NEVER FORGET NEVER FORGIVE

My own most vivid memory of the 1984-85 miners strike is being fourteen and hanging around with a bunch of mates, the usual reprobates, outside Robin Rix’s corner shop, with its John Bull logo complete with Union Jack waistcoat emblazoned across the window. There were about ten or eleven of us varying in age from about 12 to 16, mainly boys, but with a few older girls. There was never much to do in Kilnhurst, so we would just hang about outside the shops hoping someone would come up with a Good Idea. Preferably that didn’t involve glue or Briwax. David’s older brother had just got taken to hospital with some sort of glue residue in his lungs. That night Alan, whose Dad was on strike, had been given some homemade Nunchucks for his birthday and this lifted the boredom. The yellow light emanating from the Shung Ying takeaway seemed to make a perfect exotic location with its red plastic lanterns and stylised oriental writing in yellow and gold. Every one was taking turns pretending to be Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. I was still waiting my turn when three police riot vans came at speed down the hill that leads past us and into the village, grills down and blue lights flashing. These were not local police, these were the MET and they did this sort of stuff just to intimidate the village, but tonight they came straight for us. Driving their vans up onto the pavement forming a semi-circle of blinding bright lights. Half the group legged it behind Robin Rix’s and down onto the railway banking to hide. I stayed, probably paralysed by fear, while Alan and some of the older kids started gobbing off.

PIG.

PIG.

PIG…SCUM.

The Police jumped out of their vans wearing helmets with visors covering their faces. It was the first time I had ever seen police look like this. They lined us up against the van, stole Alan’s Nunchucks and threatened us, ‘This village is now under a curfew. If we see any gatherings of more than six people after nine pm we are going to arrest them’. I have never found out if they actually had this power, I suspect they were lying, just another part of their psychological warfare against pit villages. Kilnhurst colliery was shutdown not long after the strike. The pit wheel is half buried in St Thomas’s church yard accompanied by a gravestone, but the epitaph most often recited in these villages is: NEVER FORGET NEVER FORGIVE.

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John Wild

John Wild is a London based artist who works across photography, video, sculpture, code and performance to explore and reimaging the digitally expanded city.

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