Saturday, February 23, 2013

Walter Tull - 17th Middx Regt (Football Battalion) Bolton Octagon Theatre

Walter Tull - 17th Middlesex Regt - 1st Football Battalion

Following the extraordinary success of War Horse, the novel by Michael Morpurgo that inspired the National Theatre and then Steven Spielberg, another forgotten tale from the first world war is now set to find a wider audience.

Nearly a century after the great conflict began, Bolton's Octagon Theatre will mount a play telling the story of Walter Tull, one of Britain's first black footballers, who joined the 1st Football Battalion and went on to die on the Somme as the first black army officer. Cited for bravery under fire, Tull did not receive the posthumous recognition many now believe he deserves.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Shop Workers Against Fascism

The onset in 1930 of the severest recession  the world had ever  known made 20 per cent of Britain's workers unemployed.

The town of Jarrow in the North East of England epitomised the human misery of unemployment  in the hungry thirties.

Virtually a single-industry town, its life blood came from Palmer's shipyard. when the shipyard closed down the consequences were catastrophic. Nearly 80 per cent of the workforce was out of work. 

Malnutrition was claiming lives and the death rate from tuberculosis was double the national average.   

In 1936, with Shop Workers union sponsored MP Ellen Wilkinson at their head,  the men of Jarrow set off to march to London. Throughout the journey the march was fed.and sheltered largely by.the efforts' of trade union members  and Co-operative Societies.  

Ellen spoke nightly at public  meetings en route  and  finally led  the weary yet triumphant marchers into London's Parliament Square.  

The  march  roused  the  whole  nation, but the Tory Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, refused to see any of the marchers.

Apart from the recession, another great  shadow lay over the political scene of the thirties—the  increasing power of Fascism across Europe and the threat of a second world war.

The Shop workers union joined with other unions in highlighting the abuses of fascist regimes in Europe, while opposing fascism in Britain at a time when the ruling establishment including the Daily Mail, Conservative MP's and members of the Royal Family were embracing Hitlerism and his fascist ideology.

Union members fought the fascists on the streets of the East End and elsewhere. They died in the International Brigade defending Republican Spain against fascist enemies.

When the second World War came the union would lose over 2,000 members fighting fascism and a further 140 civilian members killed in aerial attacks  on Britain

The Shop Workers union lost 2,047 member during World War 2 fighting fascism, to add to the 2,103 killed in World War 1

Annie Tynan - Shop Workers Union Pioneer

 Annie Tynan was appointed the Shop Workers Union NAUSAW&C's (now USDAW) first woman organiser in 1911.

Surprisingly she didn't come from a retail background but had received a firm grounding in trade unionism with the Amalgamated Society of  Telephone Employees. Working as a telephone operator in Manchester she had, at a very early age, become a branch secretary and then Executive Councillor.

She learned about the NAUSAW&C when she heard John Turner speak at the TUC and followed the Union's work through the pages of  The Shop Assistant.

Her buoyant temperament and great sense of humour attracted many other women to the movement.

The Amalgamated Society of Telephone Employees was formed in 1909 by the merger of the National Society of Telephone Employees with the National Association of Telephone Operators. In 1915 it merged with the Post Office Engineering and Stores Association to form the Post Office Amalgamated Engineering and Stores Association, the forerunner of the Post Office Engineering Union.

Mabel Talbot - Shop Workers Union Pioneer

Mabel Talbot became the Shop workers union (NAUSAW&C's now USDAW) President in 1920, the first woman to hold the position in the Union's history.

A London dressmaker, she advocated the appointment of a woman organiser in her first conference speech in 1910. Three months later she organised a conference of 100 women which led to the formation of the London Women's Council.

She represented the Union at the TUC and at the Congress of Commercial Employees at the Hague and was elected to the Executive in 1914.

A tireless worker with a clear and lucid mind, she helped consolidate the position of women in the movement.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

London Labour Sparrow

The Labour Party in London used the London "Cockney" sparrow widely on its campaigning materials in the early 1980's.

