Look Again #1 – Marsha Marshall
In the lead-up to the release of Marc Karlin-Look Again here are a collection of portraits focusing on the people Karlin documented in his films. Up first is Marsha Marshall, secretary of the Women Against Pit Closures (Barnsley Group) during the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike.
Marsha Marshall circa 1986 ©The Marc Karlin Archive
Marsha Marshall, who died in April 2009, lived with her miner husband, Stuart ‘Spud’ Marshall, in Wombwell, near Barnsley at the time of the 1984/84 Miners Strike. Spud was one of the first to be arrested during the dispute on a picket line in Nottinghamshire. This event politicised Marsha, and soon with others she founded the Women’s Against Pit Closures. Having never been abroad before, her duties as secretary of the WAPC, took her to France, Italy, Bulgaria, and the USSR – and in Rome she spoke at a rally to over 4,000 Italian trade unionists.
Marsha is featured in Michael Kerstgens’ photographic collection, Coal Not Dole, The Miner’s Strike 1984/85 published by Peperoni Books. In 1984, Michael Kerstgens was a young German photography student who decided to travel to Britain and document the dispute. People were wary of him, as an outsider, and so he was limited to photographing events on the periphery.
However, things changed when he met the activist Stuart “Spud” Marshall. Spud trusted him immediately and opened the door for Kerstgens to photograph not only the heat of the action but also more intimate moments beyond the picketing, violent clashes with the police, and public discussions on the political stage. Kerstgens photographed soup kitchens, meetings behind closed doors, and the wives of striking miners, including Marsha.
Marsha Marshall supports picketing miners with a donation of cigarettes. © Michael Kerstgens
Marsha Marshall on the telephone to Vanessa Redgrave, Wombwell, 1985, © Michael Kerstgens
Around 1986, Karlin interviewed Marsha Marshall for his film ‘Utopias’ – a film about socialism in Britain, broadcast on Channel 4 in 1989. Marsha would be one of the socialist voices in his film. Karlin, here, recalls his creative intentions,
I was filming Utopias in 1986, around the time Margaret Thatcher said she aimed to destroy socialism once and for all. I was determined to say otherwise, obviously. I wanted to do portraits of different socialism, take ideas about it and so on, but to put them all on one boat. Utopias was like a banquet table. I liked the idea of having somewhere all these people could be together, where David Widgery, Sheila Rowbotham and Jack Jones, Sivanandan, Bob Rowthorn, and the miner’s wife, Marsha Marshall, were all going to be there. All these visions of socialism were great. I am totally naïve, but I shall remain to the end, so I just wanted them all at the table. Can you imagine? No: But the film did.
Marc Karlin and Marsha Marshall, circa 1986, ©The Marc Karlin Archive
This is an edited extract of Marsha’s chapter from ‘Utopias’. In this section she recalls the miners’ strike and speaks about her fears for the future of her community.
‘Spud’ Marshall at home in Kendray Barnsley, September 2012 © Michael Kerstgens
Further Reading –
Coal Not Dole, The Miners’ Strike 1984/1985, by Michael Kerstgens, is published by Peperoni Books
Looking at Class. Film, Television and the Working Class in Britain, S, Rowbotham & H, Beynon, (Rivers Oram Press: 2001)