Dust not settled in Yorkshire over miners' strike

 
poster of the stage play dust Dust provoked an audience row in Barnsley this week

Fact and fiction collided in Barnsley this week as a row broke out amongst the audience of a controversial stage play called Dust which puts Arthur Scargill in the dramatic spotlight.

In the middle of the performance at the Barnsley Civic theatre a woman loudly harangued the actor playing the role of the now 74-year-old Arthur.

She criticised him for not putting up a good enough defence of his well-aired view that the miners did not lose that national strike of 28 years ago because "the struggle itself was the victory".

The woman was later identified as a member of the left wing Socialist Labour Party which Arthur Scargill himself revived in 1996 as a protest against Tony Blair's New Labour and has led ever since.

As the cast soldiered on more of those divisions over the strike and its consequences were exposed.

The heckler was shouted down by senior officials of the present day National Union of Mineworkers who had been invited to see the play.

Festering sores

"We clearly intended to provoke discussion and debate about one of the key figures of modern political history," writer and director Ade Morris told me.

Miners' strike demonstrators in 1984 Dust exposes the festering sores from the miners' strike in 1984

"We weren't expecting that reaction to be in the middle of the performance.

"Our experienced and professional cast can deal with anything so it did not disrupt us too much."

Dust, which now goes on a national tour taking in small theatres in many of the former coal communities of the North, Midlands and Scotland, follows The Iron Lady in exposing festering sores from the strike and its aftermath.

In Chesterfield veterans of the striking miners wives' support group, calling themselves The Real Iron Ladies, picketed the local cinema on its release in January.

They simply could not stomach the idea of Hollywood glamorising a Thatcher they still blame for destroying their communities.

In Barnsley the local independently-owned cinema, the Parkway, refused to show the film.

Even with its Oscars the chances of that ever happening are virtually nil.

Rich seam

Dust opens on the fictional day of Margaret Thatcher's funeral and has Arthur Scargill on stage throughout.

It is thought provoking drama not propaganda.

It does not hesitate to tackle the bleaker issues exposed by the social and political consequences of the loss of the coal industry.

The Real Iron Ladies picket a Chesterfield cinema The Real Iron Ladies picket a Chesterfield cinema

Yet it also cleverly mines a rich seam of often black coal fields humour.

It pricks Scargill's pomposity and highlights the well-heeled lifestyle he still continues to enjoy at the expense of an NUM that probably has less than 2,000 members still paying subscriptions.

The first class cast is led by veteran character actor Michael Strobel portraying an Arthur Scargill who can be both a rousing leader of men and a hen-pecked humbug.

Dust and The Iron Lady also unwittingly provoke a ground-breaking agreement between Thatcher and Scargill.

Neither has uttered a word about what they think of their theatrical portrayals.

The production now sets off on a tour of small theatres in the former coalfields taking in Newcastle, Cumbria, Cumbernauld, Newtongrange, Dundee, Lancaster, Liverpool, Glenrothes and Motherwell before finishing at Mansfield in the East Midlands.

 
Len Tingle Article written by Len Tingle Len Tingle Political editor, Yorkshire

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