[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 7 June 2007, 08:59 GMT 09:59 UK
Your 1970s: Strikes and blackouts
London, 1972
People improvised in the blackouts
The Magazine is compiling a people's history of modern Britain - featuring your written memories and photos. We started with the 1950s and the 1960s and now focus on the 70s.

It was the decade of strikes, electricity shortages and piles of rotting rubbish on the street.

There was more to the 1970s, such as music, fashion and long, hot summers.

But the industrial unrest had a huge impact. Here is a selection of your comments.

Kate Gardiner
It has to be the power cuts and the three-day week. Two abiding memories are: being a hairdresser and having clients sitting in semi-darkness with wet hair in rollers waiting for the power to come back on
Kate Gardiner
so they could get under the dryer and at home boiling a kettle on the open coal fire to get hot water to make up my new baby's feed!
Kate Gardiner (right, in 1972 and 2007), Perth Scotland

My abiding memory of the rolling power cuts was having to write university essays by candle light. And then three months later being charged for the repainting of my room in Halls because of the smoke "damage" in my room. I spent 30 minutes with a bucket and sponge and the damage magically disappeared.
Bill Huggins, Birmingham

Read Andrew Marr's take on the decade in the Magazine every Tuesday
Watch his History of Modern Britain on BBC Two on Tuesdays at 2100 BST
Read and watch your written memories, pictures and videos every Friday in the Magazine
Then I lived in the North East near Newcastle and I vividly remember my grandmother and I walking from one shop to another in search of candles to buy. All were sold out. Innovatively butchers placed string down cartons of dripping which we bought eventually. These worked although the smell and risk of fire made them less practical than candles. I loved the bread strike as my grandmother could make proper bread in her oven and it was better than anything you could buy in the shops. I remember the smell which lingered in the house was beautiful (the smell of the dripping candles in contrast was not). As a child it was exciting to sit with the family around candles and with no TV we had no choice but to indulge in the art of conversation.
David Stoker, Guildford

As a trainee engineer in 1976, I remember changing a toilet roll when on secondment to our Sheffield factory and being seriously worried that someone might find out and accuse me of doing somebody else's job. My predecessor had almost caused a strike by helping to sweep up some rubbish. The union's grip was total, and the atmosphere was poisonous. I don't agree with all that Margaret Thatcher did, but let's not pretend that drastic action was not required.
AJ, Dorset, UK

I remember one time I had to wait two hours outside a fruit shop just to get some milk!
Maffew, Glasgow, Scotland

Rubbish piled up in the street
I was 12 years old. I remember seeing all the rubbish in the streets and Arthur Scargill on TV and other union leaders talking about living conditions and the need to strike, and my grandparents complaining that they can't afford to turn the heat on anymore. I also remember, as barely a teenager, the awful living conditions faced by miners and others up North whilst I lived in beautiful East Anglia. Instead of making me vote for Thatcher a few years later, it turned me into a life-long socialist.

I don't remember it myself, but I was born in 1979 in Swansea, South Wales. My mother had to cross a picket line to get into the maternity hospital (they told her she couldn't come in, her response is unprintable....). My Grandmother had to bring in food for her to eat, and clean towels and bedding.
Richard Evans, London, UK
I remember my parents trying to bake their own bread because the bakers were on strike like everybody else. It wasn't a great success. I will always remember watching my mother pulling a shapeless lump of half cooked dough out of the oven, made to look even more obscene by candle light because the power was off.
Chris Towers, Madrid, Spain
I remember with fondness the three-day week, I was a compositor and we worked by hurricane lamp. Our wages were linked to inflation and seem to go up every other week, good old Ted Heath.
Michael Murphy, London

I remember the three-day week; going to school in groups, all wearing luminous yellow bands on our coat sleeves so that we could be seen in the dark. Then coming home and huddling round the gas cooker for heat. Then there was the heatwave in '76 when we had severe thunder storms, and water shortages. I developed my love of ice cream that year! The winter of discontent caused a lot of disruption through all the strike action but to a teenager who cared for little else but music, fashion and boys, most of the politics just passed me by! I do have fond memories of the seventies, but then I didn't have any worries or responsibilities......
Gillian, Edinburgh, Scotland

I remember the excitement of the power cuts while at junior school in the early 1970s, and how much we enjoyed the use of paraffin lamps at home - the darkness in the streets and houses was intense and scary. And, of course, for those who lived through it, who can forget the desertification of the country during the incredibly long hot summer of 1976 which started in about May and went on seemingly forever!
Caroline Jones, Godalming, UK

I used to love power cuts. We would have candles and mum made us all Bovril to drink. We would sit around the coal fire and my dad told me fairies lived in it. That kept me entertained for hours. Better than Crackerjack!!
Sarah Grimstone, London

The 70s was my teenage decade. One amusing event was during the coal strike and three day week, my father looked in he paper and decided that, as we were on a 'high risk' for power cuts at home we would go to the city to the cinema to see the new James Bond. Bond; "Your time is up Stromberg" Stromberg; "So is yours Mr Bond" Guess what? The power went out and we never did see the end of the film
Louise Warren, Leicestershire UK

Candles... I was about 8/9 during the three-day week. Mum made it sound exciting like the Blitz but it wasn't. Apart from that my abiding memories is of dreariness, decay and depression apart from the summer of 76 of course
Andy Bell, Notts

