Oldham Coliseum play tells powerful tale of Bread & Roses strike

FEMALE empowerment, unity, strength and socialism is the message of a new play by award-winning writer Ian Kershaw coming to Oldham Coliseum Theatre.

Featuring the songs of Joe Hill, ‘Bread & Roses’ is based on the real-life story of the huge mill workers strike led, and won, by women in Lawrence, Massachusetts, USA, in 1912.

It follows the story of Lucy-Rose Atkins as she navigates the strike, facing love, loss, lies and deceit, and using her fierce intelligence to make the journey from unskilled worker to impassioned leader. 

On 11 January 1912 the weaving room of the Everett Mill fell silent as mill workers opened their pay envelopes to discover their weekly wages had been cut.

A new state law in Massachusetts had reduced the work-week for women and children from 56 hours to 54 hours and the mill owners had reduced their wages.

Under the circumstances the workers were faced with, the reduction of two hours’ wage was the difference between the ability to feed their families and going hungry. 

Word of the strike by the women of Everett Mill spread and the walkout cascaded through neighbouring mills and by the end of the next day more than 10,000 workers were out on strike.

The Lawrence strike of 1912 became known known as the Bread & Roses Strike and The Singing Strike. 

The strike united workers from over 40 different countries and lasted for two months. It was the first large-scale industrial strike in the USA.

Songs by Joe Hill, published in the Industrial Workers of the World’s Little Red Songbook were sung out across the picket lines. His songs inspired the likes of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Bragg. 

Director Amanda Huxtable makes her Coliseum debut with this production. Her previous work includes Just An Ordinary Lawyer by Tayo Aluko and Wondr by Poppy Burton-Morgan for Metta Theatre. 

The cast for ‘Bread & Roses’ includes former Coronation Street stars Rupert Hill (Jamie Baldwin) as Joe Ettor and Tupele Dorgu (Kelly Crabtree) as Elizabeth Girley Flynn.

Writer Ian Kershaw won the Royal Exchange Theatre’s Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting with Candyland in 2005. 

His theatre credits include The Mist in the Mirror, Star-Cross’d and Union Street at the Coliseum. Television credits include Coronation Street, Shameless and Holby City.

‘Bread & Roses’ runs from June 22 to July 7, 2018 at Oldham Coliseum Theatre. 

Tickets can be booked by calling the Box Office on: 0161 624 2829 or at online at:
www.coliseum.org.uk

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