Tag: Barnsley

We’re Not Going Back

Red Ladder Theatre Company Presents

We’re Not Going Back

Thursday 18 September – Saturday 20 September

We’re Not Going Back is about the 1984/85 miners’ strike… more or less.

But, in this hard-hitting musical comedy there are no miners. Instead, we follow the fortunes of three sisters in a pit village, hit hard by the Government’s war against the miners and determined to set up a branch of ‘Women Against Pit Closures’.

Olive, Mary and Isabel are like any other sisters whose everyday squabbles became a background hum to the strike that forced them to question their lives, their relationships and their family ties. This strike wasn’t just a battle fought out between pickets, police, politicians and public opinion. It was as much a battle in the homes and families of those fighting for their communities.

We’re Not Going Back tackles the resilience of working communities, the make-and-mend fabric of family and the power of sticking two fingers up to a government hell-bent on destruction… and all with humour, song and a six pack of Babycham.

Coal fields: A legacy to the Miners’ Strike

Photographer Andrew Foley examines the changed landscape of mining communities since the 1984-85 strike through contemporary images from the sites of all 44 collieries in the Barnsley, Doncaster and South Yorkshire Coalfields that were open immediately prior to the dispute.

Each image is accompanied by information on workforce numbers and coal tonnage preceding the dispute, together with details of the colliery’s fate and future usage of the site.

Visitors will also be able to view Mike Figgis’ 2001 documentary about Jeremy Deller’s ‘The Battle of Orgreave’; a re-enactment of the confrontation between striking miners and the police that occurred at the Orgreave Coking Plant in Yorkshire on 18 June 1984. Orchestrated by historical re-enactment expert Howard Giles, more than 800 people participated; many of them former miners and a few former policemen, and relived the events from 1984.

For Deller the miners’ strike, and specifically the clash between the pickets and police at Orgreave, resembled the events of a civil war, medieval in their physical and social brutality. For him, the specific historical event that unfolded at Orgreave stands as a symbol of the destruction of mining communities as well as the wider social fabric of the working class during the Thatcher government.

This is the real Big Society!

Barnsley Unite CSC Staff

Volunteers Richard Vivian, Pete Smith, Muhammad Tariq, Coordinator Joe Rollin and Brian Clarke, outside the centre.

When the Unite Community Support Centre in Barnsley opened its doors on a blazing hot day in June 2013 to a fanfare from the Unite Brass Band, it was with a sense of much needed optimism.

The shadow of the Miners’ Strike has hung like a pall over Barnsley for thirty years. The coal mines that once defined the town are now gone and with little remaining industry, Barnsley has been particularly vulnerable to the storms that have swept the economy in recent decades.

Harry Leslie Smith, in his excellent book, ‘Harry’s Last Stand’ described the grinding poverty of his early life in Barnsley during the 1920s. Not much has changed and what did, such as the NHS and our Welfare State are now being severely eroded. Currently standing as the fourth most deprived local authority in Yorkshire and the Humber, low wages, benefit cuts, sanctions and the hated Bedroom Tax are taking their toll. It seems appropriate that the office is situated in the NUM Headquarters, once known as ‘Arthur’s Castle’.

The centre is open for two days a week and is run entirely by volunteers. It offers a range of advice on benefits issues, including support for appeals and representation at tribunals. It also runs courses on welfare advice training, helping people with computer skills and internet access with the ‘Learn My Way’ course.

Richard Vivian is a retired Welfare Benefits Advisor, who moved to Barnsley thirty years ago, “I came down from Scotland in the middle of the Miners’ Strike and established the Barnsley Centre Against Unemployment, which I managed for over twelve years. The idea of a community union for people not in work, students or retired, organised within one of the biggest unions in Europe not only caught my imagination, it also fulfilled a long time personal aim to unite those in work with those out of work. So when the opportunity arose to become involved in the development of a community support centre in Barnsley, I grabbed the chance. We continue to apply the original aims of the centre and will carry on as long as the problems of working class people remain and we can create and achieve a better and fairer society.

