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A story of three sisters during the Miners' Strike is coming to four North East venues

Beccy Owen is looking forward to coming back to the North East with a musical play about the effect of the Miners' Strike on women

 

While hit British film Pride shines a light on the unlikely camaraderie which grew between striking miners and the support group Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), a touring theatre show is exploring the effects of the brutal strike had on women.

Red Ladder Theatre Company’s We’re Not Going Back is a play which the publicity material says is “about the 1984/85 miners’ strike... more or less”.

There are no miners in this hard-hitting musical comedy. There are three sisters: Olive, Mary and Isabel who live in a fictional pit village which has been hit in the guts by the strike.

The siblings are determined to set up their own branch of Women Against Pit Closures as the strike forces them to question their lives, relationships and family ties.

The play premiered at the Durham Miners’ Gala in July and returns for four performances throughout the North East from Wednesday (October 9) to Saturday (October 11).

It has been written by ex-Chumbawamba guitarist and writer Boff Whalley and is directed by Red Ladder’s artistic director Rod Dixon.

Meanwhile acclaimed singer songwriter, Beccy Owen, who lived in Newcastle for more than 10 years before relocating to West Yorkshire last year, is the production’s musical director and is looking forward to bringing it back to the place she called home for a long time.

“I had worked with Rod before and I think because this is an all-female production, he got me in to ‘feminise’ the songs,” she says.

“It was a real treat to be involved with the casting too because I got to make the point that it was really important to have properly great singers. That meant I could really go to town on the four-part harmonies, which are really powerful.

“The music in the play really gives offers the emotion,” she continues. “The script is funny, but the music isn’t. It’s really heartfelt and packs a punch.”

Beccy says another pull to get her involved with the production, which has been getting standing ovations throughout the tour so far, was the fact that she came from a mining family herself.

“I was six when the strike happened,” she says. “All I really remember was there were lots of horses on the telly, but I know our family had a really horrible year like loads of other people did. My mum became the main breadwinner and in the end my dad ended up using it as an opportunity to go to university.

“When they came to see the play, mum said it was telling her story, and my dad broke down in tears. I think it offers quite a vivid reminder of what happened for people who were involved in it.”

The play starts just as the strike is about to begin, and finds each of the sisters with a different link to it.

“Olive is married to miner, while Isobel is going out with a police cadet,” says Beccy offering a couple of examples. “All of the men the sisters are involved with are massively effected by the strike, and so it effects every part of all of their lives.

“The story is as much about the sisters’ relationship with each other as it is about the strike itself.”

It also looks at the resilience of the communities who had to fight for their existence during the almost year-long picket-line battle and has been supported by Unite the union, North East, Yorkshire and Humberside.

“It’s a really positive play - a bit of a redemption tale I suppose,” says Beccy. “It follows them up to a year after the strike finishes so you can see how they found their way through the other side.

“I hadn’t done a straight play for a long time, but this really appealed to me, in terms of my family and my feminism. I’m really proud of it and hope lots of people come to see it.”

* We’re Not Going Back plays the Royalty Theatre Sunderland (Wednesday Oct 8); Arts Centre Washington (Oct 9); Seaton Delaval Arts Centre (Oct 10) and Queen’s Hall Arts Centre (Oct 11). For booking details, visit www.redladder.co.uk .

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