Star date: 28th November 2016
"IF WE DON'T LEARN FROM THE PAST WE END UP WITH A FUTURE A BIT LIKE WE'VE GOT NOW..." MAXINE PEAKE
Hundreds of people packed into Salford University's Maxwell Hall yesterday to hear Maxine Peake, Christopher Eccleston, Sheila Hancock, Julie Hesmondhalgh and Mike Joyce do Radical Readings from Salford's history and struggles.
The top class event was poignant, political and in parts hilarious, with Maxine Peake ending the day by explaining why it's so important to support the Working Class Movement Library... "If we don't learn from the past we end up with a future a bit like we've got now" she said, to thunderous applause.
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So Maxine Peake is on stage, trying to get her tongue around a latter day poem by Radical Readings organiser, Royston Futter; a kind of re-working of an AA Milne poem but with added Brexit, Trump and Tories...
...There's a line about Cameron and Osborne but Maxine can't spit it out... "Ossbon...Ossbum...Arsehole" she laughs "They're all arseholes!"
The audience in the packed hall cheers her on. Despite two hours of readings about Salford's past political struggles and humour in misery, the radical spirit is definitely alive today – led by Maxine herself, Christopher Eccleston, Sheila Hancock, Julie Hesmondhalgh and Mike Joyce.
It's a fundraiser for the Working Class Movement Library and these top, top stars have given their time to aid the survival of an institution that archives in artefacts, books, banners and flyers the fights of ordinary people for a better life.
There's loads of readings of descriptions of old Salford society, from Walter Greenwood's `slumdom' stories of Black Bill Douglas and his child slave mill down Whit Lane, to Engels' documenting of the `conditions of the working class', to the opening chapter of Harold Brighouse's Salford-set Hobson's Choice, which is celebrating its centenary this year.
Christopher Eccleston and Maxine Peake read extracts from the opening chapter which talks of Salford's "over populated districts" competing with Manchester, and "human beings extraordinarily endowed with the will to live"...
Within the misery of poverty there was also humour, as extracts from the Ewan MacCollautobiography, Journeyman, witness - kids using prize pigs' tails as would-be willies to scare off the girls, and George Drummond, whose work colleagues at Cox's Foundry presented him with a plaque as the `champion farter of Salford 1921'.
Robert Roberts also looms large with A Ragged Schooling recounting the hilarious exploits of kids using Salford's (and the country's) first public library, brought back to life through the vivid narration of the on-stage actors (and ex-Smiths drummer, who's got definite talent as a voice artist).
Then there's the classics of local working class history, with stories of Peterloo, The Chartists and George Orwell's Homage To Catalonia, plus everyone paying homage to Ruth and Eddie Frow, the Library's ace founders.
All in all it was a bit of a perfect, special day – Salford, radicalism and the legends that are Sheila Hancock, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Mike Joyce, Christopher Eccleston and Maxine Peake, who ended the day explaining why it's so, so important to support the Working Class Movement Library...
"If we don't learn from the past we end up with a future a bit like we've got now" she insisted, to thunderous applause.
*To learn more from the past go to the Mary Quaile Club event at the Working Class Movement Library this Saturday, 3rd December, at 1pm, for a film Looking Back at the Grunwick Strike 1976-1978 plus speakers from the Grunwick 40 Steering Group, and the Durham Teaching Assistants who are facing huge wage cuts and strike action now. See Salford Star article for further details – click here
For more details of the Working Class Movement Library see www.wcml.org.uk
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