Townsend Theatre is touring the country this spring with Rouse, Ye Women!, a new drama about the fight of trade unionist, Mary Macarthur, to win better pay for women chainmakers.
This groundbreaking folk opera, directed by Louise Townsend, is based on a true story and features original songs and music composed by revered folk musician John Kirkpatrick (Steeleye Span, Home Service, Richard Thompson Band).
It has been written by Townend’s artistic director, playwright Neil Gore, who has forged a strong link with stories of historical unrest.
Women chainmakers in the Black Country, in the 1900s, started work at the forge as children and spent their entire lives making chains.
These women had no vote, were largely illiterate, worked a 54-hour week for starvation wages, and had to take their children to work.
But in the Autumn of 1910 hundreds of women chainmakers of Cradley Heath held a ten-week strike against their employers.
Led by the remarkable trade union organiser and campaigner Mary Macarthur, they won a minimum wage which doubled their incomes.
The strike led to a landmark victory for a fair wage, changing the lives of thousands of workers.
Scottish folk singer Bryony Purdue will play Mary Macarthur and fellow folk singer Rowan Godel will play chainmaker Bird.
Director Louise Townsend said: “The focus of the production is not just the massive achievement of the women chainmakers in their fight for better wages.
“But it is also how Mary Macarthur, and the National Federation of Women Workers, sought to challenge the prevailing view that women made poor trade unionists, and were a threat to male employment and wages.
“Mary Macarthur wanted trade unions to educate women workers to be better citizens, empower them to demand more from life and gain fair treatment as workers; to ensure that women can be an effective force within the trade union movement to strengthen the position of the entire industrial working class.
“Through this production we will aim to draw parallels with the inequalities in the lives of women just over a hundred years ago with modern issues of family life, low pay, the minimum wage, the gender pay gap and equality of opportunity.”
Writer, actor and musician, Neil Gore, said: “The story is truly inspirational because it centres on the energy and drive of Mary Macarthur, and her skills as an organiser and tactician”.
John Kirkpatrick added that his songs and music were inspired by traditional industrial folk song, music hall, and protest songs “but with a modern, contemporary twist”.
2019 TOUR DATES
FEB 4-9, HARROGATE THEATRE (STUDIO)
FEB 12, CHILWELL ARTS CENTRE
FEB 13, NORWICH ARTS CENTRE
FEB 14, DISS CORN HALL
FEB 15-16 THE PLACE THEATRE BEDFORD
FEB 18, RUSKIN COLLEGE OXFORD
FEB 19, GREENWICH THEATRE
FEB 20 DORCHESTER ARTS CENTRE
FEB 21, THE PLOUGH ARTS CENTRE
FEB 23, THE LIGHTHOUSE POOLE
FEB 26 – MAR 2, THE LANTERN THEATRE SHEFFIELD
MAR 4, PETERBOROUGH VENUE TBC
MAR 5, ARTRIX BROMSGROVE
MAR 6, CAST DONCASTER
MAR 7, NETHERTON ARTS CENTRE DUDLEY
MAR 8, MIDLAND ART CENTRE BIRMINGHAM
MAR 9, GEDDINGTON VILLAGE HALL KETTERING
MAR 11, WORKING CLASS MOVEMENT LIBRARY
MAR 12-16, TARA THEATRE EARLSFIELD LONDON
MAR 19, THE SWALLOW THEATRE WHITHORN NEWTON STEWART
MAR 20, WORTLEY HALL, SHEFFIELD
MAR 21-22, SEVEN ARTS CHPEL ALLERTON LEEDS
MAR 23, SQUARE CHAPEL HALIFAX
MAR 25, WEDGWOOD ROOMS SOUTHSEA
MAR 26, HERTFORD THEATRE
MAR 28, BIRNAM ARTS
MAR 29, NORTH EDINBURGH ARTS
MAR 30, THE ROPERY BARTON-ON-HUMBER
MAR 31, SEVERN THEATRE SHREWSBURY
APR 2-3, OLD FIRE STATION OXFORD
APR 4, CRAMPHORN THEATRE CHELMSFORD
APR 5, STEPHEN JOSEPH THEATRE (STUDIO)
APR 6, ARTS ALIVE RURAL TOURING SHROPSHIRE TBC
APR 7, THE SEAGULL THEATRE LOWERSTOFT
APR 9, NEWHAMPTON ARTS WOLVERHAMPTON
APR 10, ROTHERAM VENUE TBC
APR 11, MARSDEN MECHANICS
APR 12, MALTINGS BERWICK-ON-TWEED
APR 13-14, HIGHLIGHTS RURAL TOURING VENUE TBC
APR 17, RONDO THEATRE BATH
APR 18, CRADLEY HEATH LIBRARY.