Unite launched its Community Membership Scheme in early 2012, with the aim of bringing the principles of trade unionism to the heart of our communities, such as the values of solidarity, dignity and respect.

During Cameron’s numerous launches and re-launches of his beleaguered ‘Big Society’ flagship policy (a thinly veiled attack on public sector services, under the guise of community involvement), he can’t have imagined Unite Community, even in his darkest nightmares.

Unite Regional Co-ordinator, Joe Rollin explains, “our initiative was a response to massive unemployment, especially amongst young people. Unite saw this as disastrous for the country as a whole and thought it had a moral duty to these people. The whole trade union movement I think, was shocked by the savage way in which the Tories implemented their austerity programme, dismantling our public services and unravelling our welfare state. The movement needed to engage with our communities to help organise a fight back.”

Joe was instrumental in setting up the centre, “the vision is to reach into our communities which once had thriving industries, where joining a union was as normal as having a cup of tea. Now with de-industrialisation, the toll of unemployment has meant that the reality for working class people is bleak. No work at all, minimum wage jobs or zero hours contracts. We want to instil a feeling of dignity and respect back into these communities and show through collective organisation we can stop some of the vicious Con-Dem cuts.”

Volunteers Muhammad (Mo) Tariq, Brian Clarke and Peter Smith play a huge role in helping to run the centre. Mo moved to Barnsley from London in 2011 and advises visitors on welfare rights, helps with admin work and keeps the centre’s social media channels and blog up to date. He says, “I wanted to help people in whatever capacity I could, as the current economic climate is very harsh and communities are suffering.”

Brian helps to facilitate the centre’s various computer courses, such as Learn My Way and Learn with Unite ICT. He is from Sheffield and is a retired engineering worker, first joining the AEU in 1955. He also served as Secretary and General Manager of the Wortley Hall collective until 2005 when he retired, remaining on the management board as Political Secretary until 2013. He says, “after reading an article in the Morning Star I contacted Joe and asked if I could help, as I wanted to keep in touch with our Union. I have been involved in the centre from the early organising meetings and really enjoy the work. We have a very good team in Barnsley with a good mixture of skills and abilities to help the local community.”

Pete has always been active in the trade union movement and was an officer in the Transport & General Union from 1983 until his retirement in 2007. He helps with benefits advice, industrial problems and tribunals. Pete says, “I see Unite Community as more of a movement than anything else. I’d like to see it grow and spread its influence throughout the community, creating links with industrial branches. The centre is the ideal opportunity for me to put something back by helping people.”

In its first year, the centre conducted 180 interviews, giving advice on a range of issues such as Employment Support Allowance, Job Seekers’ Allowance, Housing Benefit, Council Tax, Bedroom Tax and Discretionary Housing Payments. Advisors attended seventeen tribunals and closed 83 cases.

Richard expands on this, “We cannot win all the time but by taking a claimant through the process of claiming and appealing at tribunals, we are helping that person regain their dignity and showing that we do care.

“Mr R was one of our first cases, seeking help with his Working Tax Credit claim. We managed to recover a total of £4,795.68 from HMRC on his behalf.”

“Another successful case,” continued Richard, “was Ms C. “By successfully claiming the Personal Independence Payment and Carers Allowance, as well as winning two Bedroom Tax appeals we increased her benefits from £71.70 per week last year, to £190.80 per week this year.”

Alongside the advice service, another important aspect of the centre’s work is supporting local campaigns. Over the last year, the centre has supported campaigns as diverse as the local Anti-Bedroom Tax campaign, Orgreave Truth and Justice, the strike by Care UK workers, the celebrated South Yorkshire Freedom Riders and the NUM’s 30th anniversary commemorations of the Miners’ Strike.

Joe explains, “The NUM have been a symbol of resistance in the local community. People remember clearly the heroic struggle against the last Conservative government and what loosing that struggle has meant to the trade union movement as a whole. Unite wanted to educate people about our past struggles and learn lessons for the future.”

