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Preview Playing with class consciousness

BERNADETTE HYLAND reports on the northern launch of a unique collection of working-class plays

“THE SEVEN plays in this book are about class-conscious workers who recognise that they have the power to change society,” says GFTU general secretary Doug Nicholls of Workers' Playtime. “That did not exist until workers created it and it resides in collective action and an indomitable sense of justice.”

He'll be at the northern launch of the book, organised by the Mary Quaile Club, on May 19 at Manchester's Three Minute Theatre. Manchester Shakespeare Company are dramatising excerpts from the plays, including Dare to Be Free by Jane McNulty which commemorates the life and activity of Manchester-Irish trade unionist Mary Quaile while drawing links with today’s fast-food strikers.

Also being staged are extracts from Kathleen McCreery's The Chambermaids, the story of a group of Grosvenor House Hotel chambermaids who took on catering giant Trust House Forte in 1979 when their Jarrow-born shop steward was unfairly suspended and Out! On the Costa del Trico, which recounts the battle at a window-screen wiper factory when a group of women won their battle for equal pay in 1976.

One of the Trico strikers, Sally Groves, will speak at the launch and believes it very important for dispute to be remembered. “Firstly, we won more than equal pay after the negotiations were completed. The strike speaks to people today about what you can achieve if you stick together as workers, get your union behind you and, most importantly, don’t give up.”

Workers’ Playtime brings to life such stories of people who dared to challenge injustice at work and in society at large. Some of them won and all are part of a rich radical culture. As Nicholls says, “We are not going to rebuild and transform Britain without stirring the imagination and reconnecting with the confidence and struggles of our predecessors.

“Live theatre is one of the best ways of doing this and all of the plays we have collected speak vividly to us today, reminding us of the heroism and achievements and living relevance of those who fought before.”

The launch takes place on May 19 at 6pm at Three Minute Theatre. Booking is essential at maryquaileclub@gmail.com

 

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