In 1936 the women who worked in Yarmouth’s herring curing industry went on strike. For three days tonnes of fish rotted on the quaysides until the curing companies agreed to negotiate with the women. This event will form the background for our summer show 2021. The production explores the changing relationships between our hero, Esme Larner, and the other women in her life. Her mum, Meggy, came to Yarmouth from Orkney when she fell in love with a local fisherman. Her sister, Prudence, is desperate to sail but tradition dictates that women are unlucky at sea. Her employer Frannie Harpingdon is an ex-suffragette keen for women to play an equal role in the labour movement.
Contemporary sources suggest the women had no leaders or ways of organising. However, hundreds of women in Yarmouth and Lowestoft stood together against the large curing companies; seven of those women signed an agreement with management to end the strike. I have to disagree with contemporary sources. I cannot discover the names of those seven women and few details of the strike have survived. This show is my attempt to bring their almost forgotten story to a wider audience. It is, of course, highly embellished by my imagination.
Rehearsals will begin in June. The eight performances will run over July 8th-11th and 15th-18th in parks around Norwich (Heigham, Waterloo, Ketts Heights and Cow Tower) and a performance at Becketswell, Wymondham. There will be no audition. Please contact me through the Crude Apache facebook page if you would like to be considered for a role. Rehearsals will be Sunday afternoons (outdoors!) and Monday and Wednesday evenings (indoors). I can’t promise everyone a meaty role but their are loads of really top ensemble scenes including Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, a shipwreck and The Strike. There are also five fabulous songs written by the amazing Tim Lane, and The Punch House Band will, of course, provide the music.
And I haven’t even mentioned Covid – oops.
Esme Larner – (20s/f/minimal solo singing) Esme wants to stretch her wings and experience life. She does not want to end up like her mother.
Meggy Larner – (40+/f/sizeable singing role) Esme’s mum. After escaping a small Scottish island, she has spent her whole life gutting herring in Yarmouth. She is starting to question that decision.
Pru Larner – (teens/f/minimal solo singing) Esme’s sister. She wants to be a sailor. She can’t. It’s not fair.
Henry Larner – (20s/m) Esme’s brother. He doesn’t want to be a fisherman. If only he could tell his Dad.
Sam Larner – (40+/m/sizeable singing role) Esme’s dad. Constantly surprised by the women in his life. But he can rely on Henry, right?
Mharie Reid – (40+/f) Meggy’s sister. A woman of Orkney. Never uses several words where one or a hard stare will do. Loves a good cup of tea.
Effie Reid – (teens/f) Mharie’s elder daughter. Always happy to pile in with her fists. Loves a good cup of tea.
Eila Reid – (teens/f) Mharie’s younger daughter. Usually found making tea.
Frannie Harpingdon – (30+/f) Once met Christabel Pankhurst. Just don’t refer to her as “my dear lady”.
Skipper – (40+/m) Skipper of the fishing boat Perseverance, Sam’s boss. Never one to back away from a hard decision.
Nate – (20+/m) Mate on the Perseverance. Below everyone except Henry.
Meredith Blower – (40+/m) Boss of the largest herring curing company in Yarmouth.
Lizzie – (20+/f) Secretary to Meredith. A secret strike sympathiser.
Jack Goldman – (30+/m) Branch secretary of the Yarmouth union (TGWU).
There are also other fisherman and herring girls. I’m holding off naming them all until I find out how many people are interested. But basically, men are fishermen, women are herring girls. They are always called herring girls even though they varied in age from around 13 to over 60. Most of them were Scottish. They loved to knit.