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Hard Graft- All for twenty-three bob

Black Country

01 September 2014

For our upcoming Black Country Night, Sat 13 Sep, we are excited to welcome the Wednesbury Civic Players, who will be performing a piece written by Brendan Hawthorne; Hard Graft - All for twenty-three bob.

Brendan Hawthorne hails from the Black Country in the industrial heartland of England, which has forged his attitude to writing and performing poetry. Sometimes hard-hitting, sometimes delicate and poignant, his work examines the range of human experience from factory gates via 1970's tower blocks to the survival of humour in modern times either in standard English or his beloved Black Country dialect. 

Hard Graft is based on the Black Country in 1913.

Background: The Black Country, with its heavy industries, found itself on the way to war.

The first battle was for unionisation and equal pay in keeping with its Birmingham counterparts. The second battle was to keep its industries alive for the onslaught of the Great War and all that it entailed a little over twelve months later.

During the spring of 1913 unskilled workers in the Black Country were facing poverty and had little or no voice to change their circumstances. In Birmingham unskilled workers had successfully become unionised through

The Workers Union and had secured a minimum wage of 23shillings for a weeks work. In the Black Country those same men would have been paid 18shillings per week with little or no chance of belonging to a Trades Union or feel the benefits of collective bargaining. 

In April 1913, a strike ensued which was to last for three long months driving families towards starvation. The strike initially involved one hundred workers from Russel’s tube works, they grew to four and a half thousand men as the strike continued. Ultimately reaching 35,000 men across the region.

As a result of the strike some men became outsiders, unemployable through the part they took in securing a deal. The strike nearly cost the region it’s industry as factory owners were under pressure from German businesses to sell up. 

The plight of the strikers was discussed in parliament (Norton-Griffiths) and certain conditions were granted to ease the plight of families. The men finally returned to work with a stepped pay rise, unionisation and a secured industry to work in. 

Come and see the Wednesbury Civic Players perform Hard Graft live on Saturday 13 September - book tickets now


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