The Battle of Orgreave
FT Weekend Magazine commissioned me to visit the site of the infamous Battle of Orgreave, a pivotal moment in the 1984-85 miners’ strike. On 18th June 1984, thousands of police drafted from around the country clashed with striking miners picketing a coking plant in Orgreave, South Yorkshire. Typically the police would be diverting pickets away from an area, but on this occasion the miners were corralled into a field enclosed by a live railway line. A road flanking the adjacent side of the land allowed police officers to deploy rapidly, equipped with riot gear and supported by police dogs and horse mounted units. It is debated who acted first but in an excessive show of force, the police launched three increasingly aggressive charges against the miners, delivering baton beatings and forcing their retreat over the railway line into the village. The confrontation has been described by historian Tristram Hunt as "almost medieval in its choreography... at various stages a siege, a battle, a chase, a rout and, finally, a brutal example of legalised state violence.”
Ninety-five miners were arrested that day and charged with riot, an offence punishable by life imprisonment at the time. However, there was doubt in court over the reliability of evidence given by the police. Many of their statements were suspiciously identical and several had a forged signature. Mining communities felt they had been set up by the police and began to question the orchestrated nature of the conflict. Had the order to be heavy handed with miners picketing at Orgreave come from the very top? Speculation was rife that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was using the Police as her own personal army against the striking miners. Today, trust in the authorities remains fractured in these regions.
The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign was established to push for a full independent inquiry into what happened at Orgreave on 18th June 1984. For FT Weekend Magazine, I photographed several of its key supporters including ex-miners and trade unionists who are determined to uncover the full story. In October 2016, Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced there would be no statutory inquiry or independent review, and so the campaign continues.