In 1984 the british coal industry underwent a massive contraction from 700,000 employed in
1957 to 300,000 by 1970, as alternative fuels were used to produce energy. This period was titled the “Miner’s Strike” and with it came numerous physical and emotional effects on individuals and families of impacted communities in North East London. Reflected in Stephen
Daldry’s film Billy Elliot, the context of this period is explored through the vulnerable young Billy, whose childhood is altered due to the Strike. Throughout the movie innocent Billy observes his family struggle through financial hardship, he watches acts of violence upon the people of his community and experiences signs of gender stereotypes.
In March 1984, when five pits were announced for closure without proper review, miners of North east London were left with no choice but to commence a strike in order to gain their jobs and continue receiving economic gain. Jackie Elliot, the controversial father of Billy was one of whom experienced this job cut. Being a single father, the Elliot family was dependent on Jackie for receiving funds in order to provide necessities such a food, education and clothing for the family.
It is obvious to say that a strike means no job which means no economic gain and results in a struggle to obtain vital resources. Billy observed neighbours stealing off neighbours and old men trying to sell their possessions in a fight to earn some kind of sufficient money. This was the first unacceptable behaviour witnessed by Billy during his childhood. A major scene supporting this effect of the Miners strike was during the middle of the film when Billy finds his father crushing apart the old family piano which belonged to his past mother. This action demonstrates the severity of financial hardship experienced by the family as Jackie was left no option but to turn to memorable possessions in order to provide just minor resources like firewood to keep the household warm. This provides one example of impacts brought along due to the Miner’s strike in 1984.
Violence is a behavior involving physical force intended to hurt or damage someone or something. Stress brought on by the Miner’s strike resulted in substantial amounts of extra stress and anger resulting in violence amongst individuals. Riots, fights and battles were three common methods of violence that young Billy witnessed in the streets of his neighbourhood.
Seeing men beaten up, yelled at and tackled to the floor are not scenes a boy of such a young age should ever witness. Crowds of police officers dressed in protective uniforms holding batons and shields created a menacing atmosphere within his neighbourhood. Furthermore, the film dramatises a good deal of verbal violence. This is a characteristic of a culture where poverty and frustration are endemic. Billy’s brother is particularly violent both physically and verbally as he confronts the police, Billy and even his own father on various occasions. This affected Billy to a great extent as he generally saw his brother as a role model and second support system as his mother was no longer available.