Miners strike: acclaimed play The Collie’s Shed brings strike memories to Kings Theatre

Memories of the miners’ strike of 1984-85 will come flooding back when an acclaimed play takes to the stage of the Kings Theatre next month.
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The Collie’s Shed was a hit at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year, and comes to the Lang Toun as part of a new tour which co-incides with the 40th anniversary of the bitter, year-long industrial dispute which changed mining towns forever. It will be of interest to families who had relatives who worked in pits such ast Seafield, Frances and Bowhill - all of which have long vanished from the landscape.

Written by Shelley Middler, it recalls the picket lines of ‘84 and how the strike impacted on so many people, and it is based on the memories and stories of men who were there.

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Set in a men’s shed in East Lothian, it follows four retired miners - “friends and foes” - as they discover how a review into the policing of the strike in the 1980s by the Scottish Government suddenly affects them, their friendships and their relationships. It reflects on the injustices, and explores the changing relationships between the men over the decades as they wrestle with memories and their views of what happened.

The Collie's Shed earned great reviews at the Fringe and is now coming to Kirkcaldy (Pic: Submitted)The Collie's Shed earned great reviews at the Fringe and is now coming to Kirkcaldy (Pic: Submitted)
The Collie's Shed earned great reviews at the Fringe and is now coming to Kirkcaldy (Pic: Submitted)

The play – which earned four and five-star reviews from Fringe critic -was first staged at the 2022 Fringe, and returned again last year. It comes to the Kings in Kirkcaldy on May 16 – ticket details at https://www.kingstheatrekirkcaldy.com/

Shelley said: “I started writing it during lockdown, and when the Fringe returned we took it there for two weeks and sold out half our run, got lots of great press and praise from audiences. We brought it back last year and it was brilliant, and I thought we should go to smaller communities in mining towns to see how it would do.

“The Fringe was massive but it is also not the most accessible for local audiences. We found a lot of people coming to see us specifically because of their connections to the mining industry, ,. It will be great to see how it does in places like Kirkcaldy. A lot of people who have come to see it remember their parents or grandparents days as miners or have connections to life in the pits.”

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With the landmark 40th anniversary coming hot on the heels of the Scottish Government’s pardon for miners convicted during the strike, the timing of the tour could not have bene better - as well as a date at the Kings Theatre, it is going to the Byre Theatre in St Andrews as well as Edinburgh, Cumbernauld, Prestonpans, Tranent, Musselburgh and Haddington.

Poster for The Collie's Shed (Pic: Submitted)Poster for The Collie's Shed (Pic: Submitted)
Poster for The Collie's Shed (Pic: Submitted)

Added Shelley: “We are talking about a strike that happened 40 years ago but it is still very relevant as people experience the struggles of today. It is amazing how it brings people together and how it chimes with audiences. The opportunity to tour it is really exciting.”The play has also been a huge step for Shelley - it is the first of her own productions after writing and acting professionally.

“It has been a huge learning curve on how to produce a Fringe show and take it on tour, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It will change my life no matter what I decided to do. I love it.”

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