ACTOR Ricky Tomlinson’s fight to clear his name is to be told in a new play getting its première in Liverpool..
United We Stand opens for a three-week run at the Lantern Theatre, in Blundell Street, later this month. It will then head out on a nationwide tour.
Its writer, Neil Gore, will play the part of Tomlinson as the story charts the national building strike of the 1970s. The industrial action saw the arrest and conviction of the Royle Family star, as well as other pickets who became known as the Shrewsbury 24.
Another actor, William Fox, will play the part of the late Des Warren, another union activist who died several years ago.
Tomlinson has vowed to campaign for the quashing of the convictions before he dies, saying how tragic it was that Warren went to his grave with his conviction still hanging over his head.
The idea for the play about the Shrewsbury 24 came two years ago when Gore was in Liverpool with a production of Robert Tressell’s Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. He met Tomlinson and the work emerged from then.
The story started in the 1960s at a time building companies were making millions re-building the country, but building workers faced the most dangerous working conditions and poorest wages of any trade.
In the summer of 1972, for 12 weeks, 300,000 building workers launched their industry's first national all-out strike to end cash "lump" wages and seek better pay by using the controversial tactic of flying pickets.
The partial success of the strike, and the methods used, enraged the construction industry and government, and culminated in the arrest of 24 builders in North Wales who were charged with offences including conspiracy to intimidate and affray.
The “24” were prosecuted at Shrewsbury Crown Court in 1973 and three were jailed, including building workers Warren and Tomlinson.
The events continue to make headlines, and four decades on, the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign, led by Tomlinson still seeks to overturn the prosecution of the 24 building workers.
He said: “I am delighted The Townsend Theatre Company is presenting a play about the 1972 building workers strike, and the plight of the Shrewsbury 24 building worker pickets. It is 41 years since I together with Des Warren and John McKinsie Jones were charged with conspiracy and jailed.
“We were charged with conspiracy, but we believe the real conspiracy was between the government, the building contractors and the judiciary. They wanted the prison sentences to act as a deterrent, to prevent workers from taking strike action. Every worker should know what happened to us so as to ensure it does not happen again.”
Playwright Neil Gore said: "By producing this piece of theatre we are aiming to raise awareness to the determination and courage of those who sacrificed their freedom, reputations and opportunities in seeking better conditions for their fellow workers, and to focus sharply on the political nature of the case brought against them - the 'real conspiracy' initiated and devised by government, big business and the law."
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