Ideas Series: Jeremy Deller interviewed by David Alan Mellor

In 1984, the National Union of Mineworkers went on strike. The ensuing dispute marked a turning point in the struggle between the government and the trade union movement.

On 18 June of that year, the Orgreave coking plant was the site of one of the strike’s most violent confrontations, which began in a field near the plant and culminated in a cavalry charge through the village of Orgreave. In his acclaimed 2001 project, The Battle of Orgreave, artist Jeremy Deller worked with more than 800 people, including former miners and police forces, to stage a reenactment of what happened that day. Here, he talks to David Allan Mellor about the process of researching the project and his response to the events of Orgreave.

David Mellor In your introduction to The English Civil War Part II, you describe a piece of news footage of a mass picket that you saw in 1984, which stuck in your mind and later prompted a desire to ‘find out exactly what happened that day with a view to reenacting it’. Could you say a bit more about that footage, and the desire it prompted?

Jeremy Deller It was a famous, or notorious, piece of footage of the pickets being pursued up a hill, by police, dogs and most memorably horses. It is still used as an archetypal clip when violence and the strike are discussed. There was a particularly nasty shot of a policeman repeatedly striking a picket on the ground with a truncheon. There was no desire at that point as such, just an uneasy feeling about what was going on in the country.

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Published in Photoworks, Issue 17, 2011
Commissioned by Photoworks.

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