Monday, April 25, 2016

A Play about Mary Quaile, next weekend and after

*Mary Quaile,  Manchester trade union pioneer, 
comes back to life in drama
  “Dare To Be Free”.*

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, 
   <> 747 Stockport Road, Levenshulme, Manchester M19 3AR. 
 (Mary lived in Levenshulme for many years at 20 Barlow Road).

   - Saturday 15 May, 2pm, in the Glossop Labour Club
   <>, 15 Chapel Street, Glossop SK13 8AT

   - Saturday 4 June at Three Minute Theatre
   <>,  Afflecks Arcade, 35 Oldham Street Manchester M1 1JG.   
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:

NEW NOTE 30-6-16
"Mary was featured today on the Sheroes of History blog."

The Mary Quaile Club will be launching its second publication; Dare to Be Free : women  in trade unions, past and present as part of the Manchester Histories Festival. The event is free.
This will take place on Saturday 4 June at Three Minute Theatre,  Afflecks Arcade, 35-39  Oldham Street Manchester M1 1JG,   
The launch  will start at 2 p.m.  
The authors will be present, as will Sarah Woolley (BFAWU) and Nilufer Erdem (UNITE) . 
At 3.30 p.m. there will be the final performance  of  Dare to Be Free, a play about Mary Quaile, written by Jane McNulty.
In the first part  historian Michael Herbert  tells the remarkable story of Mary Quaile (1886-1958). An Irish migrant from Dublin to Manchester, Mary rose from working as a  cafe waitress to fame as one of the most active women trade unionists in Britain. She organised women workers through the Manchester and Salford Women’s Trades Council, and later as a national officer in TGWU. In 1925 she led a TUC delegation of British women trade unionists to the Soviet Union to see this new society for themselves. For fifty years Mary never wavered from her belief that trade unions were the key to women achieving
In the second part journalist and writer Bernadette Hyland  interviews ten women of 2016  from different unions  about  how and why they became active in the trade union movement. Working in both the public and private sector, and of different ages, they too are united in their belief that trade unionism can make a real difference to the lives of working women and men.
More information about this event can be found here.


  1. (From the Mary Quaile Club:-)
    We had a very enthusiastic response from the audience at the premiere of "Dare to be Free" yesterday at the Manchester Trade Union May Day Festival. Our thanks to the writer Jane McNulty, the director Bill Hopkinson, Carol Donaldson who wrote the song with which the play finishes, and the wonderful actors: Catherine Kinsella, Catarina Pinto Soromenho, Rachel Priest and Rebecca Brown. We also wish to thank Steve Speed who took photographs.
    There will be four more performances of the play... [as in the blogpost above.]

  2. This is a link to an article in to-day's Morning Star about the new MQC* pamphlet "Dare to Be Free "which will be launched next Saturday 4 June 2 p.m. as part of the Manchester Histories Festival. (- from *Mary Quaile Club)

  3. Another message from the MQC:
    We have used Three Minute Theatre for quite a few of our events, most recently the book launch of our latest publication Dare to Be Free. Gina and John who run 3MT have always been very helpful and supportive.
    They run the venue with no public funding at all, which means they [have] no spare cash for improvements. They have just launched a crowdfunding appeal for £1000 to replace 10 of the seats. If you would like to help you can find out more here: .
    The Manchester branch of the NUJ have been running a monthly film club at 3MT for several months now. The next film on 30 June will be the classic 1961 British science fiction film The Day the Earth Caught Fire (which was partly filmed in a newspaper office). Entrance is a very reasonable £4. All welcome. You can find out more here. .

  4. From MQC re. "Dare To Be Free" pamphlet:
    Please see excellent review at:

  5. New from MQC: "We have posted a short article about Mary Quaile with some new pictures of her in 1926 at Easton Lodge which [was] offered to the TUC in 1926 by the Countess of Warwick, a long-standing supporter of the socialist movement." -

  6. Days of Hope: an article by Mary Quaile on her visit to the Soviet Union in 1925. New on Mary Q (from Bernadette) here:

  7. More about the play from MQC: "Dare to Be Free" included in new anthology - see review of "Workers' Playtime" at