BritBox’s Sherwood – Even After 40 Years, a Miner’s Strike Divides a Village

In 1984, with coal production in the U.K. decreasing, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government closed down unprofitable pits. The move sparked many miners to go on strike, while those who continued to work were called “scabs.” Nowhere in the country was this divide more pronounced than in Nottinghamshire. Local miners, once co-workers, were pitted against each other. Also sucked into the battle were the police officers called in to maintain peace, many times having to confront family members and friends. Trying to get ahead of the situation, the Met sent in officers to work undercover, posing as new arrivals to spy on the miners. Four decades later, the scars from the miners’ conflict are still raw. And when two murders occur, the entire village is in turmoil.

Sherwood, now streaming on BritBox was written and produced by James Graham, who grew up in Nottinghamshire and witnessed how the events split the community. While the six-part series is fictionalized, there are enough factual details to bring the past history alive.

Alun Armstrong (Gary Jackson) and Lesley Manville (Julie Jackson) – Courtesy of BritBox

Casting for this series is phenomenal. Lesley Manville and Claire Rushbrook play sisters, estranged because their husbands landed on opposite sides of the strike. June Jackson’s (Manville) husband, Gary (Alun Armstrong) was a striker, while Cathy Rowley’s (Rushbrook) husband, Fred, kept working. Fred’s son, Scott (Adam Hugill), on the verge of going to prison, kills Gary, and then hides out in the nearby Sherwood Forrest. (The irony is that Scott’s weapon is a bow and arrow, but he’s hardly a Robin Hood.) 

The second murder is unrelated to Scott’s rampage. Sarah Vincent (Joanne Froggatt from Downtown Abbey), is running for reelection to the town council as a conservative. Her wedding to Neel Fisher (Bally Gill) briefly brings everyone together for a celebration. But Neel’s father, Andy (Adeel Akhtar), is bullied by his new daughter-in-law. When the commuter train he’s driving is hit with one of Scott’s arrows, he goes into a tailspin. During a confrontation with Sarah, he kills her by bashing her head with a shovel then flees into the forest. The police are now hunting two fugitives. 

Joanne Froggatt (Sarah Vincent) – Courtesy of BritBox

The Sparrow family operates an archery range and they fall under suspicion for possibly assisting Scott in his training and planning. Mickey Sparrow (Philip Jackson) and his son, Rory (Perry Fitzpatrick) supplement their income by selling drugs. Daphne Sparrow (Lorraine Ashbourne), supports her husband and older son, but worries about her younger son, Ronan (Bill Jones), who has been secretly meeting with Julie and Gary Jackson’s granddaughter, Cinderella (Safia Oakley-Green). 

DCS Ian St. Clair (David Morrissey) heads up the investigation. He isn’t pleased when Scotland Yard sends DI Kevin Salisbury (Robert Glenister) to assist. Locals are still angry about the Met’s officers who tangled with miners during the strike. But St. Clair and Salisbury have a real history. During the strike, the young Salisbury (played by Tom Glenister) fails to show up for guard duty at a munitions plant in order to meet his girlfriend, Jenny Harris (Leah Walker plays the younger Jenny). When a fire breaks out, Ian’s brother, also a police officer, is severely burned after he goes in to rescue his father who is one of the miners robbing the factory. Questioned by superiors, Ian (the young Ian played by George Howard) is forced to report his father, sending him to prison, and report that Salisbury was derelict in his duty, thus resulting in the Met officer’s demotion.

Terence Maynard (DS Cleaver) and David Morrissey (DCS Ian St Clair) – Courtesy of BritBox

The two men attempt to put aside their past conflicts, but each has issues to settle. Salisbury has never forgotten Jenny (Nadine Marshall), and when her husband escapes being injured by one of the arrows, a subsequent investigation uncovers her husband’s affair. While Kevin and Jenny spend a night together, they both realize too much time has passed and it’s too late for them to rekindle their relationship.

When it seems that Scott is targeting individuals who might be an undercover officer, St. Clair becomes obsessed with discovering that person’s identity. But his search hits too close to home when information reveals that his wife, Helen (Clare Holman) is living under another name. That she might be the spy shakes Ian’s world.

While Sherwood focuses on one small community, exploring how a schism among people may never heal despite the passage of time, comparisons can be made throughout history and, most painfully, right now. Fortunately, there are some bright spots in this BritBox drama as the loss of life brings some to put aside the past and come together. But it shouldn’t take dramatic events for that to happen.

Sherwood is now streaming on BritBox.

Top Photo: David Morrissey (DCS Ian St Clair) and Robert Glenister (DI Kevin Salisbury) – Courtesy of BritBox 

About Charlene Giannetti (597 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. The film is now available to view on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services. Charlene and her husband live in Manhattan.