Published on May 8th, 2022 | by Gaelle Finley0
THE BATTLE OF SALTLEY GATE, 50TH ANNIVERSARY
On 10th February 2022 Arthur Scargill returned to Birmingham, 50 years to the day he first came in support of striking Yorkshire miners. The meeting also heard from Ricky Tomlinson who in 1972 was involved in the building workers’ strike in Shrewsbury, Ian Hodson (General Secretary BFAWU), Alex Gordon (General Secretary RMT) and Sheera Johal (General Secretary of IWA). Ken Capstick, former Deputy leader of Yorkshire NUM, chaired the meeting, which concluded with songs from the Clarion Singers and Banner Theatre.
In 1972, the people of Birmingham responded with enthusiastic support for the miners strike, which was called in support of their demand for a pay increase. 30,000 men and women stopped work, with 20,000 marching on Saltley Gate where they found a huge police presence.
When Arthur Scargill called on the marchers to stop in front of the gates of the coking plant, it forced the Chief Officer of Police to order them to be closed. He then had to report this to the then Home Secretary, countering his earlier assurance that everything was under control. Consequently the Heath government called an election on the question ‘who is running the country?’. Heath lost.
Mural of Saltley Gate on 10th February 2022 at Digbeth annexe of South and City College. Arthur Scargill is shown telling the crowd about the “historic victory” they made that day. Part of this is missing (showing lines of police marching away) so there are talks with the artist about restoring this valuable work of art.
On May 1st 2022, Banner Theatre celebrated International Workers’ Day at St Andrews Community Centre in Handsworth with a production of ‘The Battle of Saltley Gate’ with songs and recorded archive films. This was followed by performances commenting on the present ongoing crises. We therefore got a picture from Saltley Gate to Party Gate showing the relevance of effective resistance. It was a well attended event and many responded wanting to know more about Saltley Gate.
Dave Rogers, of Banner Theatre, commented ‘ There isn’t even a commemorative plaque to celebrate this world-renowned event of the trade union movement’. We understand that some form of fund-raising will take place in order to remedy this.
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Both events (10th February and 1st May 2022) can be seen on the Birmingham Trades Union Council website: http://btuc.org/wordpress2/
From 2012 to 2020, the SLP also held meetings on the anniversary date, some of which can be seen on: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCM6fYIczD56V9PKW3ZCAVCw/videos
There is a lot of archive material available – googling ‘Battle of Saltley Gate’ and ‘Arthur Scargill’ will bring up a lot of it.
Banner Theatre (‘Britain’s foremost political theatre company‘): https://bannertheatre.co.uk/
Birmingham Trades Union Council (BTUC)
Ed. Gaelle Finley