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 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”.
On 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.
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: email@example.com
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.
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
National Union of Journalists – Manchester and Salford branch
Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign
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
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.