At our latest event at Three Minute Theatre Suzanne Bury chaired an evening of speeches, drama and song to launch a book of radical plays “Worker’s Play Tme” edited by Doug Nicholls, General Secretary of the GFTU. We were very pleased that Doug could join us. In his opening address he outlined how cultural and artistic expression has always been integral to labour movement struggles: “There have never been bread without roses,” he said, “and we need more of both.”
Three Minute Theatre’s own in-house company, the Manchester Shakespeare Company, then dramatised excerpts from three of the plays included in Worker’s Play Time. All three of them reflected the way in which women (and some men) have fought for justice in their pay packet and equality at work.
“The Chambermaids”, written in 1987, showed how a group of chambermaids took on the Trust House Forte empire when their shop steward was sacked. “Dare to Be Free” commissioned by the Mary Quaile Club told the story of Mary Quaile, a forgotten Manchester Irish trade unionist, and linked her struggle with today’s fast food strikers.
“Out on the Costa del Trico” was written by the Women’s Theatre Company in 1977 about the Trico strike of 1976 when 400 mainly women, who made window screen wipers, went on strike for equal pay. They won and we were very pleased that Sally Groves, who was the publicity officer for the strikers and later became a shop steward could join us. Sally explained how they succeeeded after 21 weeks on strike but also pointed out why it could not happen today with the legislation restricting trade union activity and why such action is even more important in 2018.
Sally explained how the American multinational Trico totally underestimated the strength of the women. “They thought we would give up after we lost at Tribunal but not one of the women broke the strike and went back to work. In fact it just made us angrier and more determined to stay out.” Next month a book about the strike written by Sally Groves and Vernon Merritt is being published Trico: A Victory to Remember The 1976 Equal Pay Strike at Trico Folberth, Brentford.
Our thanks to Doug Nicholls, John and Gina at Three Minute Theatre, the Manchester Shakespeare Company and Sally Groves.
You can buy Worker’s Play Time here.