Scottish born, Scottish bred?
A “national treasure”?
In the year we remember 100 years of women’s activism and 100 years of the vote for some women, I always feel cheated that society always forgets the stories of working-class heroes that I can relate to, people who fought and won our battles – especially women. We leave them in the shadows. How could it be that Kath Duncan, who led so many civil rights and social justice campaigns, was ignored and erased from history? Should she not be restored to national treasure status for her amazing activism that actually won change?
Why do so many on the left talk about working class, and yet stay silent about the women like Kath that without this stage play and book would still be unknown? Why do we allow this? And why do we care so little about people once they’re six feet under? People who fought our battles? This play is so important; not because of Kath alone, but because it shows the power of one woman to take on the system and win time and time again, against the odds. Should this not be what we should be using as our inspiration today?
No edge lost here
There is no point writing or producing a great play if you are not willing to push boundaries. Nor if you’re unwilling to change not just the narrative but also how theatre is done for the masses. People forget that theatre used to be the way working class people heard news, shared stories and mobilised and organised against injustice.
That edge has been lost and many believe theatre is not for the masses now – it’s just for the elite. That’s why in ‘Liberty’ we are not only using social media in a way never used before in period drama, but we are also selling tickets from as little as £5. This is so people can afford to come once or twice and get inspired. We hope people leave the theatre not just singing songs from the show, but ready to reengage politically with their communities; just as Kath would have wanted them to.
“Exhausted with giving”
Sadly, ‘giving’ has exhausted people. We put on events, stage the Deptford Heritage Festival and this play ‘Liberty’. It’s all so we can have a secure income in the age of cuts and austerity. We want to plan projects and ensure every penny we raise can help and support the maximum number of people in the most cohesive way possible. Many projects struggle because they don’t have a cash flow. This play will literally change and save lives; if people come and see it. That’s what community activism is about. But we must change the way we campaign and raise funds for our causes as money gets tighter.
Challenging history while making it
I hope everyone will leave ‘Liberty’ feeling empowered. This was an ordinary Scot from Kirkcaldy; admittedly who was better off than most. But as a teacher Kath saw the impact of social justice and inequality through the kids she taught. She was determined to make a stand and do her bit. The fact she fought and won almost every campaign she was involved in makes her not ordinary, but extraordinary. Yet every one of use could be Kath Duncan in the way so many identified with ‘I Daniel Blake’.
We need to challenge the history the establishment teaches us, and ensure more working-class hero’s stories are told through stage and film.
It’s taken 80-plus years to get Kath Duncan’s story told. And yet it’s our story, our LGBTQI+ and our civil rights history and successful activism. Why is it in the country that claims to be the capital and centre of civil rights is our own history never spoken of, never talked about, never remembered? This play is the story of so many that fought, marched and served jail time before us. For us, it is easier than it was for them. But the issues are not dissimilar.