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Lawyers at the Coalface: Legal Solidarity and the 1984-5 Miners' Strike

A British Academy/Leverhulme funded study by Dr Joanna Gilmore, York Law School, University of York.

Project summary:

The purpose of this study is to gain a deeper understanding of the contribution of lawyers and ‘legal actors’, including community law centre volunteers and court and prisoner solidarity groups, to the 1984-5 miners’ strike in Britain. Although we know that the strike led to a lot of criminal and civil litigation, there is a lack of understanding about the role of lawyers during this period, including how they came to participate, how their relationships with striking miners and the trade unions developed and how their experiences of the strike shaped their future legal careers.

Through a collaboration with National Life Stories at the British Library, this study will collate, analyse and archive for online public access, oral history interviews with twenty five lawyers and strike participants. This research will help to develop our knowledge in this area and add to our understanding of the role of lawyers in movements for social, economic and political change. The oral history archive will be held at the British Library and launched during the forty-year anniversary of the strike in 2024. The project is funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust and has ethics approval from the University of York.

About me:

I am a senior lecturer in Law at the University of York. I was born in County Durham during the 1984-5 miners’ strike, and my parents were active within the miners’ support movement during this period, as delegates to Wear Valley Trades Council. My primary research interests are in the policing of protest and assembly, which has included studies on the policing of the anti-fracking, anti-fascist and anti-war movements.

Within my research I have sought to establish a view from below, from the perspective of policed communities, which has often been at odds with official accounts of protest policing. I am a co-founder of the Northern Police Monitoring Project, a grassroots initiative that works with communities affected by police violence, harassment and discrimination. I have extensive experience of organising and training legal observers for protest events, which has included working with groups such as the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers to monitor policing tactics and support protest organisers in their negotiations with police.

Who do I want to speak to?

I would like to interview the following people:

  • Lawyers (including solicitors,barristers and legal advice centre volunteers) who provided legal advice and representation during the 1984-5 miners' strike to trade unions, striking miners and supporters
  • Members of police monitoring groups, legal defence campaigns and prisoner solidarity networks that arose during this period
  • Individuals who required legal representation as a result of their participation in the strike

During this first phase of the research, I am particularly keen to speak to people who had experience of:

  • The Orgreave confrontation (June 1984) and subsequent legal proceedings
  • The 'Siege of Easington' (August 1984) and subsequent legal proceedings

To find out more about the research, please read this participant information sheet, which sets out in detail what your participation in the resarch would involve and what I plan to do with the information that I will collect.

If you are interested in participating in this research, or if you have any questions about the study, please get in touch with me on 

You can also follow updates on the project on Twitter: @law solidarity