A new musical play chronicling the story of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ workforce battle with the Govenment of 1971 comes to Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre

A new musical play chronicling the story of the UCS ‘work-in’ of 1971-72 comes to Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre next month.

By Sue Wilkinson
Saturday, 22nd January 2022, 12:11 pm
The cast of Yes! Yes! UCS! are young actor/musicians Janie Thomson and Heather Gourdie
The cast of Yes! Yes! UCS! are young actor/musicians Janie Thomson and Heather Gourdie

Townsend Theatre Productions’Yes! Yes! UCS!, at the Stephen Jospeh on Monday February 21, celebrates of the 50th anniversary of the event.

Powerful theatrical storytelling combines with live rock and folk music from the early 70s and graphic art animated projection to bring a meaningful message of hope, social justice and the fight for the right to work.

Based on verbatim interviews with shipyard workers, it’s the story of two women workers in an industry facing imminent closure, drawn into the monumental, heroic 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 five percent of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ workforce, and their history is far less well known.

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Townsend’s 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.

With the refusal by the incumbent Tory government in 1971 to invest in what they called ‘lame-duck’ industries came the threat that the massive Glasgow and Clydebank shipyards that made up the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) would face closure.

Shop stewards – including well known Scottish Trade Union Activists Jimmy Reid and Jimmy Airlie – tried a new tactic from the usual union strikes and sit-ins, resulting in the now famous UCS ‘work-in’, designed to show that workers were not just willing to work, but that demand for their work existed.

They argued that unemployment was a political choice made by a government more interested in maintaining the profits of corporate capitalism and breaking up a semi-nationalised industry, than in protecting the interests of their citizens.

Louise Townsend directs and produces, alongside writer and performer Neil Gore. The two 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.

Yes! Yes! UCS! can be seen in the McCarthy at 7.45pm on Monday February 21.

Tickets, priced from £10, are available from the box office on 01723 370541 and online at www.sjt.uk.com