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Miners’ strike 30 years on: effects still felt today

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It’s 30 years since the start of the 1984 Miners’ Strike, one of the most bitter industrial disputes in history.

To mark the anniversary, we look at the impact the strike has had on our area - and how communities have fought back for survival...

Life, it was feared, was never going to be the same again for our region when the coal mining industry virtually ground to a halt.

With the main staple of employment gone, the life and soul of the once-proud communities had been seemingly snatched away.

The population in pit villages had swollen as mines opened and began thriving in the intervening years between world wars, attracting workers from across the country.

But as the industry slowly collapsed, many who had lost their livelihoods - and had precious few skills outside of the pit- were left facing a bleak future in the ever-lengthening dole queues.

Decades on since those dark days, emotions still run high among some who lost their jobs, and their family and friends.

However, those communities still stand, in one shape or another, as the fight to recover continues.

And the question remains whether these villages and towns can ever truly escape the deep-rooted memories of the past.

The Warsop area went through two closures, with Warsop Main Colliery closing in 1989 amidst reports it was losing £200,000 a week.

Neighbouring Welbeck carried on mining for another 21 years before the last shift in May 2010.

Mansfield councillor Phil Shields grew up in the Welbeck area, and said he was often caught in the middle with coal-mining friends, with some joining the picket lines, while others refused.

As devastating as the closures were, as a local representative Coun Shields sees the ongoing work to help revive those communities.

He said: “There’s no doubt that the community groups that came out of it are a lot stronger than what they would have been had the pits not closed.

“There are generations now buying houses in that area whose fathers didn’t even work down the pit, but the area will always been known for that.

“The community came together because of it, and they’re looking to create job opportunities.

“Welbeck only closed four years ago, and now the site has been cleared we can look to the future to attract businesses.

“There are some decent-sized companies, which are all promoting new technology which will help create those jobs.”

Like Warsop, Blidworth also closed in 1989.

Blidworth resident Derek Wilson, who worked down the pit for more than 20 years, said the closure triggered huge changes for the village.

“The biggest change was that you went from knowing everybody in the village, to knowing very few people,” explained Derek, who is also an honorary member of the Blidworth & District History & Heritage Society.

“It all changed when the pit closed. It was sad to see it go but we did not expect it to last forever.

“Blidworth went very quiet for a year or two, it was like a ghost town and everyone seemed to go their separate ways.

“There was a big impact but not necessarily for the worst, instead it brought in others and there’s now a nice diverse number of people.

“It’s starting to recover from the pit closure, but we have not got many local industries. You can’t expect it to be like it was but you have to move with the times.”

At Clipstone, the shadow of their pit still hangs over the village, literally.

The pit’s huge headstocks still stand, eleven years after the pit’s closure, and debate over whether they should be demolished or preserved as a permanent reminder of the mining heritage, continues.

Clipstone parish and district councillor, Sheila Soar, said: “I don’t dislike the headstocks, I just think they are standing in the way of progress. The site would be an ideal site for employment.

“We’ve become more of a mixed community since the pit closed, and a lot of people have moved into the village who have no mining background.

“But I don’t think Clipstone has recovered since those days, there are a lot of people looking for work and we need regeneration.”

Mansfield MP, Sir Alan Meale, who has represented the area since 1987, said the fight for recovery will continue but fears it is stuttering at present.

“There has been major investment programmes since those times, but they seem to have dropped off again,” he said.

“We are where we were after the miners’ strikes, and we’re continuing to fight for recovery and maintain the area as best we can, scratching around trying to encourage industries to come in to provide jobs and apprenticeships.

“Whatever people think, nobody disputes the fact that what happened devastated the area.

“What people were saying at the time has been proved correct, that all the pits would go and all the jobs would be lost. It was not just a fight for jobs back them, but a fight for communities as well.”

What do YOU think? Has this area recovered from the pit closures of the eighties?

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