Film ID: YFA 5855 Video of YFA_5855 Theres Life North of Watford Mining THERE’S LIFE NORTH OF WATFORD: MINING 1982 Visitor TabsDescription This YTV documentary, first broadcast on 18th January, 1982, was made just two years before the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984/85, giving an optimistic view of the future of coal mining in South Yorkshire. The new £400 million coal complex of Selby is nearing completion, and interviews with the local council, the NCB and miners reveal high hopes that it will lead to more coal fields opening and more jobs for the area. It includes interviews with miners, NCB representatives and other interested parties. The film begins showing images of collieries and of Barnsley Town Hall as the commentary notes that South Yorkshire produces 30% of the national output of coal. It further states that there are 300 years’ worth of coal reserves left, although 80 pits have been closed in the previous ten years. There are images of Lofthouse pit, the last one to close. It is stated that there are 600 million tons of coal near Selby, with five new pitheads being sunk: at Wistow Mine, Stillingfleet Mine, Riccall Mine, North Selby Mine and Whitemoor Mine. These are to employ 4,000 miners. There is film of the complex being constructed. There is an interview with a council representative regarding housing and integrating new miners into the local community. The Red Lion pub is seen in the snow at the village of Hambleton, where two miners and their wives, who have recently moved there, are interviewed: Keith Tye (?) and Melvyn Fox. They talk about the difficulties they have had settling in, not knowing anybody. It is stated that work on the complex didn’t get underway until 1976 because of public consultation. The Chairman of the local Escrick and Deighton Residents Group at the time, Maurice Vassey, is interviewed. He states that they put a lot of work into their representation. They found a good site for the pit but were unsuccessful in lowering the height of the headgear. An NCB representative talks about their measures taken to please the local community. The miners’ wives who have given up jobs to move talk about the difficulties of finding work, saying that they have been to the Job Centre but that there are no jobs in Selby. A Council representative claims that the new coalfield will attract other industries. Maurice Vassey say that they will monitor traffic and subsidence. Derelict terraced houses are seen in Lofthouse as the colliery is being demolished. There is an interview with a NCB representative about its closure, stating that the area will soon be turned into fields. Miners coming off the last shift are interviewed, expressing their hopes regarding getting work at Wistow Mine. It is stated that the new coalfield will have higher seams, meaning that the miners won’t have to work on their knees. The NCB representative says that they are looking for new reserves and that by the mid-1990s gas and oil will have reached their peak and people will be “demanding coal”. Already some coal is coming out of Wistow. The waste materials that come out of the closed pits is shown being landscaped, hiding the remains of the collieries. Gascoigne Wood is shown being constructed, with the largest single span roof in Europe. It is claimed that it will produce 10 million tons of clean coal each year. The NCB representative explains its workings and transportation of coal, with one train being loaded every 20 minutes. This will feed Drax Power station where we see the operations room. The NCB representative states that things are much better than the plans of twenty years ago envisaged, which saw coal production in the area down to 5 million tons, employing 7,000 miners. Coal from 17 pitheads is to be transported underground to just three surface points, including Darfield, and hence the pits will close as pitheads. A new preparation shed is being built at Grimethorpe where the coal will be washed. A South Yorkshire County Council representative talks about the land being reclaimed for farming, and we see the reclamation underway, though still looking like a Martian landscape. He said it would have been disastrous for the area if the coalfield had been rundown. Several of those who have been interviewed close with optimistic views about the future of coal mining in the area, which is moving east: “fortunately for us there is plenty of coal in Yorkshire”. No Credits on film [From ITV: Producer/Director - Irene Cockcroft ; Executive Producer - Chris Jelley ; Presenter - Geoff Druett. Yorkshire Television Context Just two years before the great Miners’ Strike of 1984/85, the biggest in British history, a highly optimistic view is presented of the future of coal mining in South Yorkshire. The new £400 million coal complex of Selby is nearing completion, and interviews with the local council, the NCB and miners reveal high hopes that it will lead to more coal fields opening and more jobs for the area. Emphasis is put on the measures that have been taken to preserve the environment. Given the developments in British coal mining in the years following this documentary, it has a rather anachronistic feel to it. The Selby complex was privatised in 1995, and closed in 2004. The optimism for the future of deep mined coal in South Yorkshire conflicts with the secret 1983 cabinet papers, revealed in 2015, showing that the Thatcher Government already planned to close 75 pits prior to the 1984 strike – despite repeated denials. MacGregor was appointed as Chairman of the NCB in March 1983 to oversee this. The argument as to whether this was for economic reasons, as stated, or to break the power of not only the NUM, but trade unions in general, and pave the way for privatisation, still rages.