Candles and power cuts are my memories of the 70s. That and starting primary school in 72 and my mother dying in 74 by heart disease; something which could easily fixed today like myself by having a bypass.
David Fieldsend, Chesterfield

Three-day weeks, candles at night, cold dinners, and power cuts and all because of what? A union who used that decided to hold the country to ransom! Strikes seem to be the only thing on the news back then. As a child growing up, I believed this was how adults always behaved. If that wasn't bad enough, we had the threat of a nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union and terrorist bombings in London. The BBC news was always full of gloom stories about the Middle East, about which we cared nothing... The plus side was one or two hot summers... I stayed up all night to watch Mrs Thatcher get elected that May night, it was the start of better times as history has now proved. I was glad when the 70s ended, it was an awful time.
Gavin, Essex

The main effect of the drivers' strike was lack of fuel delivery. My own school had to close and only those taking exams that summer were educated. We were taught in the science block using Bunsen burners as heaters, which kept us warm, but incredibly drowsy! In addition I remember the queues of cars at garages in Stevenage to get the little petrol that there was. Finally, do not forget that the firemen's strike did lead to the army being used for fire duties, using the already gold Green Goddesses.
Matthew Wyatt, Stevenage

I got married in 1974 and when I went to rent a TV from the local Co-op was not allowed to in my own name as I was a woman. I had my second son in Feb 1979 when hospital workers strike was on .We had paper sheets on the beds, no hot food, the babies had paper baby gowns and then it snowed really hard, cutting off Chelmsford where I was in hospital from my home in Maldon. I had to stay in hospital two extra days because of the snow.
Dianna Pipe, Maldon, Essex, UK
As a 13-year-old at the turn of the decade I clearly remember the 70s miners' strike, the winter of discontent, the three-day working week and gritters on strike. I remember the struggle my parents had to make ends meet, food shortages caused by people panic buying only to throw it away when supplies were restored. The miserable power cuts, grey cold miserable days and even greyer colder miserable days and then along came Thatcher and it just got worse.
Karen, Sheffield

As a 10-year-old in 1978 I remember the piles of garbage piled up in our local recreation ground in Stanmore (a council estate in a posh part of the UK) Winchester. The piles of rotten waste became our playground, well it always was our playground so we continued to play on the soccer pitch, rather than kicking a ball but investigating all the crap spilling out of the bags! I was lucky enough to find a whole bag of used syringes! I can't really recall what we did with them, but did tell me mum later what we had found and she rang the council office to complain, not that it did any good. The rubbish kept coming, and it's only now that I realise that all the council owned recreation areas were used as garbage disposal areas, the hallowed grounds of public school Winchester College, of course were unaffected, hence the working class got kicked in the balls by its own kind yet again!
Slick McIntyre, Sydney, NSW

I remember the 70s well, I was working in construction at the time, roofing and steel erecting, the power cuts and three-day week didn't affect me much but even though all the things Andrew Marr described happened, he made it sound like the country was on its knees, but I don't recall it being as bad as he writes, we still had more industry then, and were a major producing country, and the average price of a pint of beer, when we went decimal in 1971, was two shilling (10 pence)and the music was a lot better than today's rubbish, men were a lot better dressed, you wouldn't get in a night club or a dance hall, without a collar and tie, 70s comedies on the telly were better, and we had Morecambe and Wise too. And Leeds were in the 1st division where they are now.
Rodney Thornton, Leeds UK

In January and February of 1974, because of a strike by Britain's miners, the government imposed a three-day working week and rationed electricity supplies. I was a control engineer at Huddersfield Power Station at the time and part of my duties was to switch off the supply to various substations around the town, according to an official rota. On many an evening shift I would have to switch off the power to my own home before going back for a candle-lit supper! In addition to this, the power station was picketed by miners so that we had extreme difficulty receiving coal supplies and getting rid of our waste product - ash. Eventually the management hired some dumper trucks which were used to ferry coal from the reserve stock area. They were also used to store piles of ash in every available space. Trying times, but we managed to keep generating as long as we were needed.
John Blackburn, Wetherby UK

I don't remember all the political chaos, but I do remember playing Scrabble by candlelight and the fact that we couldn't bury my deceased grandfather. My mother never forgave Labour or the trade unions for that.
Carl Parry, Antalya, Turkey

Trafalgar Square was a mountain of black garbage bags twitching with rats. The nice thing about electricity shortages was that they were announced on the wireless, by area, beforehand. Candles could not be found in hardware stores, but were plentiful in Harrods. We used Artic candles and camping lanterns. One could be somewhat prepared. No bread? They flew in bread from France until that was stopped and, if there was flour in the house, one had to bake (or not). The worst strike for many was on throwaway nappies. I am sure that hurt many people. I seem to remember contests of how to get along with tiny amounts of water - winners combined boiling food, washing dishes, bathing, washing clothes and finally, using the remains to water the garden, in about the same order with the same water. Hosepipes were banned in London. An old man in our neighbourhood used to so slowly pace his green front garden after dark with a hosepipe down his trousers so no one could see it. Sixteen strikes at one time, as I remember. Every day a new challenge.
JD Constantine, now, Fairfax, VA, USA; then, London NW2, England

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific