Clyde’s ‘Work’ of Shipbuilders Inspires New Musical Half a Century Later
Thousands of workers at the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders foiled a 1971 Convervative government offer to shut down its yards by taking them over themselves and completing a half-built ship.
Rock and folk music from the early 1970s will be relaunched for the show – Yes! Yes! UCS! – which will be based on textual interviews with shipyard workers involved in the campaign to save their business.
Produced and directed by Louise Townsend, who founded the theater company with writer Neil Gore, the new show will focus on the little-known role played by women who made up five percent of the workforce in construction sites.
When the musical tours the UK between February and May, local choirs are expected to join the show’s three main cast to add their voices to the catchy songs and music of the era, as well as brand new material.
The show is created by Galloway-based company Townsend Theater Productions, which says Yes! Yes! UCS! will “highlight the role played by women in the struggle for the right to work, the power of community solidarity, collective resistance and workers’ control”.
The UCS was formed in 1968 from a merger of shipbuilders in Govan, Linthouse, Scotstoun and Clydebank.
More than 6,000 jobs were threatened when UCS went into receivership three years later, and then Prime Minister Edward Heath’s government refused to support what was described as the “lame duck” industries on the Clyde.
Supported by Billy Connolly and John Lennon, the workers watched the workers manage and operate the yards until the government changed its policy. It was about proving they were viable, with strict discipline to ensure that workers project the best possible image.
Gore said tales of life in the shipyards of former workers across the UK influenced the show, which will feature animated projections of graphic art evoking the early 1970s.
Gore said: “We started research and development about two and a half years ago and interviewed people in Govan and Clydebank, who worked at UCS and were involved in the work, about life on the job sites and the impact of their eventual closure. in the 1980s and 1990s.
“It meant we could look at what had happened from a very personal perspective rather than being a dry history lesson.
“We were just about to piece the series back together and go into production when Covid hit, so we had to put things on ice, but we’re just going to see the 50th anniversary of UCS’s work.”
Heather Gourdie, who will star alongside comedian-musician Janie Thomson and Gore, said: “I think this will be a political show in your image with a strong message that audiences can learn a lot from.
“There will be comedy throughout the series, as well as through a lot of obviously very serious elements.
“I don’t think anyone will leave the show feeling sorry for the women, but I do think they will think they need to be properly recognized now and in the future for their role in the industry.”