Conspiracy against strike leaders of building workers dramatised for the stage

… or a play about the Shrewsbury 2.
IMG_6342b0162h nottm arts theatre united we stand shrewsbury picket
A terrific education.
And, in patches, terrific entertainment.
Principles. Inspiration. Nostalgia.
Recommended, save there are only a few dates left and none local.

I come from Shrewsbury. And I’m kinda surprised that it’s the home of two high profile conspiracy stories – the killing of Hilda Murrell and the Shrewsbury 2 / 3 / 6 / 24 – both of which the subject of plays. DNA technology found the conspiracy theory around the murder was unfounded.

The authors of this play and the Shrewsbury 24 campaign are clear this was a conspiracy – to find striking construction workers guilty of conspiracy under a rarely used 1875 conspiracy law.
IMG_6339boc united we stand brian o carroll a0192h
The conspiracy charge runs thus – strike leaders associated with a picket on the Brookside estate in Telford New Town on 6th September 1972 were picked out for an investigation by police officers, after a national 10 week strike had been settled. Following a successful miners strike and the liberation of 5 jailed London dockers, the establishment – notably the Conservative gov’t and their party treasurer, McAlpine – wanted retribution. McAlpine whose family had provided the High Sheriff of nearby Denbighshire for 8 times in succession. McAlpine – the developer of the Brookside estate that became the focus of the court case.
The final parts of the first half of the play makes these points in a very entertaining way.
The final parts of the court case which makes up the second half are good too, although other exchanges are more confusing.
Singing segways the scenes – as the actors re-arrange the scenery. In the context of this story, some of the traditional songs are very powerful, although the acoustic version of The Sweet’s “Blockbuster” as background music for a video of the first years of the Edward Heath government was bewildering (yet terrific nostalgia).
The actors exhibited all the stage crafts, including fetching members of the audience still in the bar at the end of the interval (guilty m’lud).
As the Guardian review points out, the play has something to say whatever your politics – the use of leftist pathos is there but not as much as I might have expected.
It’s a fantastic reminder of the quality of grassroots activity of the early seventies – stuff I wish we had now. And of why the trade unions had to win on pay, terms & conditions and health & safety. “Kill, kill, kill the lump“. Well, the lump is back now in a different form – zero and low hours contracts – and we need to win again.
Whilst the Sweet song made me smile, I was not too happy with the use of the Strawbs song which at the time I saw as an anti-union song; (the wiki write up is conflicted; and I wonder if this production changes the words).
At the end of this performance, Terry Renshaw, the youngest of the Shrewsbury 24, gave a speech and explained that the court papers are withheld until at least 2021, although the Labour Party is committed to changing this if elected in May.
Terry said there were still health and safety issues in construction and the Nottingham tram expansion project had hit a problem when workers were required to pay a fee to get their wages.
This performance was staged at the Nottingham Arts Theatre in Hockley.

And traitors sneer

Once in a generation there is a pivotal moment in a country’s history.
I believe we have reached that moment.
It is time to decide whether we remain in the EU.
A Councillor knows constituents want jobs with security and longer hours.
A trade unionist knows people want the abuse of the labour market by employers stopped.

But another referendum?
As a priority?
Our sovereignty is being eroded by the day.
And no doubt, from the same people who say 75% of our legislation is from the EU.
Well, no it isn’t.

140218b0274h Yeo Telegraph parts 1 and 2
Now UKIP have been warning of a defection to them from Labour for some time, I hadn’t expected it to be from my own trade union. Harriet Yeo was the President of TSSA and when I saw Facebook entries reporting she was saying vote UKIP, I thought there’d been a mistake. Perhaps my political compass is faulty, or perhaps left and right as a way of understanding politics is not that useful, but I’d thought she was more leftist than me.
At times like this, it’s hard to accept notions like ‘she was only ever in it for herself’, cos plenty of Labour movement caucuses had chance to spot that – the district party that appointed her to a panel, the branch that made her a ward candidate for the council, the county party that made her a candidate for Police Commissioner, the TSSA conference that nominated her for the Labour Party NEC and the trade union movement who elected her.
The District party had decided (only the night before apparently) that she was no longer fit to be a Labour candidate, and I certainly don’t want to double guess them, though I trust they gave proper recognition of her employment circumstances, family commitments and health.
One of her Facebook friends has protested “So sad to attack people for what they believe in”, but it seems to me that beliefs and values is the proper front to challenge Harriet on.
Yes, some of the personal stuff floating around is unfortunate. And attempts to be humorous aren’t always 100%.
But Harriet is not beyond the personal herself -“Voters are simply turned off by politicians who … speak from scripts … ” kinda begs a question.

And traitors sneer
Labour’s anthem, “The Red Flag”, was said to have been written to the tune of a German Christmas Carol, in the space of a short train journey through South London.
It seems that even in those early days in Victorian times, we were aware of betrayal from people who had previously been our own; as if it was in the movement’s DNA.


The new movie “Pride” evokes the 80’s and tells big political stories. History. Tales from our own time.
The miner’s strike.
Victimisation of gays.
Public health responses to HIV and AIDS.

Big tales of the time to tell, and the film does it well. Of personal suffering. Of victimisation. Of struggle. Of defeat, and of victory.
Perhaps too much at the expense of one family portrayed.
Perhaps too much of the other worldliness of South Wales – despite them dancing to the same disco music as the rest of the world – well, the women anyway.

Pride directed by Mathew Warchus
But some great humour. A favourite scene – a Welsh gay, returning home after many years, and pretending to be from Rhyl. No – we won’t have that – not someone from North Wales. A wind-up, masterfully executed.
And an excellent, triumphant end, with some sadness.
Authentic. Makes you think about the value of making bigger demands in politics.
Reminds you of some of the events of the time at work and in Nottingham.
One tiny moan. Celebrating the NUM driving the Labour Party conference to adopt gay rights. But no mention of the New Labour government passing the legislation that was sought.


Roy Greensmith

010608c0382h OMS Roy Greensmith 001_36aRailworker, trade unionist, Socialist, City Councillor and more.
Died 26th August.
Funeral took place on Friday 19th September at Holy Trinity Church, Clifton.
Roy was a Clifton Councillor from 1992 to 2003 .
Born in the Meadows in 1929, Roy joined the army in 1947, serving in Egypt before returning to work for British Rail, where he remained for 47 years. An active member of both the trade union movement and the Labour Party,

Roy was elected to the City Council in October 1992, representing Clifton East. Roy was appointed Sheriff of Nottingham in 1995 and served as Lord Mayor in 1997/98 and 2001/02. He later served as an Alderman.

I first met Roy at a trade union branch meeting (RMT), called to support a strike, and for which TSSA members had raised a donation.
Roy was chair of Nottingham No.2 branch (covering engineering) for many years. He was a lineman in signals and telegraphs, looking after external relays, for Trent Box and another nearby signal boxes. He chaired British Rail’s S&T and Permanent Way grades committee, as well as being on the RMT’s national executive for 3 years.

One constituent has already said – “Roy was a smashing man and very easy to work with. He was very supportive of the work we undertook within the community of Clifton and Wilford and the wider City. When he was Lord Mayor Mary, his wife was a constant support at his side.”

Photo taken on 8th June 2001, the morning after Labour’s landslide.