Durham students provoke outrage with 'Thatcher's Government vs Miners' event

The rugby club urged its members to 'expect a confrontation bigger than the Battle of Orgreave', pictured.
The rugby club urged its members to 'expect a confrontation bigger than the Battle of Orgreave', pictured.

Students at a Durham University college have provoked a storm of criticism after planning a social night recreating the animosity of the Miners' Strike.

Trevelyan Rugby Club planned an event this Wednesday, 29 November, dubbing it Thatcher's Government vs The M_I_N_E_rs.

The annual 'Backs v Forwards' social evening urged some players to come dressed as miners and others as 'Thatcher's Government and working-class-beating bobbies'.

A Facebook post for the event said: "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% unemployment in 1984. Bonus points for the challenge week coal.

"Backs, you're Thatcher's Government. You're 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 bobbies wouldn't go amiss. Neither would a few Falklands War heroes. You get the gist.

The students were urged to elect one member to play Mrs Thatcher, 'the Iron Lady herself'.

The students were urged to elect one member to play Mrs Thatcher, 'the Iron Lady herself'.

"Fresh, we cannot understate the scale of this competition. Expect a confrontation bigger than the Battle of Orgreave."

The event was widely shared on social media, and the backlash it provoked has led to it being cancelled.

Today, 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.

The event was organised by Trevelyan College Rugby Club. Pic: Google Maps.

The event was organised by Trevelyan College Rugby Club. Pic: Google Maps.

“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.”

No one from the rugby club was available for comment, and the event did not appear on its website, but the official @TrevelyanJCR Twitter account retweeted the university's statement.

Durham University Labour Club also issued a statement, saying it was "shocked and appalled" at the event arranged by the rugby club.

"Even though this event has now been cancelled due to backlash, this event still exemplified the abhorrent classism shown by many students at this University.

"Their description of the miners displays complete disregard for the historical event that affected the lives of many people in the larger Durham community, and belittles the difficult experiences of the miners during this period.

"This is an incredible insult to the Durham community by people who do not understand the complexity and consequences of the miners’ strike on mining communities.

"This event also reflects negatively on Durham University, and highlights that cutting funding for students from lower-income families has negative consequences on the student body.

"This has added to the pretentious atmosphere of the university, and it is no wonder that many students from lower-income families do not feel at home at this university.

"This event clearly shows that intelligence and respect is not linked to wealth. We should not forget that the University is based in a mining community.

"To the larger Durham community, Durham University Labour Club want to extend our apologies on behalf of the student body.

"We also want to state that many of our members are disgusted by this event, and we explicitly disassociate ourselves with the students responsible for this disgusting behaviour."