MQC event on 3 October 2015 with Brian Lavery and Hilda Palmer


We were delighted to welcome  Brian Lavery and Hilda Palmer to our event on 3 October in the Annexe at the Working Class Movement Library.

Brian discussed his  book “The Headscarf Revolutionaries” (Barbican Press, 2015)  which looked back  to 1968 at the remarkable and  successful  campaign waged by working class women  in Hull, led by Lillian Bilocca, to get proper health and safety on trawlers after the loss of three trawlers in a matter of weeks.  He also  spoke about the way that Lillian was portrayed  in the press and  how sadly  this led to people in Hull turning against her.

Hilda from the Greater Manchester Hazards Centre reflected on the struggle for proper health  and safety at work and how the gains of the last 40 years are under assault as never before  by the present government.

Our thanks to Brian and Hilda for two excellent talks

front of bookBrian’s  book can be purchased online from News from Nowhere





The Greater Manchester Hazards Centre relies on donations to keep going. You can find out how you can support it here.

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Posted in Book launch, Events, health and safety, Mary Quaile club meeting, women's history, working class history

Book launch of Northern ReSisters:conversations with radical women

Northern ReSisters front cover

More than  40 people packed into the Annexe of the Working Class Movement  Library on the afternoon of Saturday 6 June  for the launch of the first Mary Quaile Club publication,   Northern ReSisters: conversations with radical women by Bernadette Hyland.  The event was chaired by Dorothy Winard who welcomed the audience to the event and introduced  Bernadette who  spoke about her reasons for writing the book:  to record the experiences of  northern women active in campaigns over the past 40 years  and  to offer their  stories  as an inspiration for new generations of activists.  She was followed  by Betty Tebbs, Linda Clair, Honor Donnelly, Mandy Vere and Christine Clark  who  spoke about their personal experiences as activists. There was then a wide-ranging debate amongst the audience with a large number of contributions  on how radical movements could make progress in the Age of Austerity and the recent Tory victory.

Finally it was time for tea and cakes over which the debates and discussions continued very animatedly.

Our thanks to everybody who came along to the launch,  to the Working Class Movement  Library and to John Crumpton for taking the pictures below.

Bernadette would be delighted to speak about her book at events, meetings, conferences and book festivals  and can be contacted by email; Her book can be purchased from News From Nowhere

Bernadette Hyland

Bernadette Hyland

Dorothy Winard

Dorothy Winard (centre)

Betty Tebbs

Betty Tebbs

Honor Donnelly

Honor Donnelly

Mandy Vere

Mandy Vere

Christine Clark

Christine Clark

the audience

the audience

Linda Clair

Linda Clair

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Posted in Book launch, Mary Quaile club meeting, Publication, women's history, working class history

First MQC publication: Northern ReSisters by Bernadette Hyland

Northern ReSisters front cover

The Mary Quaile Club is pleased to announce its first publication,  Northern  ReSisters:conversations with political women, written by Bernadette Hyland,  published  on 1 May  2015. ISBN 978-0-9932247-0-06 £5.95

In the book Bernadette speaks to nine women  from the north west  who have been active in radical  movements over the pasty forty years, including trade unionism, Women’s  Liberation, radical  bookselling,  anti-racism, the peace movement, Ireland  and Palestine.

Bernadette says: “In this book I ask the question; what does it mean to be an activist; how does it affect your life and how do people keep going at a time of increasing attacks on all the aspects of this society that has made it a decent place for people to live? 

  My conversations  with these women cover many of the important issues of the post war era including; the peace movement, trade unions, women’s  rights and issues around sexuality, anti-fascist campaigns, Ireland and Palestine. It is their story, it is my story and it may be yours.

The women include Betty Tebbs, from Bury, aged 97, a trade unionist and peace campaigner since the 1940s who has appeared on television with Maxine Peake; Mandy Vere, who founded the News from Nowhere radical bookshop in Liverpool in the 1970s and still works there; Karen Reissman, a nurse from Bolton who campaigns about the NHS; and Alice Nutter, from Leeds, formerly in the band Chumbawamba, who now writes drama for theatre, radio and television.

In the second part of the book Bernadette has selected a number of her articles previously published between 1988 and 2014. These include articles about  Irish identity  and politics  in Britain, an interview with Bernadette Devlin McAliskey from 1991 and a discussion in 2014  with writers Cathy Crabb, Alice Nutter, Maxine Peake and Sally Wainwright on whether there is such a thing as a “northern writer”.

Bernadette Hyland is a writer, researcher and political activist.  Born in Manchester she sees herself as following in the footsteps of the rich radical  history of the north.  Her articles have appeared in the Irish Post,  Morning Star, Big Issue in the North, Contributoria and other publications.  She also  writes a popular  blog  Lipstick Socialist.  Bernadette is a member of the National Union of Journalists.

The book has 76 pages and is professionally designed and printed  with numerous pictures. It costs £5.95

How To Buy This Book.


Northern Resisters can be purchased online from News From Nowhere

By post

Please send orders to Mary Quaile Club, 6 Andrew Street Mossley Lancashire OL5 0DN. The cost is £6.95 including p&p. Please make cheques payable to BFC Hyland.

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Posted in Publication

A real International Women’s Day Event!

International Women’s Day was celebrated for its true socialist feminist origins on  21 March by the Mary Quaile Club. The day celebrated the life of trade unionist and socialist feminist Mary Quaile with contributions from historians, trade unionists and women activists.
MQC activist Ciara O’Sullivan opened the day with a reminder of the history of IWD and the role of socialist feminists, Clara Zetkin and Louise Zeitz, in its founding.


