THE director of an award-winning documentary about the 1984 miners’ strike has told how his parents would take him to the picket lines at Lothian pits when he was a baby to show their support.
Owen Gower, 30, director of Still The Enemy Within, which will be screened in Edinburgh tomorrow, said that even though he was just one year old when the strike began, his teacher parents took him to the frontline.
And both he and producer Mark Lacey, also from Edinburgh, said that growing up during the de-industrialisation of Scotland had made them determined to tell the story of the miners – in their own voices.
“The documentary is told by the men and women who were there,” said Owen, a former James Gillespie’s pupil.
The pair, along with fellow producer Sinead Kirwan, embarked on the film after discussing it with her step-father Mike Simons, who was a journalist covering the strike at the time. He had kept in touch with miners and had images and footage which had never been seen before.
“It seemed the right time to do it given the 30th anniversary,” says Owen, who is best known for his work on David Attenborough’s First Life series and Chris Packham’s The Burrowers. “The strike felt like a big part of my life as a kid, and I think after Margaret Thatcher died there was a desire among my generation to understand what happened.
“There has been nothing like that clash of cultures and the solidarity among the miners in our generational memory. My parents were teachers, we lived in Newington, and although I was just one, they would take me with them and stand on the picket lines in Midlothian and Fife to show their support.”
He added: “Meeting the miners and their wives has been incredible. Talking to them made you feel angry, then you’d be laughing... it was very emotional.
“In Nottingham we heard there were 3000 police drafted in from 18 different forces, but the miners were ingenious, doing things like dressing up as joggers to get past them.”
Still The Enemy Within, which won the Audience Award at the Sheffield International Documentary Film Festival earlier this year, tells the story of a group of miners and supporters who were on the frontline for the year – the people Margaret Thatcher described as “the enemy within”.
Owen said: “They [those in the film] were truly remarkable characters that certainly didn’t fit with the common image of them as blind followers of a fanatical leader.
“I didn’t want to do an ‘all sides’ film. Instead, by following the journey of this single group, I wanted to give the audience the chance to get to know them and understand their view.”
Owen had worked with producer Mark Lacey before – the pair had even studied together at Stirling University.
For Mark, 33, a former Broughton pupil from Leith, this was his first step into documentary making. His career has seen him work on commercials, CBBC show Danny’s House and even Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie animation.
“I was aware of the history of the strike, but too young to really remember it,” he said. “The role of the police I found really shocking – the brutality of it. But I also found it fascinating how many communities came together.”
He added: “We raised the funds for the film by crowdfunding and we had some great support from trade unions and community organisations and individuals who donated a substantial amount.”
And Owen said: “We’ve had sell-out shows and had to increase the tour. While there is no-one from Lothian pits involved we hope it will still speak to the experience of those who were involved.”
Still The Enemy Within screens at the Cameo, Tollcross, tomorrow at 8.30pm with a Q&A afterwards with Owen Gower