New play tells story of Labour MP who helped lead the Jarrow March and served in Winston Churchill’s wartime government
‘Red Ellen’ has been written by Caroline Bird, following the story of revolutionary Labour MP for Middlesbrough and later Jarrow, Ellen Wilkinson, who fought tirelessly for social change.
Battling through a political system dominated by men and the upper classes, working-class Ellen campaigned for causes including social justice and free school meals for children.
One of her biggest achievements was helping lead the Jarrow March, also known as the Jarrow Crusade, which saw more than 200 men and women march from Jarrow to London to present their petition to parliament, after the town suffered high levels of poverty and unemployment.
She also campaigned for Britain to aid the fight against General Franco, in Spain, and battled to save Jewish refugees in Nazi Germany, as well as serving in the wartime government of Winston Churchill, taking charge of air raid shelters during the war.
Caroline said: “I’ve been living with Ellen Wilkinson in my head for about six years now and I can honestly say, after writing this play, Ellen has done the impossible - she has given me back a glimmer of faith in politics.
"We need politicians like Ellen and we also need to look after them.”
The play will be directed by Wils Wilson, with set and costume design by Camilla Clarke, music and sound by Jasmin Kent Rodgman, and lighting by Kai Fischer.
The Felling Male Voice Choir will perform the Jarrow March Song, written by Rodgman, with lyrics by Caroline Bird.
Wils added: “I am excited to be telling Ellen’s story – she had an incredible life and achieved so much, against the odds.
"Her story deserves to be known far and wide and I’m very happy to be part of bringing her to a wider public. I’m also very excited to work on Caroline’s brilliant script – it’s full of life, compassion and humour.”
Red Ellen is a Northern Stage, Nottingham Playhouse and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh co-production and, following it’s Newcastle run from May 24 – 28, will head to Nottingham, Edinburgh and York.
Visit www.northernstage.co.uk for more information or to book tickets.