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Exhibition to mark the 40th Anniversary of the 1984-85 Miners' Strike

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An exhibition of compelling photographs from before, during and after the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike opens to the public at Rhondda Heritage Park Museum on Wednesday, 6 March.  

Professional photographer Richard Williams began documenting life in the mining communities around him when he was a teenager. His images from the late 1970s until almost all the pits had closed in the late 1980s are among his most enduring photographs in a long career which has seen him capture the lives of people going about their day-to-day lives as well as presidents, prime ministers and celebrities.  

The photographs at Rhondda Heritage Park Museum’s exhibition accompany his new book Coal and Community in Wales : Images of the Miners’ Strike, before, during and after published by Y Lolfa (£14.99). The book and exhibition illustrate the hardships and heartwarming community spirit which brought people together during the bitter year-long strike. The dispute was in opposition to the National Coal Board’s programme of pit closures under Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government and ended in defeat for the miners, who returned to work in March 1985 without a settlement. 

Richard’s photographs include dramatic scenes when the first miner in South Wales broke the strike; the day Prime Minister Thatcher was egged when she visited Porthcawl and what happened after miners went back to work to be faced with their livelihoods disappearing as the remaining pits closed and coalfield communities changed forever. Richard and his co-author and wife Amanda Powell have found and interviewed many of the people who appeared in his original photographs, creating a lasting record from a time when coal was king in the South Wales Valleys. 

“Whilst much of the life of a press photographer is spent staring down the lens at more mundane subjects that you know will never see the light of day after publication, just occasionally, as you squeeze the trigger, you realise that what you’re photographing is of historical importance,” Richard says. 

“That was certainly the case with the Miners’ Strike. I was aware all along that those photographic negatives should be cherished and looked after for the future. They stayed with me through four house moves, and a busy family and work life until I became freelance again in 2020 and started going through my archive pictures.  

“It was when I scanned in these negatives and considered the incredible stories they depict that I realised they’d mean a lot to a wider audience – people who remember that time and also those who know little or nothing about what happened in the dying days of the Welsh mining industry.” 

Richard is a former Pontypridd Observer photographer who was Assistant Head of Images at Media Wales. His freelance career now includes marketing and corporate photography as well as news coverage. 

Councillor Ann Crimmings, Cabinet Member for Environment and Leisure said: 

Rhondda Heritage Park Museum stands in the footprint of the Lewis Merthyr Colliery and tells the fascinating tale of the time when coal from the Rhondda Valleys powered the world.  The Miners’ Strike had a devastating impact on the mining communities of South Wales so it is only fitting that this powerful exhibition, focusing on an integral part of mining history will be housed here.  I would urge anyone who remembers the Miners’ Strikes to visit and to also bring those who were perhaps too young to remember.   Communities came together to support each other during this time of great hardship and uncertainty and Richard’s images certainly convey not only the struggles of the strikes, but the lasting friendships that were forged underground.

All exhibitions at Rhondda Heritage Park Museum are free to view.

NOTE FOR PICTURE DESKS/EDITORS: Copyright of all images supplied with this press release remain with Richard Williams Photography and are strictly licensed for single use by news outlets for coverage of the Rhondda Heritage Park Museum exhibition and/or reviewing Coal and Community in Wales : Images of the Miners’ Strike, before, during and after. All rights reserved. Any infringements of this licence will incur damages. 

You can contact Richard Williams by emailing:  





Posted on 29/02/2024