It Is March 1984 and the miners’ strike has just started. By exploring both famous and previously unseen photographs through the lens of poetry, STRIKE captures the turbulence of one of the longest industrial disputes in British history, and the spirit of a marginalised community on the verge of profound change.

See the video: Miners’ Strike 1984-85 poetry-film, The Flat Cap by Sarah Wimbush

Yorkshire Times Poem of the Week


In STRIKE we journey from the North East which inspires Billy Elliot, to Wivenhoe Docks where flying pickets attempt to stop coal imports, to children riddling coal on spoil tips in Wales. We come face to face with politicised ‘Women Against Pit Closures’ and riot police brutality, and we discover what motivates Scargill while Thatcher’s tactics are laid bare in the Ridley Plan. The BBC’s reversed news footage of the Battle of Orgreave illustrates how the media manipulates coverage and the infamous ballot box stands silent. But there are moments of humanity: an impromptu game of football between Nottinghamshire police and strikers, the Pits and Perverts concert organised by ‘Lesbians and Gays Support The Miners’, and a Scottish policeman giving a picket the kiss of life. By 1985, these poems ache with strike-breakers, impacted children, and tragic deaths, but even in this most desperate of class struggles there are still flashes of humour and hope.


These poems are so powerful and moving that they almost set the page alight with their anger and craft; set alongside stunning photographs they really are first drafts of a history that needs to be told.

IAN McMILLAN – poet, journalist, playwright, broadcaster


Poems straight from the front line of the miners’ strike: sharp, impassioned, resonant. A genuine affinity with the people and places she writes about. Essential reading for this landmark anniversary.

IAN PARKS – poet, songwriter, academic


A fierce, gripping, and tender memorial to the coal-mining communities embroiled in the 1984/5 strike, as captured by the photographers of the time, and re-imagined for us by the poet Sarah Wimbush, whose indignation ignites the page.

AMY WACK – poet and editor, based in Cardiff, Wales


This moving and important book about the miners’ strike is a sustained act of attention that, through photographs and poems, captures the raw, tender texture of the recent past. A poetic archive of slogans, slang and heart-breaking details – home-perms, clubs, jumble, chips and scraps – reminds us that, defiantly: ‘Our language still exists’.

CLARE POLLARD – poet, novelist, playwright, literary translator, critic


A powerful collection in which the cruelty and the humanity are given equal measure. There’s Orgreave anger, of course, but what comes over most strongly is a celebration of community. I don’t just mean the obvious community of the pit villages; it’s the wider sense that, even in such a violent and, at times, callous, series of encounters, there’s an underlying bond, exemplified in Kick-off and The Kiss. (Brilliant sequencing to follow the notorious Lesley Boulton photo, and poem, with the latter, and giving the poem its Rodinesque title universalises it.)
One of the many strengths is the portrayal of miners’ wives, ‘women who understand’. I love, and am moved by, a perceptive and succinct depiction of them ‘ … with their Avon and home perms, / widowhood and thrift’. A whole world there. And the Maltby miner’s wife, ‘her eyes, anthracite on fire’. Just brilliant.
There’s the final, anti-climactic irony that it’s ‘our dove brass’ that brings to an end not just a year of industrial action, but a way of life that has sustained generations of the families of delvers in ‘the belly of England’. The Flat Cap spells out this tragedy as it imagines a future where miners are an anachronism, lost in history. The strength of the poems is enhanced by being written in Our Language.

BOB HORNE (publisher Calder Valley Poetry)