A Durham University rugby club has been condemned for organising a ‘Thatcher vs Miners’-themed social event in the heart of the mining community still scarred by violent clashes 30 years ago.
University officials branded Trevelyan College’s rugby club planned ‘Backs vs Forwards’ event as “wholly unacceptable” after details of the pub crawl were shared on social media.
The social, now cancelled, proposed forwards trying to convey “flat caps, filth and a general disregard for personal safety”, and that the backs were to be Thatcher’s government - with one player “the ‘Iron Lady’ herself”.
Durham’s economy was hard-hit by a series of pit closures in the 1980s, and mining towns and villages riven by strikes.
More insensitive still is the students chasing each other through the university town, which has echoes of police bursting into miners’ homes as stand-offs turned violent.
This is how the the event was promoted on Facebook.
The event description read:
“Forwards, you are to come as the M-I-N-E-rs: we want flat caps, filth and a general disregard for personal safety.
“Think pickaxes. Think headlamps. Think 12 per cent unemployment in 1984. Bonus points for the challenge week coal.
“Backs, you’re Thatcher’s government. You are to elect one member to come as the ‘Iron Lady’ herself, with the rest forming her government.
“We want variety too; so a few working-class-beating bobbys wouldn’t go amiss. Nor would a few Falkland War heroes. You get the gist”.
Guests were told to “expect a confrontation bigger than the Battle of Orgreave”, the notorious clash between police and miners in South Yorkshire in 1984.
The Durham Miners’ Association led the criticism, saying: “We were appalled to learn of a social event advertised by Trevelyan College rugby club which referred to miners in incredibly derogatory terms and sought to trivialise the police violence at Orgreave.
“We are pleased that Durham University and Trevelyan College took very prompt and appropriate action by cancelling this event.
“Unfortunately, this episode has caused a great deal of hurt and anger for many in the local community who are rightly very proud of their mining heritage.”
Durham University responded to complaints on Twitter, saying it “utterly deplores this event”.
Owen Adams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) at Durham University, said:
“Durham University and Trevelyan College utterly deplore this event which is wholly unacceptable.
“The event has been cancelled by the students concerned. We are speaking to those students and we are considering what further action to take in due course.
“Durham University is extremely proud of the positive contribution it makes to Durham City and North East England and our place in the rich heritage of this region.
“We know that most students are active and positive residents of their communities. For example, students undertook more than 14,000 hours of volunteering last year.
“We work closely with partners including Durham County Council, Durham Constabulary and local residents’ groups with the aim of ensuring there is a positive environment for all who live and work in Durham City.
“Regrettably, there are occasions where student behaviour falls short of the standards we expect. We have a very active education programme that explains our Code of Conduct for those living in the local community and aims to enhance students’ sense of belonging.
“This Code of Conduct highlights that the University reserves the right to take appropriate action against those who fall short of these standards.”