WORKERS’ THEATRE MOVEMENT
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This piece is from a longer document presented at the British Workers’ Theatre Movement’s first National Conference in 1932. The English branch of the WTM was set up in 1926 by Christina Walshe during the miners’ lockout after the collapse of the General Strike. It was given new impetus by Tom Thomas and the Hackney People’s Players in 1928, who switched from straight plays to the agit-prop revue format already developed in Germany and by the Soviet Blue Blouse movement (see Part III). Direct contact with German groups came in 1931, when they were invited by the German Workers’ Theatre Confederation to tour the Rhineland, and with the Soviets in 1933 at the International Workers’ Theatre Olympiad in Moscow. By this time over thirty English groups were operating. The Movement’s politics were to the left of the Labour Party and the ILP, but their critique of these clashed with the strengthening Popular Front movement set up to oppose fascism in the 1930s. As a result Tom Thomas was asked to resign, and the WTM folded. For a full study, see Theatre as a Weapon: Workers’ Theatre in the Soviet Union, Germany and Britain, 1917-34, by Kathleen McCreary and Richard Stourac (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986), themselves leading figures in agitprop theatre in the 1960s and 1970s (Agit-Prop Street Players, Red Ladder, Broadside Mobile Workers’ Theatre). Detailed history of the English movement, including its important development in Manchester under Ewan McColl and Joan Littlewood, has been valuably rescued from impending oblivion in Theatres of the Left 1880-1935, by Raphael Samuel, Ewan McColl and Stuart Cosgrove (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985), and Howard Goorney’s The Theatre Workshop Story (London, Eyre Methuen, 1981).