For this reason, the centre has also set up its own Community Library, with a focus on the history of the trade union movement and radicalism. The growing collection has received donations from Unite members, Red Pepper magazine and would welcome any further donations.

There is no formal lending system, “people just turn up and we record their name, phone number and the books that they have borrowed on our record sheet. There is no need to become a member or make any payments, we just trust people to be honest,” said Joe.

The Unite Community Support Centre in Barnsley has covered a lot of ground over the last year, offering support and advice to the local community. This is especially impressive when considered that the centre is only open for two days a week and stands as a testament to the passion and dedication of its volunteers.

“We have come a long way in a short period of time,” says Joe, “ we want to continue our unique blend of practical support, radical education and direct action against the cuts, so that we can continue to live up to our slogan, ‘educate, agitate, organise’!”

NHS Emergency March

People's March for the NHS, Darlington


Here are some pictures of the NHS Emergency March as it made its way through our region. The demonstration has been hugely successful highlighting the precarious position that the NHS is in and the marchers have been greeted with overwhelming support in the local communities, The march ends this Saturday in London please show your support in any way you can link here.

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NUM Banner Exhibition

As part of the 30th Anniversary of the Strike Commemorations the Yorkshire Area NUM in partnership with the “BARNSLEY CIVIC” are holding a “Banners Display” of Barnsley Area Pit Branches open at the time of the Strike, in the Civic Building from 27th August-6th September. Admission is free. Mining Memorabilia will also be on display.
NB (Closed on Sundays).

View the event poster here: NUM BANNERS 1 (3)

NUM Banner Exhibition

As part of the 30th Anniversary of the Strike Commemorations the Yorkshire Area NUM in partnership with the “BARNSLEY CIVIC” are holding a “Banners Display” of Barnsley Area Pit Branches open at the time of the Strike, in the Civic Building from 27th August-6th September. Admission is free. Mining Memorabilia will also be on display.
NB (Closed on Sundays).

View the event poster here: NUM BANNERS 1 (3)

Rebels on a journey to defend free travel pass

Originally published in the Daily Mirror, by Ros Wynne-Jones.

Ros Wynne-Jones meets a growing movement of hundreds of pensioners and disabled people in South and West Yorkshire, the two men have refused to accept cuts to their free services and have been refusing to pay their fares.

Arriving at the former offices of the National Union of Mineworkers in Barnsley, 30 years after the Miners’ Strike, I’m seeking an Arthur who has clashed with police and is seen as a political agitator.

But instead of finding Scargill, the former miners’ leader, I’m met by George Arthur, a retired primary school teacher of 64, from the Barnsley Retirees Action Group. He arrives with Tony Nuttal, a 66-year-old grandfather and former health service manager. Both are wearing white badges saying “Freedom Riders”.

Part of a growing movement of hundreds of pensioners and disabled people in South and West Yorkshire, the two men have refused to accept cuts to their free services and have been refusing to pay their fares.

On June 23, they were in a group of elderly and disabled people who were “kettled” by police on a train platform.

Shocking footage showed a frail Tony being heavily restrained by British Transport Police. As the video circulated around social media – with almost 5,000 shares on the Mirror site alone – George and Tony became heroes.

“Ordinary people just keep getting stitched up by austerity,” one fan of the Freedom Riders told me when I joined them on a march through Barnsley town centre.

George and Tony shake their heads. “We’re just the ones the authorities decided were the ringleaders,” George says. “But we don’t have leaders, we’re a democratic movement.” When Labour introduced a national scheme for free bus passes in 2000, South and West Yorkshire councils added on free train travel for pensioners and disabled people from 9am.

“They recognised that rural bus ­services were slow and often infrequent,” Tony says. “And it was thought the health and social benefits of getting older and disabled people out and about easily outweighed the cost.”

But on February 6, South Yorkshire Transport Authority voted to scrap free train travel and restrict bus times, affecting more than 268,000 travel pass holders. They said this would make savings of £600,000.

When the 300 Yorkshire Freedom Riders arrived at Barnsley train station, they found lines of police waiting for them. “They told us they were there for our safety,” George says. “Then Paul Brown, the rail company manager, told us we were free to travel – we could have a discretionary day.”

