“Dare to Be Free”: a play which celebrates the life and work of trade unionist Mary Quaile

The Mary Quaile Club has  commissioned a play about  Mary’s life and work  called Dare to Be Free,  which will be  premiered in the Mary Quaile Room at Manchester Trades Council’s May Day event  on 1.45pm on  the afternoon of  Saturday 30 April  2016.

Mary in Russia in 1925We thought  that a play about Mary would be a wonderful way of making her life and work as a trade union organiser  better known to a new generation. We were clear that the play would not  be an exercise in  cosy historical nostalgia,  but would  directly  link her work in organising  workers in the early C20th  to the conditions faced by many  workers today  ie  low pay, zero hours and the hostility by many employers towards the very idea of  trade unions.

Dare To Be Free is set in the past and present.  It’s 1908 and waitresses in a Manchester cafe are  fed up and ready to strike for proper pay and decent working conditions. It’s 2016 and   workers  in a Manchester  “fast food experience”  are fed up and  ready to strike for proper pay and decent working conditions. Linking the two eras is Mary Quaile, a pioneer of women’s trade unionism in the C20th, who has come to help out her modern-day sisters  because the issues she fought on 100 years ago  are back with vengeance…

In addition to the event on  30 April, there will be four other performances  as follows:

Saturday 14 May, 2pm,  in the Inspire Centre, 747 Stockport Road, Levenshulme Manchester M19 3AR.  (Mary lived in Levenshulme for many years at 20 Barlow Road). Free.

Saturday 14 May,  8pm, in the Bolton Socialist Club, Wood Street, Bolton.  £3

Sunday  15 May, 2pm, in the Glossop Labour Club, 15 Chapel Street, Glossop SK13 8AT. Free

Saturday 4 June at Three Minute Theatre,  Afflecks Arcade, 35 Oldham Street Manchester M1 1JG.   This final performance will be  part of the launch  of the second Mary Quaile publication, Dare to Be Free: women  in trade unions, past and present,   a pamphlet which  has an article on Mary Quaile and ten  interviews with women active in trade unions at grass roots level. The launch  will start at 2pm and the play will be on at 3.30pm. Free.

Jane McNultyWe are delighted that the play has been  written by Jane McNulty, whose previous work includes writing episodes for EastEndersDoctors, Peak Practice,  and Heartbeat. Her play  Our Lady of the Goldfinches was an examination of the case of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10,  who was murdered by the IRA in 1972. Another of Jane’s  plays,  A Bed of Shards will be staged at the Lowry on 1 and 2 July.


bill-hopkinsonThis  play will be  directed by Bill Hopkinson,  who teaches at Edge Hill University. He was Artistic Director of Manchester Youth Theatre for four years where he explored ways of integrating young disabled and non-disabled performers, and from 2000 to 2004 he was Literary Manager for Sgript Cymru, the national new writing company for Wales. Bill has worked extensively as a dramaturg, developing and encouraging new writing for the stage including over 25 years association with NW Playwrights.

The cast

Catherine KinsellaCatherine Kinsella (Mary Quaile)

Catherine has worked extensively with Northern Broadsides since 2002.  She has appeared at the Bolton Octagon in  A View from the Bridge. In 2013 she won a Manchester Evening News  award for Best Actress in a Visiting Production when she appeared in Rutherford and Son. In 2015 she played Cordelia in King Lear, directed by Jonathan Miller.  Her most recent role on television was in The A Word (2016) as Martha. She has also appeared in Holby City, Waterloo RoadDoctors and Casualty.

Rachel Priest (waitress)

Rachel PriestRachel has toured with children’s theatre companies including West Midlands Children’s Theatre and Quantum Theatre.  She has worked  with Jelly Shoe Productions at The Lowry Theatre and with Watford Palace Theatre and Swine Theatre. She has appeared on television in  Coronation StreetEmmerdale, Blue Murder and Cold Blood.  In April 2016 she played Susan  in Humble by Peter Kerry, one of the JB Shorts.  Rachel  is also an actor and  puppeteer with   Topsy Turvy Theatre. 



Catarina Pinto Soromenho (waitress)

CatarinaCatarina  studied Dance and Drama with Physical Theatre at Edge Hill, graduating in 2013.  Her work  since then has included directing “Annie” at Academia Musica de Espinho and acting as tutor and choreographer at the  “Grito” school project in Porto.



Rebecca Brown (waitress)

 Rebecca BrownRebecca Brown has performed in plays such as Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, Leave it to Psmith, and Antigone. Most recently, she was in a production of Blood Wedding at Edge Hill University, where she studies Creative Writing and Drama.




Financial support

This  play could not have been produced   without  the  generous financial support we  received  from  a number of trade  unions and individuals

We are very pleased to have received  donations  from the following  trade unions: BECTU, Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, Communication Workers Union,  Fire Brigades Union (Region No 5),  General Federation of Trade Unions, Bristol branch of  NUJ,   Calderdale branch of  NUJ,  Glasgow branch of  NUJ, Manchester  and Salford branch of  NUJ, the Professional Footballers’ Association, Bolton branch of  NUT, Bolton branch of  UNISON,  and UNITE (North West region).

We have also received donations from the following individuals: Geoff and Judy Brown, Christopher Eccleston, John Finch,  Tony Garnett, Gaynor Lloyd, Rita Machin,  Maxine Peake, Sheila Rowbotham,  and Margaret Ward.


One comment on ““Dare to Be Free”: a play which celebrates the life and work of trade unionist Mary Quaile
  1. […] today she has been forgotten. The MQ Club are trying to raise money to commission a play about her see The MQC will not be getting any arts funding or Labour council funding so it’s down to us to […]

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