Yes! Yes! UCS! Townsend Productions written by Neil Gore.

Oscar Wilde:  ‘Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has ever read history, is a man’s original value.’

A writer’s job is to remember. The better the writer, the better we remember. I’d a day out at The Golden Friendship Club on Saturday. Jim McLaren performed two miracles—and perhaps there’ll be a play about that one day—buying the old Masonic Club and finding the money to renovate it. If he wants to hang a picture of his mum, Agnes, and Auntie Molly Kelly in one of two the main halls, well, that’s really up to him. In the old days, you had to stand up for old Queen Lizzie. He’s standing up for his mum, and she’s more to my liking. He needs a third miracle to find the funding to keep the place going. The Golden Friendship is a Community Hall in a real sense of being paid for and belonging to the community. Workshops during the day and Neil Gore’s play, Yes! Yes! UCS!  were held to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the UCS work-in on the Clyde in 1971 (for those not very good at arithmetic a Covid year wasn’t carried over, so to be pedantic, 51 years).

Bernardine Evaristio: Girl, Woman, Other, ‘she wants people to bring curiosity to her plays, doesn’t give a damn what they wear’.  

When I came into the hall Jim was there to meet guests. There was no sneaking past in casual wear. They set the seats out with a free copy of The Morning Star (cost £1.50) which made me smile. I didn’t think they still printed it. I’d a quick chat with that old dinosaur, John Foster. He didn’t remember me, but I remembered him in a tutorial asking us if we knew what hegemonic meant. We were more interested in when The Wee Howff opened. He taught us always to cite your sources. Hating Tories was a given.

Rhyming couplets and verse Yes! Yes! UCS! 

I’m up for a writer’s challenge. So a quick sketch of Peter Barra McGahey with his handlebar moustache:

 Fae John Brown’s on the Clyde—James Scott Dry Dock—tae Govan and Yarrows

Land, river and sea, nane belanged to Barra McGahey

The sootie tenemenet walls, Dalnator, where we lay out past

Glasgow Airport moles that didnae depart

An a the rats and birds that flies

pay a feu rent fae their tinker’s tents

the dog that shits, cats that hiss

the foreman’s toot isnae his

Fae James Scott Dry Dock, Yarrows and John Brown’s on the Clyde

Land, river and sea, nane belanged to Barra McGahey

The Morning Star we see.

Yard owners haunds oot free.

Their coats of arms with all its charms

Our cranes feeds your wains memes

With patriot calls to our common country

Futile dreams and poet themes of equality

the match that lights the dout

lame-duck yards goin slow

Tartan paint and a long wait—work to rule

Fair democracy, where do we place we?

We that toil should own the soil and Broomilaw

A welded chain for those that pass laws again

Fae John Brown’s on the Clyde—James Scott Dry Dock—tae Govan and Yarrows

Land, river and sea, nane belanged to Barra McGahey

No part of our common we.

A zip in his trousers at the back

for emergency purposes only

Christmas lights on his welder’s hat

the unfair and grand

none as light-headed as he

In Barra’s place, we place our grace.

None forgotten, or will be.

His gravelly laugh still finds a path

To our common humanity.

We had lunch in the hall, and Jim put on a fine spread. We could make a donation to a food bank or to The Golden Friendship. I grew up in the seventies. I could never have imagined the idea of food banks. Worker’s memories of taking over the yards and forcing Ted Heath’s government to backtrack. Go from spending a possible £6 million government package to nearer £36 million is at the core of our day out. Yes! Yes! UCS! as an antidote to the highest grossing film of 1960, I’m Alright Jack, with the stereotypical bungling and walkouts of the shop steward movement in Union Jack Foundries portrayed by Peter Sellers meant to typify a Britain that was going in the wrong direction.

I asked John Foster if there was still a Communist Party, still a Socialist Movement. In particular, if it had younger members. I don’t think anybody in the hall was under forty, apart from the two actors that played Aggie and Eddi.

I’d guess very few adults under-thirty could tell you what the plaque on Clydebank College labelling a building John Brown’s means. The Clyde has become a feature, a waterfront for selling property.

John Foster did say there was a growing Socialist movement. I’d guess Greta Thunberg, aged 15, sitting in silent protest outside Parliament (Skolstrejk för klimatet) is more important and certainly better known.

Ted Heath’s government was defeated. We had the oil-price hike and stagflation. But the token woman in Heath’s cabinet was Margaret Thatcher. Her destruction of the miner’s union with the help of a media vying with each other to create fictional stories about Arthur Scargill and present them as facts stand out.  M15 and a pumped-up police force and the loss of around 80 000 jobs is well documented in what was described as a war against terrorists. Less well documented is how we lost the propaganda war in which food banks, for example, is sold to us a positive trend.  

When I hear about a critically acclaimed singer and songwriter, I usually do a bit of planning of my own, and nip away before I get caught. I don’t listen to music in the way that other people don’t read books. I could add or go to the theatre. But when I saw a friend and nipped outside during the break of Yes!Yes! UCS!  I admitted Findlay Napier had been the best part of the day. I still don’t listen to music, but he caught me on the good side.

I asked Jim why Neil Gore’s production wasn’t on the stage. He told me it wasn’t deep enough for the set. It was impressive. A mock-up of tenement buildings, with doors that open and decades to slide into. We get to see Heath in cartoonish blue and hear his voice. ‘There’ll be nae bevvying’ cries Jimmy Reid. The roar of the crowd. On two girls’ shoulders the production hangs. I feel for them. Art makes us and unmakes us. This might be their first and last job. The yards were a men’s playground, to channel the dispute through women takes balls.

Anne Ryan was out having a fag at the canal. I’d joked with her that in 1970, everybody would have been out of the hall and smoking. She was the solitary pariah of the path, until another guy ambled over. She asked if I’d smoked, ‘Nah, I was a good boy’.

‘Whit dae yeh think of the show?’

She made a face. ‘He seems to like it.’  

Radical politics doesn’t sell is hardly a headline, even in The Morning Star. George Orwell in his unpublished introduction to Animal Farm described how ‘unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without any need for an official ban’. Ironically, Communist China is probably best at this. Rupert Murdoch, second best. We’ve come a long way since the nineteen-seventies, backward step by backward step. Only the past can live in the present. I brought my curiosity to play. Perhaps Townsend Production doesn’t quite capture the zeitgeist. The fault might be mine. I don’t do musicals and I don’t do theatre. The wrong man in the right place. Go see for yourself. Make your own head space.    

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