UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

UCS concert hits the note for the future as well as the past

The mournful moan of a cello, and the sharp clang of hammers introduced Work-in at UCS, the premiere of a brass and traditional instrument suite written especially for this 40th anniversary concert, by prominent scottish composer, Eddie McGuire. The eclectic mix of instruments signalled the variety of the concert put together by Musical Directors, Rab Noakes and Hilary Brooks.

Ranging from an Elaine C Smith reading Alienation, Jimmy Reid’s Rectorial address to Glasgow University, through a short film, the rock of Kevin McDermott’s Where we were meant to be, the funk of Pat Kane, Clive Langer and Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding - heartbreakingly sung by rising talent, Simone Welsh, interwoven with the traditional folk and political song of Greenmantle, Alastair McDonald, Jimmie Macgregor, Dick Gaughan and Arthur Johnstone, the evening was held together with wit and competence by Dave Anderson.

Many of these ‘review’ style shows can founder, and one element or another can drag. Not this one. You get the impression that even Pat Kane was given the instructions ‘two songs then off’! The three hour show moved along at a cracking pace, and managed to touch all the bases. Even the political speeches - from Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and veteran campaigner, Tony Benn - hit the right note, stressing the importance of the work-in historically, and, in Benn’s case, the lessons that campaigners today need to learn from then. He was rightly, the guest of honour and received the evening’s only standing ovation.

There were surprises. Who knew that Jimmie Macgregor had such a political side? The house band itself was a revelation, consisting of such diverse talents as Rab Noakes, Eddie McGuire, Fraser Speirs, Hilary and Lorna Brooks. They coped with the range of talent in front of them brilliantly.

The film is well worth a broader distribution (it currently forms part of the exhibition taking place in Glasgow’s Mitchell Library). Its ten minutes narrated by David Hayman, sum up the work-in and include some cracking clips of both Reid and Airlie. The STUC’s Kevin Buchanan rightly claims credit for its direction.

This anniversary has been driven by the veterans of the Shop Stewards Co-ordinating Committee, who commissioned events organisers FairPley to devise the programme. Many of the veterans were presented with commemorative badges by Unite Scottish Secretary, Pat Rafferty (Unite deserve huge plaudits for funding the series of events). This concert was planned as the key event - it did not let them down.

As the finale rendition of ‘Your Daughters and your Sons’ rang out, it summed up the work-in’s importance for the future of the labour movement, and the struggle to defend the rights that they (amongst others) won for us.

More details of the events organised are on the blog ‘http://ucsat40.blogspot.com/. UCS concert hits the note for the future as well as the past.

Chris Bartter