By Chris Bartter
Later this week, in the auditorium at Glasgow’s Mitchell Library, two films are being shown in the latest event to mark the 40th anniversary of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in. Made by the radical film collective Cinema Action, UCS1 and Class Struggle – Film from the Clyde have not been seen for many years.
Cinema Action was the only film crew allowed into the yards after the stewards took over the running in 1971, and they did not disappoint. Unlike many film accounts, these focus on the work-in from the workforce perspective. The shorter film, UCS1, concentrates on the stewards’ public campaign, while Class Struggle looks at the practical issues of how a largely manual workforce took to running the shipyards.
One of the original filmmakers and founder of Cinema Action, Ann Guedes, is flying in from Lisbon to take part in panel discussions after the screenings, which take place from 21 to 23 March.
This is the latest event in a series of high-profile celebrations of the UCS work-in – including two sell-out concerts, a Scottish parliament debate, an exhibition and a civic reception.
The debate in the Scottish parliament was initiated by Labour MSP Hugh Henry and attended by many veterans and a busload of apprentices from BAE Systems Upper Clyde yards at Govan and Scotstoun. A record number of MSPs paid tribute to the workers.
At the first gala concert, in the Mitchell Theatre, other tributes were paid by Tony Benn, the minister who created the UCS consortium and a great supporter of the work-in, and by the deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
Benn made a personal link between struggles then and now, by speaking at an STUC public services demonstration earlier that afternoon. Artists including Jimmie Macgregor, Dick Gaughan, Arthur Johnstone, Rab Noakes and Alistair MacDonald – who had taken part in fundraising for the work-in – performed alongside younger talent such as Kevin McDermott and Simone Welsh. Elaine C Smith read Jimmy Reid’s rectorial address and prominent Scottish composer Eddie McGuire premiered his new composition – Work-in at UCS.
An exhibition using the work-in archives from Glasgow University and Glasgow Caledonian University ran in the theatre foyer for the two weeks leading up to the concert.
So successful was this concert that Donald Shaw, director of the Celtic Connections festival, asked Rab Noakes – who directed the first concert – to stage a similar one in the Old Fruitmarket during the 2012 festival. Again, many previous fundraisers took part, including actor and director David Hayman, and singers James Grant and Emma Pollock. Again, the concert sold out.
At these events, a strong attendance from the UCS veterans ensured that the voices from the Upper Clyde were heard directly. A civic reception at Glasgow’s Riverside Museum brought together more of them, along with two provosts.
The UCS work-in was a turning-point in working class history. Its innovative and daring initiative showed that ordinary people could reverse the decisions of hostile governments. Ordinary people had the power to change things.
Its achievements – such as forcing the government to pay the money that saved the yards, and the continuation of shipbuilding on the Upper Clyde – are often quoted, but its place in the establishment of the Scottish parliament is less well known.
In February 1972, the STUC called a “Scottish Assembly on Unemployment”, convened to support the demands of the UCS workers. This body made the first serious contemporary call for the devolution of powers to a Scottish Assembly. It led ultimately to today’s parliament.
● UCS1 is being shown on Wednesday 21 March at 1pm and Thursday 22 March at 7:30pm. The programmes will also feature UCS 40th Anniversary, a short film made by the STUC for use during the celebrations.
Class Struggle – Film from the Clyde, will be shown on Friday 23 March at 7:30pm.
Tickets – Wednesday £5, Thursday £6 and Friday £7.50 – are available from the Concert Halls box office, 0141-353 8000 or www.glasgowconcerthalls.com