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From The Socialist newspaper, 19 October 2016

Theatre: Dare Devil Rides to Jarama

Moving, funny and inspiring tribute to working class heroism

Clem Beckett in 1929

Clem Beckett in 1929   (Click to enlarge)

Becci Heagney, Salford Socialist Party

Adelante! "Forever forward" - the motto of an ordinary man from Oldham who did extraordinary things, and lost his life in the Spanish civil war.

'Dare Devil Rides to Jarama' is a moving, funny and inspiring account of the life of Clem 'Dare Devil' Beckett. It is a great feat considering the cast is just two people, but portrays with realism dirt track races, mass protests and war.

Commissioned by the International Brigade Memorial Trust and backed by general union Unite, Socialist Party members Neil Gore and Louise Townsend wrote and directed the play for the war's 80th anniversary.

Audience participation in 'I'm a Rambler', 'Lancashire Lads' and 'The Internationale' helps tell the story of Clem's involvement in mass trespass, driving Oswald Mosley out of Manchester, and fighting fascism in Spain. I saw it in a theatre only a couple of miles down the road from where Clem was born; one of his nieces was in the audience.

As a member of the Young Communist League, he wrote for the Communist Party's newspaper, the Daily Worker. And he unionised his workplace - the speedway track!

As the sport became more popular, businessmen took control and pushed young drivers to risk their lives without proper training and many were killed. Clem set up the Dirt Track Riders Association to organise the riders, but was eventually blacklisted from the sport in Britain.

He travelled to Germany, Den-mark and the Soviet Union where he competed in races, broke world records - and bones! - and met Communist Party members across Europe. When he heard of the International Brigades going to help the war against fascism in Spain, he didn't hesitate to sign up.

The first half of 'Dare Devil' shows that it was ordinary people, politicised by their life experiences, who were drawn into struggle throughout the 1930s. Clem could have had fame and money, but he gave that up because of his commitment to socialist ideas.

The second half is set in Spain and, through the experience of Clem and his friend Christopher, shows the frustration that many felt during the civil war. They wanted to fight, but there was lack of organisation, training and decent weapons. "This gun is shit and if it jams, you're fucked!"

Ending with Clem's death at the Battle of Jarama, it is a timely reminder, on the 80th anniversary, of the sacrifices working class people have made.

The Spanish civil war displayed the heroism and instinctive international solidarity of working class people. This play is a wonderful tribute to those people.


October

20 Chilwell Arts Centre, Beeston

21 The Lansdown Hall, Stroud

22 The Seagull, Lowestoft

24-29 The Bussey Building, Peckham, London

30 The Marx Memorial Library, Clerkenwell, London (extracts and songs only)

November

1 Hertford Theatre

2 Wedgwood Rooms, Southsea

3 The Plough Arts Centre, Great Torrington

4 Dorchester Arts Centre

5 Bridport Arts Centre

7 Theatre Royal Margate

10 The Civic, Barnsley

11 Witham Hall, Barnard Castle

12 Cast, Doncaster

13 Severn Theatre, Shrewsbury

14 -19 Lantern Theatre, Sheffield

22 -23 St Michael's Irish Centre, Liverpool

25 Assembly Rooms, Barton

26 Swanland Village Hall

29 Lighthouse, Poole

30 The Place, Bedford

December

1 Square Chapel, Halifax

2 The Hat Factory, Luton

3 Ruskin College, Oxford

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In The Socialist 19 October 2016:


Socialist Party news and analysis

NHS at breaking Point

Teachers working 60 hours need strikes, not studies

Elderly care at crisis point

Health campaigns demonstrate together in 'one fight'

NHS cancer and dementia drugs 'unaffordable'

Them & Us


What we think

No backtracks, no compromises: we must fight for real democracy in the Labour Party

TUSC discusses new tasks after Corbyn victory


Workplace news and analysis

Sheffield bin striker slams privatised refuse bosses

Newsquest strike: Bosses realise 'contraints' of scab labour

London Underground cleaners protest pay cut

Support the 'Kinsley 3' cleaners in pay fight


International socialist news and analysis

Syria: horror deepens in Aleppo


Socialist history

Aberfan: a disaster that should never have happened

Suez 1956: the decline of British imperialism and rise of the colonial revolution


Black History Month

The radical life of Paul Robeson


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Butterfields housing victory: "We showed that if you stick together and fight you can win"

Come to Socialism 2016

Can you donate to the Socialism 2016 appeal?

Cheshire and Merseyside: Huge NHS cuts and privatisation planned

Devon: Campaigning against community hospitals closures

Bristol: Millions of pounds of "horrifically unpalatable" cuts


Socialist readers' comments and reviews

Moving, funny and inspiring tribute to working class heroism

Film review: Deepwater Horizon

Review: BBC2's Poetry Night

The Socialist inbox


 

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