Barton’s Britain: Orgreave
Dark and damp and deep, the earth gives up its secrets: scraps of metal, furls of plastic, rubble and pebbles and clay. Among them lie shards of coal, brittle and black and glistening. Rain speckles the soil, the mounds of earth, the stationary diggers. This is all that is left of Orgreave opencast mine.
It is 25 years since the Battle of Orgreave. In June 1984, at the height of the miners’ strike, the National Union of Mineworkers rallied some 6,000 pickets to this corner of Yorkshire, intending to blockade the coking plant and perhaps force its temporary closure. In response, the police sent somewhere between four and eight thousand officers, 50 mounted police and 58 police dogs. The events of that afternoon were violent and ferocious and long-disputed.
In its aftermath, 95 pickets were charged – although, of the trials that were brought, all collapsed, and South Yorkshire Police later awarded £425,000 compensation to 39 pickets.