Manchester trade union pioneer Mary Quaile (1886 to 1958) will be remembered in *“Dare to Be Free”,* a play which will be premiered in Manchester on 30 April at the trade union May Day Festival, and also in a pamphlet to be published on 4 June called* Dare to Be Free :women in trade unions, past and present*
Mary came from an Irish working-class background. She rose from being a waitress in a Manchester cafe to one of the most well-known women trade union organisers in Britain in the 1920s. She was the first women’s officer of TGWU, spent 4 months in the Soviet Union in 1925 leading a delegation of British trade union women, and spoke at rallies during the General strike in 1926.
*“Dare To Be Free”* is set in the past and present. It’s 1908 and waitresses in a Manchester cafe are fed up and ready to strike for proper pay and decent working conditions. It’s 2016 and workers in a Manchester “fast food experience” are fed up and ready to strike for proper pay and decent working conditions. Linking the two eras is Mary Quaile, come to help out her modern-day sisters because the issues she fought on 100 years ago are back with a vengeance…
*“Dare To Be Free”* has been commissioned by the Mary Quaile Club, a Manchester history society which organisers events on working-class history. Bernadette Hyland, a co-founder of the Club, said, “We thought that a play about Mary would be a wonderful way of making her life and work as a trade union organiser better known to a new generation. This play is not [to] be an exercise in cosy historical nostalgia, but will directly link Mary’s work in organising workers in the early C20th to the conditions faced by many workers today, i.e. low pay, zero hours and the hostility by many employers towards the very idea of trade unions”.
The play has been written by Jane McNulty, whose previous work includes writing episodes for *EastEnders*, *Doctors*, *Peak Practice*, and *Heartbeat. *Another of Jane’s plays*, A Bed of Shards,* will be staged at The Lowry on 1 and 2 July.
The play will be directed by Bill Hopkinson, who teaches at Edge Hill University.
Mary Quaile will be played by Catherine Kinsella (recently seen on television in *The A Word*), while the waitresses in 1908 and 2016 will be played by Rachel Priest and Catarina Pinto Soromenho.
There will be four performances of *“Dare to Be Free”*
· Saturday 30 April 1.45pm *Manchester Mechanics Institute*, 103 Princess Street.
- Saturday 14 May, 2pm, in the Inspire Centre,
(Mary lived in Levenshulme for many years at 20 Barlow Road).
- Saturday 15 May, 2pm, in the Glossop Labour Club
- Saturday 4 June at Three Minute Theatre
This final performance will be part of the launch of the second Mary Quaile publication, *Dare to Be Free: women in trade unions, past and present**, * a pamphlet which has a biography of Mary Quaile and ten interviews with women active in trade unions at grass roots level. The launch will start at 2 p.m. and the play will be on at 3.30 p.m.
More information on the play and pamphlet: https://maryquaileclub.