The first session comprised a fascinating account of Mary’s life by historian Alison Ronan and a contribution by Unite shop steward Hannah Ravenscroft on her work at the Vauxhall Car Factory in Merseyside.

The next session looked at two of the new movements for political change in Scotland and Spain. Susan Lyons joined us from Scotland and spoke about the Women for Independence movement, its birth and role in the referendum campaign. Laura and Elena from Podemos, (We Can) the Spanish political party which has a “circle” in Manchester and across the country, spoke about why the party started and its policy on feminising the economy.

Selma James of the Global Womens Strike Movement spoke about the need for women to organise and reflected on her new book about Tanzania and the socialist movement there in the 1960s.

The last session looked at the role of activism in Manchester particularly the trade union movement. Annette Wright, President of Manchester Trades Council, spoke about the role of trades union in the current climate and the need for back to basics work including the recruitment of young people into the movement. Bernadette Hyland, writer and activist, reflected on the lives of women activists that she had interviewed for her new book. “Northern Resisters; Conversations with Radical Women.” It is the first Mary Quaile Club publication.

Lots of interesting comments were made during and between the sessions as well as connections between people keen to get involved in political activity.

Michael contributed to this news item on BBC online see

Thanks to Conrad Bower for the photos.

Posted in Feminism, Mary Quaile club meeting, women's history, working class history

Sixth meeting of the Mary Quaile Club: Hannah Mitchell Day 18 October 2014

Hannah Mitchell

Our sixth  Mary Quaile Club event took place in Ashton-under-Lyne and was a celebration  of the life and politics of  Hannah  Mitchell (1871 -1956).  Hannah  was a socialist and suffragette who lived in Bolton between 1900 and 1910 on Elizabeth Street. The  Day  was held in Topaz Cafe on Katherine Street and was well attended. It was chaired by Bernadette Hyland.


audience 1Our audience

We opened with a  song  England Arise,  sung by Jennifer Reid. This was written by the socialist Edward Carpenter and  was the unofficial anthem of the socialist movement in the early C20th.  Jennifer is a member of the Mary Quaile Club  and researches  and performs C19th ballads.

Michael Herbert   and Rachel Austin gave a joint presentation   about  Hannah as a socialist. Michael  explained how she became a socialist after reading The Clarion  newspaper  and hearing Katherine St John Conway speak.  He also talked about  Hannah role as an ILP  councillor in Manchester in the 1920s and 1930s.  Rachel illuminated the talk  by  reading  extracts from Hannah’s  autobiography The Hard Way Up.  Michael is a socialist historian  who teaches history and leads Red Flag Walks. Rachel is an actress who has  played Sophie Lancaster  in Black Roses   at the Royal  Exchange   and Jemima  Bamford in Manchester Sound: The Massacre for the Library  Theatre.

 Ciara speakingCiara  discussing Hannah and the WSPU

Ciara  O’Sullivan then  looked   at Hannah’s  role as a suffragette  in the militant campaign  for Votes for Women, led by Christabel  and Emmeline Pankhurst. Hannah knew the Pankhursts as  fellow socialists  and joined the WSPU in 1905. She was very active in the camapaign for two  years speaking at many  meetings up and down the country  but then suffered a nervous breakdown because of overwork. Shockingly the Pankhusts never contacted her. When she recovered Hannah joined the Women’s  Freedom League led by Charlotte Despard.  Ciara is a member of the Mary Quaile Club.

Christine Clayton  discussed the activites of the No Conscription Fellowship which  supported the men  who refused to fight in the First World War. Hannah’s son Frank appeared before a Military Tribunal and was granted exemption.  Conscientious objectors were often very badly treated in prisons and in work camps and 73 died. Hannah was involved in a number of anti-war meetings in Manchester.  Christine is a historical researcher  and volunteer at the Working Class Movement Library.

Rachel reading Hannah's storiesRachel reading Hannah’s stories

To round off the morning session Rachel read two  stories written by Hannah in strong Lancashire dialect which appeared in Labour’s Northern Voice in the 1930s.

At lunchtime we enjoyed an excellent vegetarian  buffet of sandwiches  and wraps.

Our afternoon session began with Eileen Murphy performing her monologue Hannah, written by her in 2001,  in which Hannah  talks about her life and political activity. After her performance Eileen explained how she came to write the play and answered questions.

Charlotte speakingCharlotte speaking

Our last  speaker was Charlotte Hughes who is campaigning in Ashton against benefits cuts  and assists   the unemployed with advice and support. She explained the constant  pressure that the unemployed were  under with sanctions being rountinely applied by the Job Centre. This  was followed by a discussion to which  many  in the audience contributed.

jennifer singingJennifer singing

We finished with another song, The March of the Women , the suffragette  anthem written by Ethel Smythe in 1910, again sung by Jennifer.

Our thanks to all our speakers  and contributors  and to Kevin and the staff at Topaz Cafe.


some useful links..

Charlotte Hughes’   blog The Poor Side of Life

No Conscription Fellowship archive at the Working Class Movement Library

England Arise! a play about being toured by Bent  Architect  theatre company  around the north. It will be at the Peoples History Museum on 14 and 15 November.


This  was   our final event for 2014.  We are currently planning events for 2015 and welcome suggestions as to possible speakers  and topics. Pleaae contact us  by email ;

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Posted in Mary Quaile club meeting, women's history, working class history

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

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