One comment on the design is that it was the an idea adopted originally by Herbert Morrison when leader of the London County Council.

Labour Red Rose Poster 1986

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Unity Theatre - Mobile Unit - 1954 (The People's Theatre)

Unity Theatre Mobile unit
By Ann Shure

World News
20th February 1954

The telephone rang early one Saturday morning, "The coach leaves the theatre at  twelve sharp," said a soft Irish voice.

"Now you won't be late, will you ? We have to make Birmingham by six."

I was off on a theatrical weekend.Unity's mobile theatre group were to play in Birmingham! that night, and I had been invited to make the journey with them.

This was just one of many long trips this group has made since it first produced  The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists three years ago. Sometimes the cast are lucky and the show is in a suburb of  London or one of the Home Counties. Other times it's as far afield as Chatham or Wiltshire. Then they must travel all day—with a Saturday morning off from work—to make a 7.30 curtain, with an all-night drive back to London. They do two, three or four shows a month—it depends on bookings.

Who are their audiences? Trade union branches.  Co-op  groups—anyone,  in fact, who can pay the £20 coverage and 1s. a mile travelling expenses. The cast,of course, are voluntary—the money
covers expenses.

The week-end I went, they were off to Cradley Heath, famous for its chain makers, who were one of the first groups to strike in the -last century for organised unions. The chainmakers are now part of the engineering union—and it was three branches of the A.E.U. who had clubbed  together to  bring  Unity to Birmingham that week-end.

I made the theatre on time, to find the grey-painted,  converted  coach  (a gift from the trade union movement two years ago) waiting for the cast. Only three other  people  were  there.  Ten minutes

later stragglers began arriving.and by 12.30 we were away, to pick up one or two people en route. We Were Off!

It was a bitterly cold morning, touched off with a blue sky and a glinting sun. We swung out on to the Great North Road, fierce red letters painted on the side of  the coach announcing our purpose—"Unity Mobile Theatre". Inside,-  three double'  seats  had  been removed—to leave room for scenery and props. The skips—blue hessian bags marked with the name of each character in the play, and the responsibility of the actor—were loaded into the boot. With everyone in (there were nineteen people that day, including the driver), more scenery and a table were stacked up until  we  looked  like some crazy removal van.

Everyone doubled in,this group: Harry Johnson, Unity's mobile organiser, drove half of the way, shifted scenery, planned the route (and bore the wise-cracks !) as well as taking a sizeable part in the play. The other driver. Bill Taylor, also handled scenery and acted. In fact, the only two people on that trip who didn't  go on the stage were producer Sheila Conchie,  and  me—and  even Sheila made "noises off" of a baby crying!

Established Traditions

Warned of approaching ice, I'd taken two sweaters, a scarf, and numerous aids against cold, including a hot-water bottle, which someone later filled with hot tea!The cast must have been acclimatised,for no one else looked so loaded. It seemed there were established traditions in the coach. Those at the front did an impromptu  rehearsal,  throwing  lines from one to t'other with bewildering rapidity. The forgetful could depend on the producer, who knew every word by heart. The men sitting at the back played cards until it was too dark to see. Then everyone joined in a sing-song—familiar songs of the Labour movement, songs the cast made up as they went along with topical quirks and personal references.

The coach had taboos, too, built up over long weeks of travelling together; a sort of social etiquette on the road. It wasn't done to sing in a built-up area after dark. They called it a BUA. And after midnight both talking and singing were barred; people might want to sleep.

We'd stopped for a meal— egg,sausages and beans—about 3 p.m. Then fog began to creep up on us, a wraith like misty fog that blotted out trees and fields, seeped in among us as a miserable dampness, and made driving a hideous strain. The coach seemed to be travelling on a thin white strip of sanity in a cloudy darkening world.

Six o'clock came and went and we still hadn't reached Birmingham. The fog lifted—then thickened again, and finding our way became more difficult. 6.30 . . . 6.45 ... 7 p.m. Birmingham loomed up but Cradley Heath was still elusive.

