Ian Clayton and Betty Cook on Radio Sheffield

Ian Clayton and Betty Cook talk with Paulette Edwards on BBC Radio Sheffield about the writing of Betty’s joint memoir with her comrade in arms Anne Scargill, Anne and Betty: United By The Struggle. Recorded on 23rd July 2020. Click play above to listen.



‘A must read about two women with extraordinary courage and a commitment to their community that has never faltered.’ Ricky Tomlinson

‘Anne and Betty are a constant inspiration to me. They are two beacons of hope that show that we are all capable of affecting change, tackling life face on and having a bloody good laugh along the way. I salute you both, my heroes.’ Maxine Peake

Anne & Betty: United By The Struggle is published in hardback and advance copies are SHIPPING NOW.  (It will not be able via other trade channels until 9th November 2020).
Be amongst the first to read Anne & Betty’s book. Click here to order an advance copy

Anne & Betty Interview

Author Ian Clayton has worked with Anne Scargill and Betty Cook to help them tell their story in the joint memoir Anne & Betty: United By The Struggle. Here Ian talks about that process and puts questions to Anne and Betty about their experience of writing the book.


I think everybody who grew up in a former coal mining village knows the story. The men worked hard down the pit and fought hard to protect their livelihood when times were hard. We know as well that within that harsh male environment there was a matriarchal society that was equally tough. It was the women, like my own aunts and grandmothers, who ran the day-to-day business of keeping home, family and well-being together. And when it came to it, it was the women who spoke the best words to the powers that be who were intent on destroying a way of life.

I long admired Anne Scargill and Betty Cook and the women who campaigned first against pit closures and then for a voice for working-class women. I saw them on marches and at conferences, but I was too shy to say much more than ‘Hello’ to them. Then one day I got a phone call from Anne Scargill. She told me that Betty and herself wanted to write a joint memoir and asked me if I might consider helping them. Of course I said yes. Here was an opportunity for me that I might only dream about.

For the whole of my career as a writer I have tried to make sense of where I am from. I have a passion for working-class and social history, I love the stories of times gone by when they are told by local people and I hold the older generations in great esteem, believing that they were the ones who stood up in order to make a better life for us. The book was a joy to be involved in. It was also hard to write and emotional. Anne and Betty have not had easy lives. It was upsetting at times to see them trying to find the words to express disappointments, let downs and the situations where they knew the right thing to do and nobody was listening. It was also exhilarating to hear them talk about the times when they went into battle and refused to back down. Anne Scargill and Betty Cook are heroines of direct action and now they have produced a book that speaks louder than words.

Anne and Betty have shown as much tenacity in getting their story told in a book as they have in the many campaigns they’ve been involved in over the years. Now the book is written, I spoke with them about their experience of pulling it together.

Ian Clayton: Why did you want to write this book?

Betty: I have a big social conscience. It was important to tell this story in order to help young people coming up to understand something about their own community and where it comes from. I was once young and I have got to where I have got to through struggle, through education and through speaking up. People are still in struggle, it doesn’t end. Of course the miners’ strike and Women Against Pit Closures was what brought us together, but there are big struggles yet to come and we learn how to face the future by looking at what people did before.

Anne: I’m getting older now. I am starting to think back and make sense of what I have done in my life. When my grandkids grow up and have families of their own, I want them to read this book and know about what their grandmother was like. It’s also an opportunity for me to say something about my heroines; suffragettes like Emily Davison, the lasses at Greenham Common and the miners’ wives who stood side by side with me on the picket lines.

Ian Clayton: In the past you have told your story to a lot of people who have written about the miners’ strike, why revisit it?

Betty: Yes, academics, The Guardian newspaper, various magazines, to conferences all over the world. They have all interpreted what I said and then put their own slant on it. I thought it was about time I told my story in my own words before it’s too late.

Anne: A book is there forever. I wanted to tell some truth about what has happened. The truth of what went on when I was there. It’s like being an eye witness to your own life story.

