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Living Through the 1970’s Blackouts

Are you old enough to remember Britain during the glam rock years? If so you’ll remember kids coming home from school in the dark – and we mean dark – during the winter because the street lighting was off.

The country was blitzed by blackouts because power was rationed and people had to adjust their lives accordingly. This blog looks at the effects of the blackout in Britain, and what it was like to live through this period.

What caused the blackouts?

Unions were the main cause of the blackouts in the 1970s, miners opted to work to rule due to proposed pay caps so by the end of 1973 coal reserves were running extremely low. This forced the government into action.

They decided to impose restrictions on power usage, electricity was rationed and firms not classed as essential services were forced to restrict their power usage to three days a week. Hence the three day working week developed which might sound great, but when you adjust wages to compensate for this you can understand how families quickly found themselves on the breadline.

How did the blackouts affect people in Britain?

Wow, where do we begin? In blackout areas schools, homes and businesses used paraffin lamps and candles for light. Street lights were out, houses were plunged into darkness and that was just the tip of the iceberg.

People would walk from one store to the next to buy candles only to find they were sold out. Butcher’s shops started to make ‘makeshift’ candles out of string and lard, which smelt terrible and were a real fire hazard. Families would sit around the fireside watching coals crackle or huddle around gas rings on the cooker for heat. It sounds bleak and it was bleak, but on the plus side, it made the country unite.

Folks tried to make the blackouts as fun as possible, they’d sit around chatting, think of games to play in the dark, sip mugs of Bovril, fill the home with the smell of freshly baked bread (shops were often sold out) and generally enjoy quality time together until the power came back on.

Think of that the next time your kids are playing on their iPads, you’re on the computer and hubby is watching Sky Sports in the other room, maybe the blackouts weren’t that bad after all?