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WITH the news media over the past year dominated by doom and gloom, one recent glimmer of light has been the news that the conviction of the Shrewsbury building workers in 1972 was a miscarriage of justice.
To mark this belated victory, the film Justice for The Shrewsbury Pickets by Platform Films is a timely re-examination of those political events. It was made as part of the campaign to clear the names of those courageous workers put on trial and convicted for doing nothing more than defending the rights of their fellow workers.
The documentary includes film material from the original campaign to free Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson (star of TV’s The Royle Family), jailed at the behest of the state.
The first national building workers’ strike was one of a number of industrial disputes in 1972, including the victorious miners’ strike and the release of the Pentonville Five imprisoned dockers, events demonstrating the strength of united working-class struggle. It had to be taught a lesson.
The building industry had traditionally been afflicted by low pay, appalling health and safety standards and the widespread use of “lump” labour and was poorly organised. The national strike was a rare success story and some fundamental improvements were eventually agreed by the Federation of Building Employers.
But they would not forgive that defeat. Five months after the strike a number of militant building workers in north Wales were singled out for exemplary justice. The whole might of the state, with the media and police, conspired to frame a few pickets to set an example to all those who dare to fight for the rights of their fellow workers.
Compiled, shot and edited by Steve Sprung and Chris Reeves, the film is a bitter story of the imprisonment of Warren, Tomlinson and John McKinsey Jones. Originally charged with 210 offences, in the end only the vague and archaic ones of conspiracy, causing affray and unlawful assembly were used.
The film is a profoundly moving and historically vital narrative explaining the background to the strike, what actually happened to those convicted and the 50-year-long battle to overturn those convictions and obtain belated justice for these men and their families.
Sadly Warren, given the longest sentence, is no longer with us to celebrate. But his wife, Elsa, makes an emotional contribution in the film as does that indefatigable fighter, Tomlinson.
The film can be viewed online at vimeo.com/ondemand/172978 for £2.35.
A DVD version is available from platform films, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, price: £8.00 + £2p&p.
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