Mary Quaile Event on Grunwick Strike 1976-1978, 3rd December 2016 at the Working Class Movement Library



Our final event for 2016 looked back at the Grunwick Strike of 1976-1978, one of the most important industrial disputes of the 1970s when a group of mainly Asian women  struck for union recognition at the Grunwick film processing plant in Willesden in the hot summer of 1976. At its height in 1977  the dispute brought thousands of trade unionists on to the streets around the factory. There were frequent  violent attacks by the police on the pickets. In the end  the strike was lost.

We also highlighted the current struggle by 2,700  Teaching Assistants in Durham against  a 23% pay cut in their wages, being imposed by Labour-controlled Durham County Council.


On the day our  venue, the  Annexe at the Working Class  Movement Library,  was full.  On behalf of the Mary Quaile Club Bernadette Hyland welcomed  the audience,  and explained  that the Club was set up to promote working class history and the links with today’s struggles.

We then screened The Great Grunwick Strike, a film made by Chris Thomas  in 2007 for Brent Trades Council which  combines contemporary  footage and photographs with interviews 30 years later with some of the key figures in the strike and supporting organisations.









After this Annette Wright from Manchester Trades Union  Council chaired a session with our two guest speakers. Sujata Aurora from the Grunwick 40 Committee, and Lisa Turnbull from the Durham Teaching Assistants campaign.

Sujata talked about some of the issues not covered in the film, including the fact that prior to Grunwick, migrant workers had staged a number of disputes,  eg Imperial Typewriters of 1974,   which had not been supported  by the wider labour movment, indeed had been opposed.  She also noted that some  of current  celebrations of  the strike by unions had glossed over the fact that the strike had been lost.

Lisa, in an inspirational speech, spoke  about how devastated they had been by the threatened massive cut to their  wages,  and how  their campaign had been built from scratch by themselves  using social media, meetings,  marching in the Durham Miners’ Gala, and much else. They had gone on strike for 2 days:  another strike had just been called off after the local authority appeared to be offering to talk about the issue. They were determined to fight on for victory.

Ian Allinson from Ugrunwick-ian-allisonNITE at Fijutsu in Manchester  spoke from the audience about their dispute : they were going on strike again on Monday.

We then enjoyed tea and cakes, over which  much informal discussion took place. We took  a collection for  the Durham dispute which raised over £100

This event was organised in conjunction with Manchester and Salford NUJ, and Manchester Trades Union  Council, whom we would like to thank for their support.


More information

The Grunwick 40 Committee are holding an exhibition in Brent and organising events to mark the 40th anniversary of the strike. Their Twitter account is here

The County Durham Teaching Assistants “Value Us campaign. Their  official Twitter account is here

Unite at Fujitsu. Their Twitter acount is here

The Working Class Movement  Library has material on the Grunwick strike including photographs and books.








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Posted in Mary Quaile club meeting, Migrant workers, trade unions, women's history, working class history

Mary Quaile Club event: screening of “The House That Jack Built” by Shelagh Delaney, 26th November 2016

Saturday 26th November, 12.30pm to 4.30pm

A complete screening of The House That Jack Built  by Shelagh Delaney

Venue : Three Minute Theatre, Afflecks Arcade, 35-39 Oldham Street, Manchester, M1 1JG.

We were delighted to screen The House That Jack Built  by Shelagh Delaney as our contribution to Shelagh Delaney Day 2016.

shelagh-delaneyShelagh  Delaney grew up in Pendleton,  Salford  and came to fame in the late 1950s with her play A Taste of Honey, staged by Joan Littlewood, and later filmed by Tony Richardson.  She wrote the scripts for a number of films,  including  Charlie Bubbles (1967),  Dance with a Stranger (1985) and The Railway Station Man (1992)

Her work for television has often been overlooked.  The House That Jack Built  was broadcast by the BBC in the summer of 1977,   although it was filmed in Manchester the previous summer.  The six 30 minute episodes  tell the story of the marriage of  Jack (played by Duggie Brown) and Lou (played by Sharon Duce) over ten years. It has never been repeated on television, and is not available on DVD.