The Freedom Rides became weekly, and would usually end at Meadowhall Shopping Centre with a rally with other Freedom Riders from Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield – and the chance of a bit of shopping before heading for home.

On more than one occasion, the riders managed to outwit the police. Several times, police were left standing on the wrong platform.

The protesters have not only won huge public support but the backing of trade unions including ASLEF, RMT, BFAWU and Unite, which are paying George and Tony’s legal costs.

“A lot of the Freedom Riders have really grown in confidence during the last few weeks,” Tony says. “There are so many lonely elderly and disabled people out there and there has been a real sense of community around the protests.

“Some people wonder what they’re going to do once it’s all over.”

By week five, the train station was “swarming” with police who prevented the Riders getting on. Then, in May, helped by a legal challenge brought by the Sheffield Citizens Advice Bureau, the Riders won a massive victory – free travel on local trains would be restored for disabled people and their carers from June 8, along with half-price train travel in South Yorkshire for OAPs.

But the disabled riders said they wouldn’t leave their elderly comrades behind, and have continued to join in their protests.

“We will support the pensioners until they get the same as us,” said Carol Green, 64, who is blind and attends the protests in a wheelchair with her disabled daughter, Rebecca, 40.

The South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive says changes were made following “customer feedback”.


But the SYPTE deputy interim director general David Young added: “Budget pressures remain and funding does not exist to further enhance the concessionary scheme.

“I would remind protesters that travelling on a train without a valid ticket is in breach of rail bylaws and can result in a fine.”

The protests turned serious on June 23, when transport police and Freedom Riders clashed at Meadowhall station.

Tony was charged with obstructing police and both he and George were charged with failure to pay a train fare. For legal reasons, I am limited as to what I can write about what happened that day until after the court hearing.

A trial date for both men has been set for December. But in the meantime, regular protests and rallies are ­continuing.

Thirty years after the miners’ strike, Barnsley’s Retiree Action Group is not for turning. Having won concessions, campaigners scent victory in the air.

Public Sector Strike – Barnsley


It was a fine day for marching around Barnsley in support of public services and the pay of public sector staff.

The media machine has been in full swing today, bending over backwards to find those ‘inconvenienced and angry’ at the strikers. Aghast that trade unions and their members possess the temerity to demand a living wage during these austere times. Paving the way, smoothing public opinion for the raft of anti-trade union legislation to come. In much the same way as the crude hatchetting of benefit claimants ahead of the vicious wave of welfare reforms last year.

You will no doubt have heard many stories of the pampered public sector in the news today. However, since 2010 pay freezes have eroded the wages of public sector workers by as much as 15-20%. Now an under the rate of inflation 1% pay offer, kicks sand in the face of workers who are already  down, battered by the rising cost of living and increasing pension contributions for a far lesser return. Far from the Tory myth of a sector full of generous pay and gilt edged pensions.

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Barnsley is still struggling to recover from the loss of its main industry. The death of deep coal mining decimated Barnsley and it is still trying to pick its way out of the wreckage. The public sector is now one of, if not the largest employer in Barnsley. The loss of even just a few jobs hits the area hard, but the year upon year mauling handed out in the form of local authority funding cuts and real terms pay cuts, is holding any hope of a recovery for Barnsley back.

With this backdrop in mind, hundreds of public sector workers gathered in the shadows of the two monolithic structures of Westgate Plaza and Gateway Plaza, in which many council employees are stationed. Representatives of Unison, GMB, PCS, NUT, FBU and Unite came together, along with Barnsley Retirees Action Group and the Anti Bedroom Tax campaign, banners and flags flying to march together around the town centre. Also present in large numbers were the Freedom Riders, a group composed of Barnsley retirees, who have held a number of protests against the withdrawal of free travel for pensioners and the disabled in South Yorkshire.

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The march was followed by a rally with nearly a dozen speakers, representing the unions, the Freedom Riders and visiting trade unionists from Norway and Eastern Europe. All gave rousing speeches highlighting the attack on public services, led by the spectre of austerity.

