Trade unions in the 1960’s and 1970’s made close links with art and culture. Artists and trade unions linked on common causes, fighting for human rights, anti-war, promoting democracy, developing workers education etc. Recovering from the fraught years of the 1980’s and 1990’s and unions recovering political attack and membership loss, cultural activity took a back seat.
I am pleased to see a resurgent in cultural activity over recent years. A very recent example is a play written by Ed Waugh and commissioned by the RMT, Unite and the GMB at the Shaw theatre.
The new play ‘Maggies End’ fortels the death of Margaret Thatcher in 2010. Whilst half the country mourns the other half get caught up in the 1980s divide, and react with barely disguised glee. Things come to a head when the current Labour Prime Minister announces plans for a state funeral. There is no disguising on whose side the playwright’s sympathies fall – as the work is being staged to mark the 25th anniversary of the miner’s strike’.
This play written by Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood is wildly, unashamedly partisan. It certainly isn’t subtle and, as befits the authors of Dirty Dusting, it is daubed with the broadest of brushstrokes. But it’s an old-fashioned piece of entertaining agit-prop full of good bad-taste jokes about the lady being for burning after all.
The lack of reference to the current economic climate is odd, but it makes some pertinent points about the shortness of our memories and how this national dementia plays into the hands of those who want to manipulate history for their own ends. The Guardian Review.
Should Maggie have a state funeral is the ultimate question? Well as only Wellington and Churchill had this honour bestowed before, I personally think not.
The TUC will be hosting an arts and culture seminar on the 27th May to bring all of this work together.