The curtain was due up at 7.30. Scenery had to be unloaded, and the stage dressed—no luxury of a stage staff here. Costumes needed unpacking, actors dressed, make-up applied. It looked as if  Unity  weren't  going to make this deadline. Yet no one seemed unduly perturbed.


At 7.20 we rolled up outside green painted doors. Figures gleamed dimly out at us. "Glad you made it. Thought you wouldn't come."

Back came Unity's hurt reply : "But we said we would!" The blase indolence of  a few minutes before had vanished.  The boot was opened,scenery lugged out; figures rushed by carrying planks, flats and vague bundles. In the seeming chaos everyone had a job and jumped to it.

No one seemed to be giving orders. A voice whispered in my ear "See if you can dig up some tea for the cast."But finding tea in a Birmingham suburb on a foggy night is like trying to find a trace of humanity in Foster Dulles!

The stage was set and the cast made up before I returned with a triumphant enamel pot. How they did it I'll never know, but the show began at 7.45—a bare fifteen minutes late.

There were about 130 in the audience—average, I was told, in that area and in bad weather. Unity Mobile has played to as many as 1,000.
The Performance

For a cast who had just made an icy 120-mile journey,with no break in between, I thought the performance was good. Later they told me one man substituted his own lines ; someone else let a dialect slip. I didn't  notice—nor, I'm sure, did the rest of the audience,mainly engineers and their wives. One man I met  had been a member of the Labour Party for over twenty years; normally he never visited a theatre but this was different.

And his one ambition  after the show was to get the signatures of the cast of this working-class theatre.

After the performance came a hot meal; chop, spuds, bread and marg,tea. It's not everywhere they get it, and it's a welcome prelude to that drive back. Over the meal they discussed the performance, analysed its faults, compared reactions.

Then we were on our way back. We made the outskirts of London by 6.30. The lucky ones got home by seven; last off the coach by 8.30 to nine. The cast had a rehearsal that afternoon at 2.30 at Unity's King's Cross headquarters. Me, I was still in bed !

Ann Shure
February 1954


Unity Theatre was established in 1936 and was based from 1937 at Goldington Street, St Pancras, London NW1 - the Theatre was destroyed by fire in 1975.

At the time time as the Mobile was touring in early 1954, a new comedy "Timid People" written by George Leeson opened at Unity Theatre - The play was based on a Chinese short story, presenting an amusing situation which arises in a small Chinese village when two young people decide to marry, despite the objections of their parents

Production was by Harry Hancock 

Surely, the working class deserves the rebirth of Unity Theatre in the Capital

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Oakfield Co-operative Football & Baseball Clubs 1926-1927

Oakfield Co-operative Football & Baseball Clubs 1926-1927

Back Row P. Pearson (Trainer)  W. Anderson (Asst Sec)  G. Cooper  D.Brown  A.Crosby
 A. Platt   S.Crosby  A.Tidswell (Chairman)   T.Phillips

Middle Row W.Lindop (Secretary)  A.Booth  T.Allen  H.Riley   W.Foulks
 C.Pearson (Treasurer)  T. Briscoe (Vice Chairman)

Front Row  E.Betton  A.Stevens.  F. Bennett  D. Davis  R.Dunn

Photographer: CRAGGS 23 Breckfield Road, Everton

This is an amazing picture of one of the first British Baseball teams from Oakfield, Liverpool. 

Merseyside was the home of the modern British Baseball teams (based on American rules). Oakfield Co-op baseball team may have also been know as Oakfield Social.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Stalingrad 1943 - Hero City - 70 Years 1943-2013 - We Remember

The 70th anniversary of the victory of the Red Army over the fascist forces (German, Italy, Romanian, Hugary, Croatian)  at Stalingrad - Key victory of the Second World War.

The Working Class People of Britain Salute the Russian People and the Red Army for their sacrifices in WW2 as we did in 1943.

Stalingrad - Hero City

"For us
 There is no Land
Beyond the Volga"