This film is part of Free

Selby: The Saving Face for Coal

The most advanced deep coal mine in the world opens while those who work it stand by their fellow miners, as the future of both the miners and coal mining is decided on the picket line.

Documentary 1984 23 mins

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Logo for Yorkshire Film Archive


A rather inauspicious time for one of the largest, deep coal mines in the world to come on stream, as the miners enter a year long bitter battle with the government in 1984. Amidst the state of the art coal cutters and the high hopes for the £1 billion complex, the miners demonstrate both their bravery and their solidarity; while as hostilities intensify, the two main protagonists, Arthur Scargill and Ian MacGregor, take time out to state their case.

The defeat of the miners’ strike in 1985 was a decisive turning point for the trade unions in Britain. Although ostensibly the strike was purely over the closure of unproductive pits, some argued that defeating the miners was also part of a political agenda of the Thatcher government to disable the power of the trade unions. The documentary repeats the NCB line of closing 20 pits, although Cabinet papers released in 2014 revealed that Scargill was right in his claim that the real figure was above 70 pits. The Selby complex proved not to be “the saving face of coal”, failing to last the 30 years predicted in the film, but rather started to make a loss shortly after being privatised in 1995, eventually closing in 2004.