Fifth meeting of the Mary Quaile Club

The audience discussing the play over refreshments

The audience discussing the play over refreshments

The Mary Quaile Club held its 5th event  on Saturday 27th September  2014 at 3 Minute Theatre, Oldham Street, Manchester.  We showed United Kingdom, a BBC  Play  for Today  written by Jim Allen and originally shown in December 1981.  Jimmy McGovern  had suggested that we should show this when he spoke at our screening of The Spongers. Over 40 people attended the screening.

The play is centred on  a group of Labour councilors in the North East  who are defying the government and refusing to make cuts in council services. They are dismissed by  the   government  which sends in a Commissioner to run the Council  but his  efforts are frustrated  by the removal of  computer tapes by the councillors. The play also  follows the actions of the police, led by a Chief Constable similar to James Anderton,  who works with the Commissioner to recover the tapes and end the protest. This  has  escalated to barricades around an estate after the police attempt to arrest the councillors. The government and police  present the situation as a matter of law and order and not politics.

Honor Donnelly, Michael Herbert and Andy Wills

Honor Donnelly, Michael Herbert and Andy Willis

We  were delighted to welcome two guest speakers: Andy Willis from the University of Salford  who introduced the screening  and Honor Donnelly from the Anti-Bedroom Tax  campaign  who  led  off the discussion afterwards on the issues raised  by the play,  including how working class communities  can fight austerity. We were very pleased that two of Jim Allen’s children – Joe Allen and Kathy Allen –  were able to attend  the screening.

Our  thanks to Andy and Honor and also to  Gina and John at 3MT for their hospitality and technical assistance.

Andy Willis has written an article about The Spongers and United Kingdom which can be found in the British Journal of Cinema and Television, vol 5/2. It is called ” Jim Allen:Beyond Days of Hope”.

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Posted in Drama, Events, Public Meeting, Television, working class history

Fourth meeting of the Mary Quaile Club

the Spongers 009On 21st June 2014  we held our fourth  event in the Annexe of the Working Class Movement  Library which was a special screening of The Spongers written by Jim Allen. First broadcast in 1978  as part of the Play for Today series, the drama depicts in unhurried but relentless detail how Pauline, a  single mother with four children, one of whom has  learning difficulties,   falls deeper and deeper in debt and how the social  security sytem and social services department –   supposedly there  to support  and help her –  not only utterly fail her,  but   contribute to  her taking a dreadful decision at the end of the play.

the Spongers 008

We were delighted to welcome the writer  Jimmy McGovern to our event who  expressed his admiration for Jim Allen’s work in general,  and this  play in particular,  which  he described as “a  work of genius”. Jimmy  was followed  by a thoughtful and often passionate  discussion about Jim’s work and the issues raised in the play with many of the audience taking part.  This was  recorded by Lizzie  Foster who is making a BBC radio documentary about Jim Allen with the actor Christopher Eccleston. Christopher was unable to join us but he sent  a message to the event:  “Jim Allen cared about others and was a technically brilliant writer. A precious combination. The Spongers is  a masterpiece.The greatest British drama.Has anybody currently running BBC, ITV and Channel 4 seen it? I don’t think he’d have wanted to just preach to the converted”.

We would like Jimmy McGovern, Andy Willis,  Alice Nutter, Christopher Eccleston,  the Working Class  Movement Library  and everybody attending for an outstanding event.

The Jim Allen archive  is housed at the Working Class Movement Library  and is available for researchers.  For more information, please contact  the library:




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Posted in Drama, Mary Quaile club meeting, Television, working class history

Third meeting of the Mary Quaile Club


On Saturday 24 May we welcomed John Fay, writer of TV  dramas such as Brookside Coronation Street, Blue Murder and The Mill, an historical Channel 4  series set in Styal Mill.  In a wide ranging, thoughtful,  and never less than entertaining discussion which  lasted   an hour and a half,   John discussed how he  became a writer and reflected on the various TV dramas he has written for… and a great deal more.

Our thanks to John and Gina at 3MT and above all  to John for taking the trouble to come over to Manchester and share his  passion for writing.

The second series of The Mill will air later this year.

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Posted in Events, Public Meeting, Television, working class history

Second Meeting of Mary Quaile Club



CPBF 003CPBF 007

Our second meeting, ably chaired by Alice Searle,  was a success.  A packed room at the Friends Meeting House heard Granville Williams  from the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom  and Stephen Kingston from the Salford Star discuss issues of media ownership,  censorship and bias,  truthful reporting, right of reply and alternatives to the mainstream media. This was followed by a lively and informed discussion. Afterwards there was a healthy sale of books on the press and the miners strike.  Our thanks to our speakers and everyone who attended and also to those organisations and individuals who sponsored the meeting.

some useful  links

Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom

Salford Star

National Union of Journalists – Manchester and Salford branch

Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign




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Posted in Media and Press, Miners Strike 1984-85, Public Meeting, working class history

First meeting of Mary Quaile Club is a success.

First meeting of the Mary Quaile Club

First meeting of the Mary Quaile Club

The Mary  Quaile Club held a well-attended inaugural meeting on Saturday 15 February 2014  at Cornerstones Cafe, Langworthy, Salford.  An attentive audience heard Paula  Bartley discuss aspects of the life of Ellen Wilkinson,  including her involvement in the the suffragist  campaign, anti-fascism, the Jarrow Crusade and the 1945 Labour government. She was followed  by Hugh Caffrey who  gave a summary of  the campaign to save the NHS from privatisation and explained how  people can get involved.  The audience  then discussed  the issues raised for some time  with many people joining in.  It was generally agreed that it had been a sucessful and enjoyable event. The meeting  was filmed by Quays News. It was tweeted in real time  by Chloe on the MQC Twitter account @maryquaileclub.

Paula Bartley and Hugh Caffrey

Paula Bartley and Hugh Caffrey

The MQC is now planning events for April on the media and the 1984-85 miners strike and for May on trade unionism, past and present.  These will be posted here as soon as details have been finalised.

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Posted in Events, NHS, Welfare State, women's history, working class history
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