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.
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”.