Grimethorpe Revival: Celebrity Support for a Coalfield Community

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1992 was the year Her Majesty The Queen referred to as an annus horribilis. It wasn't that good a year for Grimethorpe either with the Government's announcement that 31 coal mines would close. Although a minor technicality, the failure to conduct the statutory consultation period of 90 days meant that the actual closure date had to be postponed until the start of 1993. So January of that year was not only the end of those 31 pits, but also the away of life in the traditional communities they supported. Ironically it was also the year that the Grimethorpe Colliery Band won the World Brass Band Championship with a superb score of 99 marks out of a possible 100. Brassed Off told that story and the Band survived despite the cuts, but the 99 year old Grimethorpe pit did not. A Barnsley miner's daughter, Mel Dyke had worked in schools and colleges in the coalfields since the 1960s often using mining themes to raise aspiration and forging links through the support of local role models. She was Deputy Head in Grimethorpe's Willowgarth High School when the announcement came. Determined not simply to wait for predictable and drastic affect closure would have, she a spearheaded a creative counter movement. Combining her own previous experiences with work already begun in the school in 1984 by Head of English Max Bristowe, she sought nationwide support. No-one could have foreseen the range of responses to the gloriously positive fight put up by that little community; from Westminster to Buckingham and Lambeth Palaces - and even an artichoke field in France! Here she provides that unique archive; letters and interviews, TV radio and press reports, MPs, academics and celebrity support, messages of goodwill inspiring children's writings and activities across the curriculum. Twenty years on the left, right and centre views of some those involved, are re-visited to bring together the finer elements of past, present and future.