We thought with it being the summer we would take the opportunity to introduce other aspects of the cultural work of the Unite Education department, which is passionately committed to backing and promoting all forms of cultural entertainment that help boost working people’s political, economic and social consciousness. Film and theatre are important to us and amongst the projects we have backed are the following:-
FILMS of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ WORK-IN
Unite helped mark the 40th anniversary in 2012 of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders' (UCS) Work-in during 1971-72 by helping re-issue two unique films that remain highly relevant for today's struggles.
Cinema Action film collective was the only film crew allowed inside the yards by the UCS Shop Stewards' Committee throughout the successful Work-In that helped save shipbuilding on the Clyde. They made two films - UCS 1, which is 23 minutes long, and Class Struggle, 75 minutes long. These are supplemented by a short 12 minute 40th anniversary film by the Scottish TUC's Kevin Buchanan and a filmed speech on 1 October 2011 by Tony Benn, who during the Work-In was one of the speakers at a demonstration in Glasgow that attracted 80,000 people.
In UCS1 and Class Struggle workers explain why a Work-In was deployed in a fight for the 'Right to Work' in which the aim was to mobilise the wider community and the whole political and industrial movement to provide financial, moral and demonstrative support.
UCS was facing liquidation after Edward Heath's Conservative government, which held a 48% per cent minority shareholding in the company, had refused to grant the company £6 million. It left all 8,500 employees facing redundancy in an era where work was increasingly difficult to find on the Clyde industrial belt of Scotland.
UCS workers agreed to take Direct Action as soon as any move was made at closure. Taking strike action would make it easier for the liquidators to shut the gates, whilst a sit-in by itself would be difficult to maintain and it was Jimmy Reid, one of the leading stewards, who proposed a Work-In. "We refuse to accept that economics can control men, men must and can control economics... They shall never get us out of these yards." The Work-In, which began in September 1971, saw the workers successfully complete the shipyard orders. With support for the workers actions growing the shipbuilding industry minister Nicholas Ridley, earlier exposed in the press for a secret report that recommended closing the yards, was sacked and the government agreed to help restructure the yards and maintain shipbuilding on the Clyde. It was a famous success.
As Tony Benn said in 2011, "We need to understand our own history. Every generation has to fight the same battles again and again and draw inspiration from the past...Tolpuddle, Chartists, Suffragettes, UCS, it is all part of our history..."
The 2013 Matchgirls Musical 87-minute play that recalls the successful strike by 1,400 matchgirls and women in the East End of London in 1888 can be watched on a DVD available from the Unite Education Department. The play was financially backed by Unite and created by the radical Red Ladder Theatre Company and Dumbwise. It was performed at Wiltons Music Hall, which as well as being the oldest Grand Music Hall in the world is also close to where the strike took place in East London. There are some powerful acting performances and the DVD also contains interviews with cast members about the lives of the people they play.
For more information on the 1888 strike go to the August 2014 book of the month by Louise Raw:-
To get hold of copies of the UCS films and the Matchgirls Musical please contact Catherine Whittaker on 020 7 611 2517 or firstname.lastname@example.org