Ian Clayton: Is this a book for women?

Betty: It’s a book for everybody. For the world out there. It’s so that people who are interested can understand how people live.

Anne: It is a book for everybody, but especially for women who stood up for themselves. A lot of coalminers were chauvinists, my dad was one, he expected his dinner on the table as soon as he walked in from work. He was a good worker and I loved him, but he expected my mother to be running about after him. It’s a book for women like my mother, but also for men like my dad, so they can learn.

Ian Clayton: Has it been an easy book to write?

Betty: No. It has brought back a lot of unhappy memories, but I think that’s the point of doing something like this. It wasn’t always nice, but it needs to be told as it was, not how we think we would like it to be. I am looking forward to holding this book in my hands though.

Anne: It has and it hasn’t. It has been sad in parts, but also exciting. I have found myself looking back at what I have put and thinking, did I do that? Whatever I have done it was needs be and I don’t regret it. It’s like that old Edith Piaf song, ‘I have no regrets.’

Ian Clayton: Who will read it?

Anne: People who like to read the truth ought to read it, because it is all true and it’s a good story.

Betty: Well, I hope anybody with a social conscience and a sense of community will and surely we all want to be that way inclined. We have a lot of friends in the trade unions, which are as important now as they have ever been, women’s groups, local people with a sense of their own history and of course all the friends we have made at home and abroad.

Ian Clayton: Are you proud of it?

Anne: It shows how people like me and Betty were prepared to stand up for what we thought was right and how we believed in the generations to come. That should make anybody proud.

Betty: I am proud. It’s a great read, without shying away from the hard times. It’s also well illustrated and it’s nice to see the different parts of life through old photographs.

Ian Clayton: What does it say about the miners’ strike, the Women Against Pit Closures movement and working-class activism that hasn’t already been said?

Betty: During the strike I met an American photographer called Rai Page. She was determined to record moments as they happened. One day, we heard about an elderly lady in Houghton who had a story she wanted to tell. This elderly lady told us some fascinating stories about the part women played in the 1926 general strike. These had never been written down, they just existed inside this one elderly lady, one of the last survivors who could remember that time in clarity and detail. I never realised that people had such stories to tell and it certainly didn’t occur to me then that somebody like that lady would write them down in a book. I feel then like I have done something that will help future generations and young women, but also pay tribute to those like that elderly lady in Houghton who were there before us.

Anne: I have always been a believer in that saying ‘actions speak louder than words’. I am much more comfortable on a picket line than I am composing a book. It has been hard to say what I have said. I do believe though that I have opened my heart as well as my mind to tell this story in my own way.


Anne & Betty: United By The Struggle is published in hardback and advance copies are SHIPPING NOW.  (It will not be able via other trade channels until 9th November 2020).
Be amongst the first to read Anne & Betty’s book. Click here to order an advance copy

NEW TITLE: Anne & Betty – United By The Struggle

Anne & Betty: United By The Struggle
by Anne Scargill and Betty Cook with Ian Clayton
Foreword by Maxine Peak

Route is delighted to announce the acquisition of the memoir of two of the leading lights of the Women Against Pit Closures Movement.

Anne Scargill and Betty Cook met at the beginning of the miners’ strike. Betty was a proud miner’s daughter, wife and mother, who was determined to support her family and community. Anne happened to be married to Arthur Scargill, the president of the miners’ union. She too was steeped in the history of coalfield culture. Together they helped to create perhaps the greatest thing to come out of the strike, the Women Against Pit Closures movement. Inspired by the working-class values that raised them, they put their arms around those who needed support, fed the hungry, and stood firm against those whose intent was to destroy their way of life. Once the strike was over, through education and direct action, they stepped over the threshold to support working people in struggle both at home and abroad, changing not only the direction of their own lives, but many other women too.

Here for the first time in print, Anne and Betty tell their own story in their own voices. Told with humour and conviction, this is an indispensable slice of social history. It reveals the vitality of two remarkable women who possess the strength and resolve to stand up for what they believe in and how, no matter what, they never give in.

‘A must read about two women with extraordinary courage and a commitment to their community that has never faltered.’ Ricky Tomlinson

‘Anne and Betty are a constant inspiration to me. They are two beacons of hope that show that we are all capable of affecting change, tackling life face on and having a bloody good laugh along the way. I salute you both, my heroes.’ Maxine Peake

***

Route editor Ian Daley said of the acquisition, ‘Route sits in the heart of the Yorkshire coalfield, and the particular culture that coal mining creates is a cornerstone on which we are founded. It is an honour and a privilege for us to help Anne and Betty tell their story, their lifelong commitment and dedication to help working people and the communities that support them has long been an inspiration to us, and the Women Against Pit Closures Movement, which they are such an important part of, is a source of great local pride.’

This announcement is made on the day of the 2020 Durham Miner’s Gala as Anne and Betty’s book was due to be launched at this year’s event, but sadly the pandemic has put a halt to that. It would have been a great occasion, but hopefully by this time next year Anne and Betty will be able to celebrate their book with all their friends at Durham.

Anne Scargill: ‘I have been going to Durham Miners’ Gala every year for over forty years now. I am going to miss being there this time. It’s a shame, because I was looking forward to seeing all my friends. I will be back next year though. I would like to send my love to all my friends who I meet there. I will see you all next time.’

Betty Cook: ‘I love everything about Durham Miners Gala; the atmosphere, the camaraderie, the friends I meet there, it’s my favourite festival. If I had to choose between a holiday and Durham I would go for a weekend at the Gala every time. The Durham Miners Association has been so supportive of Anne and I over the years, we appreciate them no end.’

Ian Clayton: ‘I was looking forward to going to Durham this time as we were going to have a stall in the cricket ground and launch the book from there. That can’t happen this year, but the book itself is going ahead and I have my fingers crossed that Durham will be back on again next year, because like everybody else who loves it, I will be coming.

***

Anne Scargill has devoted much of her life to direct action. From the days of the coal miners’ strike, through to helping the homeless to volunteering for the local hospice, she believes actions always speak louder than words.

Betty Cook is a proud daughter of the coalfields. She learned all she knows about community and activism on her journey from Brick Row in the pit village of Woolley.

Ian Clayton is an author, broadcaster and storyteller from Featherstone, West Yorkshire. His stories are about making sense of where we come from. His books include Bringing It All Back Home, a bestselling book about music; Song For My Father about his lifelong search for a father figure; Our Billie about loss; and most recently It’s The Beer Talking about a life in public houses and ale which won The British Guild of Beer Writers Award for Best Writer about Pubs.

***

Anne & Betty: United By The Struggle is published in hardback and advance copies are SHIPPING NOW.  (It will not be able via other trade channels until 9th November 2020).
Be amongst the first to read Anne & Betty’s book. Click here to order an advance copy

 

Iain Matthews and Ian Clayton Words & Music Tour | The Red Shed | Woodstock

Iain Matthews and Ian Clayton caught in the Devil’s bargain on their Words & Music Tour at The Red Shed, Wakefield. Ian reads a short extract from Iain’s memoir Thro’ My Eyes followed by a stripped-down performance of ‘Woodstock’ by Iain. Recorded on 27th September 2019.

It was the perfect moment at iconic Red Shed, Wakefield’s Labour Club. The story shows that it was because of the Union that we got the Matthews Southern Comfort ‘Woodstock’ in the first place. It’s a song that strives for a new utopia, but it’s this version that spread the ideal beyond the hippies and dreamers to the kitchens, bedrooms, youth clubs, factories and paint shops of the masses. And this is a beautiful performance by Iain. At one point, he’s singing the notice board (Toulouse / To lose)

Click here for more on Thro’ My Eyes: A Memoir.

