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Syndicated Interview with Writer; Maureen Lennon on Guts! The Musical Coming Soon to Hull Truck Theatre

21 June 2024

Presented in partnership with Hull Maritime Museum, Hull Truck Theatre are excited to welcome audiences to the brand-new community production of Guts! The Musical (Saturday 29 June – Sunday 6 July). 

Maureen

Guts! The Musical promises to be an upbeat and uplifting tale about justice, the power of female friendship and... fish... with a whole load of hilarity and musical joy thrown in for good measure. Follow the whirlwind re-telling of the groundbreaking case which changed the equalities act in the UK forever. This Musical will take audiences back in time to 1984, when 15 women in a fish packing factory in Hull made history! Dive deep into this entertaining farcical drama, based on a true story.

Hull Truck Theatre caught up with Hull writer, Maureen Lennon (Baby, He Loves You, Helen, The Coppergate Women, Us Against Whatever), to find out more about the true story that inspired the musical, why it represents the community of Hull, and how the stories we tell about ourselves as a city can help shape who we can become.

Q. How did you come across the story of the court case brought against the fish factory in Hull?

Hull Truck and Hull Maritime Centre approached me about writing a community play. They knew they wanted it to centre on women’s stories as that feels like a less known area of Hull’s maritime history, but they were open as to what that story could be. I went away and did loads of research, I’m a bit obsessed with research! And I stumbled on this short film made by the TUC for their Equal Pay archive, all about the original case and the women who took it. I immediately felt like this could be a brilliant story, Hull’s own Made In Dagenham, and it felt unknown in the city. Finding out more proved to be a challenge though, including me pursuing a paper trail across cities.

Q. How much of the play is an accurate history of the real case?

So, that’s a tricky question in all honesty. I would say we have done a lot of research and spoken to lots of people whose stories have been invaluable. But, at the same time this is theatre not a documentary, so obviously lots of things will be different because we must make the story make sense theatrically and work on a stage. What I would say is I hope it holds some emotional truth, what it often felt like to be there, the camaraderie of those working environments and the characters you might meet along the way, I hope the feeling of them is accurate. We couldn’t have written it without all those people contributing their stories, it comes from them as much as me.

Q. Are there any factory anecdotes that stood out to you from researching this story?

So many, but my favourites are in the play and I’m not going to do spoilers, you’ll have to come see! But we’ve heard great stories about pranks played on managers, people supporting each other in solidarity and tough times, so many instances of generosity and kindness, as well as stories that are funny like the nicknames people gave each other. A big highlight for me was just learning some of the history of the campaign for equal pay, and the application of the amendment itself. It’s really inspiring, fire in your belly stuff.

Q. What inspired the decision to make this serious story a comedic musical?

A few reasons really. One I think we’re not always the best in this city in telling stories of our success. This felt like a story of struggle but also one of real solidarity and hope. It felt like a chance to remind ourselves that change is possible. We knew we wanted it to be fun to watch, I think people are hungry for that sort of thing at the minute, and we also knew we wanted it to be really fun for our brilliant community team to be a part of.

I think the other reason was to give ourselves permission to have fun with the story and emphasise it’s theatricality. It was a way of saying, this isn’t meant to be totally realistic, it’s meant to be taking this story somewhere else.

Lastly, I sometimes think when we’re telling real stories, or stories about hard things with northern people in we think they must be gritty and HARD. But I think there can be space for disco balls. Hull deserves glitter curtains and mad eighties outfits as well!

Q. Has it been fun to write a play set in the mid-80s?

SO, FUN. I missed the actual eighties, as I was born in 1992, so this has been a way for me to relieve all my air guitar dreams. It’s also been fun from a dramatic perspective, it feels like a decade of real turbulence, but also real change. The social sands were shifting in a way that feels particularly dynamic as a place to write from.

Q. What do you see as the impact today of the 1984 Equal Pay for Equal Value amendment?

Both seismic, and not enough. It was the thing that really allowed equal pay to take affect and tried to address the fact that we have historically had lower wages in sectors or jobs dominated by women. It’s a testament to the brilliant people fighting for it and who encouraged unions and workplaces to really use it, that it had such an impact. But honestly, it’s a complicated piece of legislation and I think it’s still widely not really understood today.

We have a widening gender pay gap in this country. There are women out there in our workplaces today who are not getting equal pay for work of equal value. I encourage everyone to look it up, join their union, fight the fight, it’s far from over.

Q. Why is it important that this story is told by the community of Hull?

I think it is a story about who we are as a city. About how we can look after each other, and stand up for each other, and that being created by the community itself feels so vital and important. The stories we tell about ourselves as a city help shape who we can be in the future, if we end up anything like the amazing group of people who are in this play it will be pretty special.

Tickets for Guts! The Musical are now on-sale and available to buy online and via Hull Truck Theatre’s Box Office. Access Performances include Relaxed and Open Captioned. Recommended age guidance is 7+.

For more information, please visit: www.hulltruck.co.uk