From the TUC

Maggie’s End

21 Apr 2009, By

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.

'An old-fashioned piece of entertaining' ... Melanie Hill and Mark Wingett in Maggie's End. Photograph: Tristram Kenton

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.

3 Responses to Maggie’s End

  1. Barry Faulkner
    Apr 24th 2009, 9:38 am

    I agree with Anna that this work was well put together and I was lucky enough to attend on it’s opening night. It was odd that the work drew no conclusions to the current economic situation to any great degree but the only real criticism if any that I had of the play was that new leaders didn’t take the place of the ones that were spirited away in the night. It felt a little like the end of the TV adaptation of the Chris Mullin book A Very British Coup which left the audience a little deflated. Jane Holgate a comrade from London suggested I’m obviously just an eternal optimist, ha, and she may just be right.

  2. Ed Waugh
    May 4th 2009, 6:48 pm

    I was quite surprised to read your word-for-word copy of The Guardian review (albeit an excellent review), especially repeating Maggie’s End’s “lack of reference to the current economic climate”.

    The main character Leon – in an argument with his daughter in the House of Commons – makes reference to New Labour bailing out of the banks (capitalism) to the tune of £120billion. He later tells his students about Thatcherite privatisation, the decimation of British industry, the squandering of North Sea oil revenues and the dependence of the British economy on banking. He then says that the person responsible for the economic crisis is “that wicked stepmother of the credit crunch – Margaret Hilda Thatcher”.

    Also, Barry, in a play, you can’t introduce new characters at the end.

    The arrest of 120 green protesters last week – before a “crime” was committed – reflects the real message of Maggie’s End: laws brought in by any government to counter terrorism will be used against the labour and trade union movement once that sleeping giant flexes its muscles again.

    Maggie’s End is about being prepared!

  3. Anna

    May 5th 2009, 9:59 am

    Thanks for the comments, i am glad that this post received so much discussion, it shows the level of feeling that this wonderful play inspires. I did quote from the Guardian review (hence it was in italics..have since added ‘guardian review’ to the post.). loved the play and felt inspired to insert a post about it, i personally thought that the Guardian review was quite apt…although as you say Ed your piece did refer to the current climate….so apologise