Event date: 30th November 2017
This is the story of Jayaben Desai’s fight for dignity in the workplace, the story of the Grunwick Film Processing Factory Strike of 1976-78 and inspirational strike-leader Jayaben Desai, one of many newly arrived Gujurati workers from East Africa. It has tremendous contemporary relevance (immigration, workplace exploitation, women’s rights, racism and human dignity), and is told in Townsend Productions’ accessible, imaginative and entertaining theatrical style with songs and music of the 1970s. This is social history presented with humour in a participatory and engaging way.
Forty years ago a group of workers in a backstreet London factory, in Willesden, stood up to their unfair bosses and kick-started one of the longest and most important industrial disputes in British history. Led by Asian women, the Grunwick strike challenged stereotypes, changed the face of white, male trade unions, and inspired others to speak out against injustice.
Even during the hardest of times, strike-leader Jayaben Desai had the uncanny ability to evoke a mood or sum up a situation with a perfectly weighted turn of phrase and a way with words that captured the very essence of the human spirit. She had the measure of the most brutish and charmless of her managers, when she told them: “What you are running here is not a factory, it is a zoo. But in a zoo there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips, others are lions who can bite your head off. We are the lions, Mr Manager!”. Grunwick illustrated how a section of totally unorganised workers, ignorant of trade unionism and insecure in a foreign land can nonetheless develop militancy and attract huge solidarity. It also showed that all the forces of the state, the media, the police, the courts, employers, racial prejudice and women’s inequality can be swept aside by the freshness and dynamism of determined struggle. Grunwick is still posing questions to today’s generation about the role of women in society.
Target audience: 12+
Wanland audience: Brilliant!!! Thank you so much. Very impressed. Imaginative presentation and set. Powerful politics and engaged the audience very effectively.
London City Nights: Informative and inspiring. Loved it.
London Theatre1: Outstanding entertainment