Queens of the Coal Age: the last battle

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This true story could have benefited from filling a few gaps, but the excellent staging makes the play an interesting¬†insight into a lesser-known flank of the miners’ campaign.

1993, eight years after the defeat in the miners’ strike. Pit closures are continuing, and Parkside Colliery is next on the list. What hasn’t been tried to stop the closures? Anne Scargill, then husband of the famous/infamous Arthur, brings three women along for an occupation. A futile stunt perhaps, in hindsight – after all, if one of the most widespread industrial disputes couldn’t stop pit closures, what chance would this have? – but a gesture that has still been remembered twenty-five years on. It is this piece of mining history that Maxine Peake chose to write about, originally written for radio, now adapted for the stage at the New Vic.

Four female teachers* turn up for an educational tour of a coal mine. Two notable things about the tour guide: firstly, he’s mildly annoying; and secondly – a perhaps more gallingly – he’s apparently indifferent to the pit’s imminent closure, a far cry from a decade earlier. Luckily for them, his disinterest in pit politics means he doesn’t recognise one of the women as Anne Scargill. If he had, he would probably have twigged that they weren’t really teachers and that they were up to something. Another miner does and keeps schtum, but comes to light later. Continue reading

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