The fundamental question is, why is there no money for public services? Austerity is not an accident, it is a construct that is designed to hoover wealth upwards and convert public money into private profit. A government hell bent on forcing through their neoliberal agenda, killing our public services while handing contracts to their wealthy friends, is the enemy of the people. The very people that governments are tasked to defend and protect.

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Our second enemy is apathy. Those colleagues that have given up, think that they can’t make a difference or have absorbed the propaganda pumped out by the main stream media on a daily basis, are the very people that crossed the picket lines today. Or even went on strike, but stayed at home. These are the people that we need to motivate, they too are our comrades but need our support and encouragement. We should not give up on them, as they too need protection and representation.

At a time when the government is the enemy of the people, we need unions more than ever.

Strike: 10 July 2014 BARNSLEY

A few photos from strike action around the region today, which Unite members attended in solidarity. Best chant of the day, (to the tune of Beastie Boys) “You’ve gotta strike, for your right, to faaaaaaaaiiir pay”!

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july 3 jully 10


Public Sector Strike: 10 July 2014

Join millions of public sector workers across the UK who have had enough of having their pay frozen or capped.

Event Location: 11.30am, Barnsley Precinct, 1 Cheapside, Barnsley S70 1RU.

The march will assemble at 10:45am in Centenary Square with the rally taking place back in the Square, after the march has concluded.

Event Location:  Centenary Square, Market Street, Bradford BD1 1LH.

The march will assemble at 12 noon outside the Civic Offices in Nigel Gresley Square with the rally taking place back in the Square, on completion of the march.

Event Location:   Next to Civic Offices,  Nigel Gresley Square, Waterdale, Doncaster DN1 3BU.

Huddersfield TUC, in conjunction with trade unions, will be holding a day of action, including a march and rally on Thursday 10th July.

The march will assemble at St George’s Square from 10:30am with the march commencing at 11am.

Speakers will include:

Paul Holmes UNISON         Hazel Danson NUT         Neil Cole GMB
Layll Singleton UNITE         Trevor Andrews PCS      Daryl Schofield FBU
Chair Nick Ruff Huddersfield TUC

All are welcome.

Event Location: St George’s Square. Huddersfield HD1 2TA.

The march will assemble at 10am at the Unison Building with the rally taking place after the march into the city centre.

Event Location:  Unison Building, 39 Alfred Gelder Street, Hull HU1 2AG.


Event Location: 10.30am, St George’s Square, Huddersfield  HD1 1JA.

The march will assemble at 11:30am outside Victoria Gardens.

Event Location: Outside Victoria Gardens, The Headrow, Leeds LS1 3AA.

11am Rally with speakers from UNITE, UNISON and GMB
Event Location:  Riverside House, Main Street, Rotherham  S60 1QYSHEFFIELD
The march will assemble at 11.30am at Devonshire Green, with the rally taking place at 1pm outside City Hall, Barkers Pool.

Event Location: City Hall, Barkers Pool S1 2JA.

12.30pm – Gather at Coronation Gardens next to County Hall to march.
1.00pm – Rally at Cathedral Precinct.
2.30pm – Strikers are invited for refreshments at Wakefield Labour Club (Red Shed) on Vicarage Street.

Event Location: Coronation Gardens, Wakefield  WF1 2QW.

The march will assemble at 12 noon at Clifford’s Tower with the rally taking place at 1pm at St Sampson’s Square.

Event Location: Clifford Tower, Tower St, York YO1 9SA.

11am: Assemble, Northumberland Road, next to City Hall
11.30am: March to the Blue Carpet, New Bridge Street
12.00noon – Speakers:
Clare Williams, Chair of the Public Services Alliance, UNISON Regional Convenor
Chris Jukes, GMB
Mike Routledge, Unite
Janice Godrich, PCS President
Andy Noble, FBU
Sarah Lake, Sunderland NUT Secretary

Event Location: Assemble, Northumberland Road (next to City Hall) NE1 8SF.