Digging up the truth on a 1970s strike by builders

Neil Gore and William Fox play multiple roles to bring to life the story behind the Shrewsbury 24 in United We Stand.
Neil Gore and William Fox play multiple roles to bring to life the story behind the Shrewsbury 24 in United We Stand.
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The Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea hosts a brand new play based on the story of the Shrewsbury 24, filled with mystery and intrigue.

United We Stand by Neil Gore will be performed by Townsend Productions and premieres on Monday at 7.30pm.

The Shrewsbury 24 is about building workers in Shropshire who were accused of (and three jailed for) violent picketing and intimidating workers in 1973 following a strike.

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.

Sharp and humorous, United We Stand tells the story behind the dispute.

It dispels the myth put about at the time that the pickets were criminally violent rather than ordinary working men seeking a better life for themselves and their fellow workers.

The three who were jailed included building workers Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson, who is now best-known for his work as a television actor.

Ricky says: ‘I am delighted The Townsend Theatre Company are 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 further strike action.

‘Every worker should know what happened to us so as to ensure it does not happen again.’

Directed by Louise Townsend, the show combines her trademark cast of two actors playing multiple roles with popular and political songs about the strike and poems written by Ricky himself.

These are arranged by renowned folk musician John Kirkpatrick, and actors Neil Gore and William Fox will bring the story of life.

Tickets for the production cost £9-13, visit wedgewood-rooms.co.uk or call (023) 9286 3911.