Townsend Theatre Productions is a theatre company based in Bedford that specialises in bringing working class political theatre to the stage, producing imaginative, entertaining, socially relevant live theatre and community education that reaches new audiences. Their previous work includes Rouse, Ye Women!(2019) – a folk ballad about Mary Macarthur and the women chain makers of Cradley Heath striking to achieve a living wage in 1910, and We Are the Lions Mr Manager (2017) – the remarkable story of Jayaben Desai who led the 1976-8 Grunwick Film Processing Factory Strike.
Spring 2022 will see them present Yes! Yes! UCS!,a brand-new, musical play that chronicles the story of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) Work-In that took place in 1971-72. In celebration of the 50th anniversary, they will bring theatrical storytelling that combines live rock and folk music from the early ‘70s with a graphic art animated projection to bring a message of social justice and the importance of the fight for the right to work.
While history rightly gives Scottish Trade Union Activists Jimmy Reid and Jimmy Airlie their prominent place in the struggle, Yes! Yes! UCS!looks at the story of two women workers in an industry facing imminent closure, drawn into the monumental battle to save thousands of jobs across Glasgow and the West of Scotland.
At the time, women in pivotal roles made up little more than 5% of the UCS workforce so their history is far less well known. Based on verbatim interviews with shipyard workers, Townsend Theatre Productions’ trademark gritty drama depicts the traditions and skills of Scottish shipbuilding, while shining a light on the role women played in the fight for the right to work, the power of community solidarity, collective resistance and workers’ control.
Director and producer Louise Townsend, along with writer and performer Neil Gore have collaborated across all Townsend Theatre Productions past projects. The cast are young actor/musicians Janie Thomson and Heather Gourdie; musical direction is provided by well-known cellist Beth Porter of the Bookshop Band and Eliza Carthy’s Wayward Band; Daniella Beattie returns as lighting designer; graphic art animation is provided by Scarlett Rickard and Jonny Halifax; and emerging artist and recent RCS graduate Ruth Darling is stage and costume designer.
Local choirs will join the production throughout the regional tour, adding their voices to the rousing songs and music that was generated at the time conveying the power and unity of the working class speaking up for themselves.
A nationwide UK tour in small venues starting from 12th February 2022 – 1st May 2022 will include among other Scottish towns a date at North Edinburgh Arts Centre on April 27th. Full tour dates available from Townsend Theatre Productions’ website.
Yes! Yes! UCS!is written by Neil Gore and is presented association with University of Manchester, The Place Bedford, E.I.S. and Unite the Union.