Sunday, 21 June 2015
Stocker's Copper (1972)
Set against the acrimonious and unsuccessful three month long Cornish clay miners strike in 1913, the 1972 Play For Today, Stocker's Copper tells the story of the seemingly avuncular and jovial PC Griffith (a pre Blake's 7 Gareth Thomas) who find himself billeted in the cottage of the striking miner Manuel Stocker and his wife, Alice (Bryan Marshall and Jane Lapotaire) when his squad of specially trained Welsh police officers are sent to the villages to keep the peace. Despite such initial reservations both Griffith and Stocker manage to rub along together well, listening to his keenly told stories of previous disputes or his habit of breaking into song, and generally treating the initial summery stages of the strike as little more than a holiday. But when blackleg labour becomes more and more predominant, threatening to break the strikers stronghold and desires for 25 bob a week plus union recognition, Stocker et al have no choice but to march on the clay pit to picket the work. However, it soon becomes apparent that the authorities feel they have no choice too and, despite being a lawfully assembled picket, the Riot Act is read and ultimately oppressive violence ensues with both Stocker and Griffith in the thick of it.
Seen today, thirty years after the miners strike of 84/85 arguably this countries last biggest industrial dispute, Tom Clarke's play has an impressive, almost chilling resonance as indeed it must have had when it was last broadcast on television by Channel 4 in the late 80s or early 90s. It's impossible not to view the actions of these imposing beetle black figures representing the toughest and the 'best' of the Guards trained troops of strike breakers without thinking of the similar illegality of the bused in officers of the met just over a 100 years later at atrocities such as Orgreave. Jack Gold's direction ensures several scenes linger long in the memory, most notably that of the Welsh officers ostensibly at play, but in reality limbering up, playing a game of rugby against the backdrop of the idle clay pits. As the score is taken over by ominous, thunderous percussion and the villagers and strikers watch the action it's left to one old sage to remark that they hadn't come all this way to just offer them a game.
A ropey copy on YouTube is pretty much the only way you can view this powerful, important and still relevant film. To get the BBC to consider repeating some of these classic Play For Today's please sign the petition I started here