Culture Matters has produced a short film, made by Carl Joyce, of the poem arise! by Paul Summers, which was sponsored by the Durham Miners' Association. You can watch the film for free on Vimeo here or on Youtube here.
The film invokes the collective and co-operative spirit of past generations of men and women who worked and struggled so hard to survive, to build their union, and to arise, organise, and fight for a better world by forming the Labour Party. It also celebrates the new spirit that has arisen in Corbyn’s Labour Party, and the rise of support for socialist solutions to the country’s growing problems of low wages, poverty, homelessness, and other signs of an unfair and corrupt system designed to benefit the many, not the few.
Jeremy Corbyn said this about the poem:
It's wonderful to see the proud history of the Durham Miners' Gala represented in this powerful poem. Paul Summers has managed to capture the spirit of the Miners' Gala and its central place in our movement's mission to achieve 'victory for the many, and not the few’.
The film is not just a celebration of the tremendous working-class cultural heritage around mining, as expressed in the banners and the music at the Gala, but also the socialist, co-operative spirit of the women and men from mining communities that is alive and struggling today.
Martyrs of Coal
by Chris Norris
You martyrs of coal, yours the glory
While there's still a miner alive,
Or singer to bring us the story
In which your proud legends survive.
You masters of coal, hear them calling,
Those martyrs you sent down to die,
Crushed lifeless by pit-rafters falling,
Or drowned as the waters ran high.
You martyrs, cry loud to remind us
That justice can never be done
If class-laws shall fetter and bind us
As long as the waggoners run.
You masters, you bled, starved and beat us,
You worked us to death for your gain,
You called out the troops to defeat us
And told us our strikes were in vain.
You martyrs of coal, stand beside us
As we stand today in your name
To win back the rights long denied us
And put our exploiters to shame.
And you modern masters, now hear us,
You tribe of dot-com millionaires,
Think now of their courage and fear us
When we raise the cry that was theirs.
For it's the same passion that fires us,
The zeal that gave courage its role,
And still their example inspires us,
Those martyrs of conscience and coal.
That martyr spirit has arisen recently in other current trade union struggles like the industrial action at McDonald’s, British Airways, and other employers, and in the outraged reaction to other injustices against the working class like the Grenfell tragedy. So there is footage from other campaigns in the film, showing how they are all part of our struggle for economic and political justice, for socialism in Britain and in the whole world.
And most of all the spirit of the miners has arisen in the modern Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn. Arise, resist, vote Labour, and struggle for a better world!
You can also buy a DVD of the film, which is licensed to be played anywhere. It is available here at £5 plus £1.50 p. and p., and 10% of sales proceeds will go to the Redhills Development Fund. The same applies to the poem, which is available here.
Mike Quille is a writer, reviewer and chief editor of Culture Matters.