PETER FROST remembers how important culture and music always are in any political battle, not least the Miners Strike.
Culture and music are important in any political struggle, Songs and theatre are another way to win minds, put over political ideas and boost morale in any struggle and that was certainly true when Maggie Thatcher declared war on the Coal Industry and the Miner’s early in 1984.
With a small group of communists in Watford I had been helping to run a left wing agitprop cabaret club. We called it The Red Wedge after the famous Soviet lithograph Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge by Lissitzky.
A few years later we would be mildly flattered and only a tiny bit miffed when Billy Bragg, Paul Weller, Kirsty MacColl and the Communards lead singer Jimmy Somerville chose the same name for their cultural campaign to engage young people with Labour party politics.
If nicking our name helped their efforts to get rid of Thatcher in the 1987 Election then they could use it with our blessing.
In our turn we had been inspired by the American women textile workers action in Lawrence Massachusetts during early 1912 – now widely known as the Bread and Roses strike. Like Joe Hill, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger these women understood the value of using music and culture in working class battles.
This was known as the singing strike, so many immigrants were involved that they had only one common language, the language of song. Union ballads educated and agitated as they always have and always will.
We did the same thing in Watford, we organised shows in support of the striking miners, the women’s support groups and local pickets.
Our evening events were a chance for the local left to come together, to share stories of that week’s battles on the picket lines and to plan for future action while they enjoyed the show and a pint.
Some weeks it was a chance to meet miners and their families and to collect both money, food and supplies for them to take back to their communities.
Local singers and musicians Bob Wakeling (above), Mary and Barny Wood and myself, as writer, put together a show of song, poetry, theatre and humour. It changed every week as events in the strike developed.
We performed the show not just in Watford but anywhere we could find a sympathetic audience.
In the great scheme of things it was just a small contribution, but we lifted spirits and gave people the confidence that comes of being part of a big and powerful movement.
We were just one tiny part of that huge and proud moment in working class history that was the Miners Strike, but we are all still immensely proud of the part we played.
This article first appeared in the Morning Star Miners Strike Special 8 March 2014