Monday, 3 November 2014

30th Anniversary of the 84/85 Miners' Strike and Topic Resources

 
Earlier this year we looked at a good deal of items leading up to learning about the 84/85 Miners' Strike for the 30th anniversary.  Going to see 'Pride' in September renewed my enthusiastic interest in the subject, and I am lining up the beautiful American poem 'Bread and Roses' to read with the children.  The song was featured in the film and, searching up the original poem, I was taken with its history and look forward to sharing it around the table.  As well as being a stunning poem, it will give the children the idea that similar troubles for working people happen beyond Britain's shores.  It will also carry something across from last summer when we looked at Women's Suffrage and Women's Rights, and carries into our Autumn study of 100 years since WWI as the poem was written in 1915 and can be read with this topic in mind also.



Throughout the spring and summer we looked briefly at the Industrial Revolution, working conditions and unions, children in work, life for the poor/workhouses, child labour laws, the Jarrow Crusade in 36, the Welfare State, Miners' Strikes in 1800s, 20s, 70s and then the 84/85. 
Some of the fab resources we used were:
 
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (Oliver! the musical isn't quite as truthful, but is a good way to catch younger ones' interest.)
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (again, the film is even further from the truth, and set in New York rather than London, so not much use here.)
Children working in coal mines interactive pages from BBC
Child labour laws interactive pages from BBC
How coal is made
The Bonny Pit Laddie by Frederick Grice
 

 
There are fab venues across the UK in areas with a history in coal mining.  Some coal mining museums offer the experience of going down into a mine with a guide who will talk you through how it worked.  Our children found this activity very exciting and it meant all of what we had been talking about suddenly became quite real in the cold damp darkness.
 
I was going to leave this post there, but now I am here, I feel I must leave it with Oppenheimer's words.  It seems the only way...
 
Bread and Roses by James Oppenheimer
 
As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts gray
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing, 'Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.'

As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men-
For they are women's children and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes-
Hearts starve as well as bodies: Give us Bread, but give us Roses!

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient song of Bread;
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew-
Yes, bread we fight for-but we fight for Roses, too.

As we come marching, marching, we bring the Greater Days-
The rising of the women means the rising of the race-
No more the drudge and idler-ten that toil where one reposes-
But sharing of life's glories: Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses!

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