographs by Martin Jenkinson tell the story of the bitter year-long dispute which changed the face of the country.

Launch of a photographic exhibition on the 1984-5 miners' strike with John Harris and others. Part of events to mark 30 years since miners returned to work at the end of the year-long dispute.'pictured John Harris

Launch of a photographic exhibition on the 1984-5 miners' strike with John Harris and others. Part of events to mark 30 years since miners returned to work at the end of the year-long dispute.'pictured John Harris

Mr Jenkinson’s family have put his pictures on display following his death in 2012. The former Sheffield steelworker was known for turning up on his motorbike to take pictures during the strike as the National Union of Mineworkers’ official photographer.

His daughter Juztine said: “We wanted to keep his legacy going. The strike was a very big part of people’s lives. Some people get very emotional to see the pictures.”

A second exhibition is on display with pictures from the Report Digital archive. It includes pictures by photo journalists including John Sturrock, John Smith and John Harris. Mr Harris described frightening confrontations as police used military-style tactics to try and break the strike.

He said: “They were criminalising the pickets. It was all about breaking the strike. It was a paramilitary police force and a national police force for the first time.”

In one picture a man lies on a bloody road surrounded by police. Another photograph resembles a medieval battle scene, with lines of police holding long shields and officers on horseback.

Among events captured in the exhibitions are the “Battle of Orgreave”, when police clashed with picketing miners at a coking plant near Rotherham in June 1984.

Strikers were attempting to blockade the plant in what became a pivotal moment in the dispute.

Three decades later, there are calls for an inquiry into the policing that day after miners were arrested but subsequent court cases against them collapsed.

Mr Harris had to run from police officers himself at times as photographers were caught up in disturbances during his time photographing at picket lines. He said: “I was taking some ridiculous risks. They came for me a few times.

“Even 30 years later it is seared in my memory. I go to sleep at night and I’m back in the fields around pit villages in the middle of nowhere, running for my life.

“Nobody expected the strike to last a year. It was so exhausting. We ended up in a pretty poor state.” The exhibitions also tell the story of how communities and the action group Women Against Pit Closures supported the miners. The exhibitions were organised as part of With Banners Held High, a day of events to mark 30 years since miners returned to work at the end of the dispute.

Today, film screenings, debates, music and drama will be held at Unity Hall.

It has been organised by the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, which is calling for a full inquiry into the Orgreave policing.

Granville Williams, a founding member of the action group, said: “These photos are a powerful reminder of what the miners and their communities experienced during the strike.

“I hope younger people especially will come along to view these striking images.”