In an interview Shelagh said of the drama,  “Well,  I suppose they lose their innocence. That’s what the play is really about. They learn they’ve got to put up with things they don’t really want to put up with…certain aspects of each other. Jack’s head is full of ideas. He’s a poet. They are building something physical and emotional and sometime something collapses and they build it up again. They are concerned with timeless things like money food and sex. Jack and Lu are both very sexy. They enjoy sex. But there isn’t a bedroom scene in the plays. The audience expects explicit sex,  but it’s more potent when it isn’t explicit.



Sanne Bury introduced the screening, and chaired  the discussion afterwards. Our thanks to Gill and Trevor Griffiths, Maxine Peake and Sheila Hancock  for sponsoring this screening.We were delighted that Sheila and her grand-daughter were  able  to join us for the first half.

We would also like to thank Matthew Harle at the British Film Institute for arranging  the hire of the videos, and David Petty at Home for the loan of the player. Finally our thanks to John and Gina at 3MT for their help and support for this  screening.


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Posted in Drama, Shelagh Delaney, Television, women's history, working class history

We launch our second publication ” Dare to be Free: women in trade unions, past and present” 4 June 2016

DTBF launch 1

On Saturday 4 June,  as part of the Manchester Histories Festival,   we  launched  our  second publication,Dare to Be Free”: women  in trade unions, past and present. This publication has  two parts: a biography of Mary Quaile (1886-1958), written by Michael Herbert, and ten interviews with women of today  active in trade unions at grass roots level, written by Bernadette Hyland. The common thread is the belief of Mary Quaile,  and her modern-day  sisters,   that trade unionism can make a real difference to the lives of working women  and men.

This event took  place  at Three Minute Theatre, in Afflecks Arcade. Bernadette Hyland spoke  first,  outlining  the facts of Mary’s Quaile’s life as a trade unionist  and her role in organising  women into  unions, first  in Manchester and then nationally. She   drew  parallels with  2016 in which we are fighting the same battles for  basic rights at work as Mary and others did 100 years ago. Bernadette  ended her speech by quoting from Jane Stewart from  Unite, one of the women  she interviewed for the publication: “After  thirty  years I  want to encourage other people to get involved in the trade union movement. If we don’t fight we will never succeed. Too often things get worse because people do nothing, so not fighting is not an option.”

Following  Bernadette DTBF launch 2we were delighted to welcome  Sarah Woolley from the Baker’s Union who had travelled over from Yorkshire for the event. She spoke about how she had become  involved in the   union after  experiencing  problems at work.  She was asked by the union to become a shop steward and is now a full-time officer. It had changed her life in so many ways. She  said  that if she could do it “then anyone could.” Sarah  urged people to give support to BFAWU members at Pennine Foods, who were on strike against severe wage cuts.

We then welcomed our final speakers –  Khadija, Robert and Ana from the Hotel Workers branch of Unite – who had come up  from London that morning especially  to speak at our event.  They spoke about  their own experiences at work  and as members of Unite.  It was often difficult to organise workers in hotels or in cafes and restaurants,  but the union was making steady progress,  offering advice and support, as well as educational opportunities such as English classes.  However union activists were often targeted by managers determined to keep unions out of their businesses.

After the speakers had finished there was a question and answer session session with the audience, who were shocked at  some of the workplace  practices described by our speakers.

We finished the book launch  with a  final performance of “Dare to Be Free,” a play commissioned by the Mary Quaile Club and written by Jane McNulty. The play takes place in the past and present.  It’s 1908 and waitresses in a Manchester cafe are  fed up and phto 2ready 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,  come to help out her modern-day sisters  because the issues she fought on 100 years ago  are back with vengeance. This was very well received by the audience who enthusatically joined in the song at the end,   written by Carol Donaldson and Jane McNulty.

Our thanks to all our speakers, to John and Gina at 3MT and to Steve Speed for taking the photographs on this  post.

