In 1984 Mineworkers in the Britain went on strike, not for more money or for better working conditions but to save their jobs, their way of life and their communities. The threat came from Margaret Thatcher and her Tory government. It was her aim to shut down the coal industry by closing pits, something that was denied at the time but has since been proved to be correct. Before the strike in 1983 there were 174 working pits, by 2009 there was only six and now there are no working pits in any part of Britain mostly due to one rather cruel and heartless woman.
Brassed Off (1996) was set during the pit closures the Tory Governments were determined to implement following the end of the miners strike in 1985. Its now 1992 and the miners of Grimley Colliery North Yorkshire are facing a very uncertain future when the closures threaten their small mining community. Because many of the mine workers believe that the redundancy offer will be excepted there is no point in keeping the local Colliery Band alive, but their passionate band leader Danny (Peter Postlewaite) is having nothing of the kind and wants to enter the band into the National Brass Band Championship to take place at the Albert Hall in London. Help to achieve this end comes from a surprising source. The beautiful and talented young granddaughter of a former bandleader returns to her hometown and is invited to join the band, raising the spirits of its members. Gloria (Tara Fitzgerald) also rekindles her relationship with Andy her childhood sweetheart. But when Andy (Ewan McGregor) and the other members discover that she works for the British Coal Board and is researching the pits viability to see if it makes financial sense to keep it open they ostracise her.
|Danny leads the Colliery Band.|
In hindsight we now know that that even if a coal mine was financially viable Thatcher’s masters wanted the pits closed. At its heart Mark Herman’s film, although there are some very humorous moments, has an underlying story about the hardships that were deliberately put upon the working men and women and their families along with the ruination of the industrial bedrock of the UK and the abolition of the organisations that represented the worker by an uncaring government and their wealthy cohorts only interested in the profit motive and power.
|Still proud of their heritage (Durham 2016)|
A very emotionally poignant story whose cast is a credit to Herman’s script, acting out their roles with great feeling so much so that you can easily believe that they are committed to the underlying message that I believe the film sends out. If you have never seen this wonderful example of British filmmaking then I urge you to put that right immediately. Either you have a heart of stone or think that the sun shined out of Thatcher’s backside not to empathise with what was happening. The workingmen and women of this country are still suffering with an extreme right wing government inflicting never ending austerity, zero hours contracts and a minimum wage that is so low it has to be topped up with in-work benefits.