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14 November 2018

Theatre: The Last Seam - a lasting tribute to Mary Jackson

Nigel Smith, York Socialist Party

The Last Seam is a piece of theatre with a script based on interviews that relate the story of a Yorkshire pit community throughout the national miners' strike of 1984-85 and afterwards.

It recounts the struggles subsequent to the defeat of the strike and the massive effect this had - and is still having - on such communities.

It does this by following the lives of a list of characters, using their actual words to frame the drama.

It has been performed across Yorkshire and the north east, mostly in mining communities, to packed audiences.

The success of the piece is derived from its authenticity and the insight it shows into the lives of the people of Stainforth, near Doncaster, and the surrounding area. It illustrates well the struggles of miners and their families.

It shows the way the women came to prominence - taking the action forward across the numerous localised strikes and occupations that followed the national strike.

It also tells the stories of individuals from those communities who were affected by the events, but were not miners.

It deals with the issue of austerity and its consequences: poverty, crime, drug problems, mental health problems and suicide.

The defeat of the miners' strike is seen as a catalyst for the economic degeneration of these communities, but the play also highlights the continuing strength of working-class culture, in spite of the pressures austerity brings. It is also, at times, very funny.

Coming right up to date, the play frames the socialist case against the EU through the character Julie - her speech met by cheers in some performances.

This fine piece of theatre hopes to find funding for a further tour or a move to TV. I hope it is successful - there are stories enough for a major series!

The play was dedicated to Mary Jackson and Sandra Lanaghan. As many of will know, Mary was a member of the Socialist Party and was a prominent campaigner throughout the miners' strike and right up to her sad passing in January this year.