Dare to Be Free; women  in trade unions, past and present has 41 pages and costs £3.95. ISBN 978-0-9932247-1-3.  It can be ordered online from News from Nowhere

Bernadette Hyland  would be delighted to speak at meetings and conferences about the issues raised by her research for the pamphlet and can be contacted by email:




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

Mary Quaile Club event on Saturday 9 April 2016, Migrant workers: past and present

scorrish herring women workers

On Saturday 9 April, 2pm,  we held an event at which  we discussed the issue of migrant workers, past  and present. This took  place in The Annexe at the Working  Class Movement  Library, 51 The Crescent, Salford M5 4WX. The event was  free

Chris Unsworth, author  of The British Herring Industry 1900-1960,  spoke  about the forgotten story of Scottish women who migrated   to England to  work in the herring industry. Every year from the 1880s to 1960s  thousands of  women  went south from Scotland in the late summer and  autumn  to work in  the fishing ports of  North East and Eastern England,  such as Seahouses and  Great Yarmouth.  They were brought by special chartered trains.  This was tough outdoor work with the women often  suffering from  cuts and cold sores. As  a workforce they were not  unionised, but there was a spontaneous strike in the 1930s when the employers tried to impose a wage reduction.

Chris was  followed by  Sandra  Penaloza-Rice, co-odinator and co-funder of Migrant Support Migrants  Manchester, who  spoke about  the position of migrant workers today,  and how MSM is working  to support them with education, cultural and other projects.

After  the speakers and a lively discussion, we enjoyed tea and cakes.


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

Mary Quaile Club event on 14th November 2015, A screening of The Lump by Jim Allen

jim Allen pictureWe  hosted a screening  at 3MT of the  television drama The Lump by Jim Allen,  first broadcast in The Wednesday Play series on the BBC on 1 February 1967.  This play  was directed by the late Jack Gold and produced by Tony Garnett. We were  delighted that Tony was able  to  come up from London to be with us for this  event.

In 1967  Tony  wrote this  in the Radio  Times about the play.

“The headlines scream. A strike has broken out. The economy is being ruined by irresponsible elements. There are Reds under every bed. When it is very serious we hear grand phrases about “a tightly knit group of politically motivated men”. Yorky is such a man.

What is Yorky like? Physically he is a giant. Over six feet tall and sixteen stone, he is a bulldozer of a man. He loves his ale and hates the bosses. He is a bricklayer by trade and a revolutionary by vocation. For him a strike it not just an argument about another penny an hour – it is part of his life’s work to change the very structure of our society. Nothing will divert him from his purpose. A gentle man with a wry humour, he will not draw back from violence. He is a tough man in a rough industry. An industry which is getting rougher. Because over it falls the shadow of “the Lump”, a system of work where men are self-employed and on their own. Bought and sold like cattle on the hoof, they are often behind with their tax, their cards are unstamped, and an accident at work can lead them to the scrap-heap.

The Government is worried about it. The Unions hate it and many employers oppose it. It leads to industrial anarchy and it has been spreading like wildfire. Its shadow falls over Yorky. But he knows what he is doing – or so he thinks. Meet this man who sets himself up to fight the whole world. Whatever you think of him, I hope the conflict will grip you”.

IMG_3945IMG_3946This event was sold out. After the screening Tony gave a fascinating account of  his work with Jim Allen, praising his honesty and integrity and the quality of his writing. He described him as perhaps the most important writer on television in that era. He also  believed that it would be impossible to get this kind of drama on television nowadays.

This is a link to the  Blacklisting campaign , which campaigns for justice for trade unionists blacklisted by employers in the building and other industries.

Our thanks to Gina and John at 3MT.


We  showed a  copy of  The Lump  provided by the British Film Institute.  Our thanks to Matthew Harle at the BFI  for arranging this.

Posted in Drama, Events, Jim Allen, Mary Quaile club meeting, Television, working class history

Mary Quaile 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, Feminism, health and safety, Mary Quaile club meeting, women's history, working class history

Mary Quaile Club event on 6 June 2015, 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, Feminism, Mary Quaile club meeting, Publication, women's history, working class history

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