Ian Clayton Wins British Guild of Beer Writers Award

Ian Clayton has won a prestigious British Guild of Beer Writers award, picking up the Long Live the Local Award for Best Writer about Pubs for his book It’s The Beer Talking: Adventures in Public Houses, which was published earlier this year.

In his acceptance speech, Clayton said, ‘Public houses are like libraries, in that they both deserved to be looked after and cherished.’ A notion shared by the award’s sponsors, Long Live The Local, a campaign backed by a broad alliance of pubs, brewers and industry bodies to celebrate the vital role local pubs play in our community, culture and economy. The judges were briefed to find the best writing about the pub as a treasured national asset. The award was presented David Cunningham, programme director for Long Live The Local, at the Guild’s glitzy annual dinner held at One Great George Street in Westminster. Clayton received a framed citation, a specially engraved tankard and a cheque for £1000.

Clayton’s was the only book honoured at this year’s awards, which received more than 150 entries across 11 categories. Emma Inch, chair of judges for the Awards said ‘The standard of entries across all categories was extremely high and judges had a tough task choosing the winners and runners up.  We were impressed by the levels of knowledge, energy and passion that shone through the works submitted by our finalists, whether they had written a column, published a book or produced a film.’ Inch described Clayton’s book as a ‘picaresque adventure’.

Inch was joined on the judging panel by Laurence Creamer, Social & Digital Lead on industry campaign Long Live The Local; Tim Hayward, food & drink author, restaurant reviewer and regular on Radio 4’s Kitchen Cabinet;: Charlie McVeigh, founder of Draft House; Tony Naylor, food & drink writer contributing to The Guardian and BBC Good Food; Ross O’Hara, head brewer at Greene King; Kate Oppenheim, hospitality sector journalist and communications expert, currently publisher and editor of BII News; Tony Sophoclides, Strategic Affairs Director at UKHospitality.

Chair of the British Guild of Beer Writers, Pete Brown, said of the award that he was ‘I’m delighted Ian’s book was a success because it shows us how many different ways there are to tackle pubs as a writer, which in turn reminds us how multi-faceted and essential pubs are.’

In It’s The Beer Talking, Ian Clayton turns his sights on one of the great loves of his life, the public house. When he started drinking in the 1970s, Clayton drank alongside men who’d fought in the First World War, thus by 2019 he’s shared first-hand stories that span over a century of life lived. In his foreword to the book, one of Britain’s leading beer writers, Roger Protz, bemoans the decline of the public house as the centre of British life, a victim of modern times. While the statistics of pub closures bear this out as undeniable fact, somewhere in Ian Clayton’s story lays a glimpse of something else. In this journey to the soul of the British pub, we see a spirit that endures, an eternal connection to public houses which is ever-present, behind the layers of paint, inside the stories, waiting to be released. Ian believes that pubs, like libraries, are repositories of wisdom, if we lose either, then the neighbourhood starts to shiver.

Ian Clayton is an author, broadcaster and storyteller from Featherstone, West Yorkshire. His stories are about making sense of where we come from. His books tackle subjects as diverse as rugby league, jazz and homelessness.  His recent memoirs include Song For My Father, Our Billie and Bringing It All Back Home, described by Record Collector magazine as ‘one of the best books about popular music ever written’.

Click here for more on It’s The Beer Talking and to order a signed copy

Click here to order on Amazon

Click here to visit Ian Clayton’s website

The Strange Brew Podcast with Iain Matthews and Ian Clayton

Iain Matthews and Ian Clayton join Jason Barnard to talk about Iain’s memoir Thro’ My Eyes for The Strange Brew Podcast, illustrated by 13 songs drawn from across Iain’s career. Running time 1hr 41 mins. Click play above to listen.

Jason at The Strange Brew has a fine collection of podcasts. You can find them on the website or subscribe to The Strange Brew Podcast on iTunes or your favourite podcast provider.

Click here for more in Iain Matthews memoir Thro’ My Eyes