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Last updated:18 June 2015

Red Megaphones first performance

Sixteen year old Jimmy Miller and some unemployed friends organised a street theatre group to spread the communist word. This was the start of a venture which led eventually to the world famous Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop. Jimmy Miller later changed his name to Ewan MacColl.

Eddie Frow wrote: "...the Red Megaphones was really an agit-prop, it was really a method of putting over a message to a crowd of people outside that was different than just one person speaking. Four would get up on the platform and the first one would shout out a slogan, the second one would pick it up, the third one would carry it on then they would all do it in unison. Something that was like a drill, it had a tremendous dramatic effect because you must remember that there was a tremendous tradition in vogue of open-air meetings. There were many, many places like Stevenson Square [in Manchester] and innumerable places in Salford. There were traditional meeting places from the time of the Socialist Movement and earlier than that..Another big meeting place was outside Labour Exchanges where you had to go and sign on twice a week, you'd nothing to do with your time. You signed on for unemployment benefit - what was called the dole. So the Red Megaphones had a tremendous impact when they were able to get up and project a message ...young people coming over with vigour and clarity related to things that they were concerned about - what the policy of the government was in regard to unemployment, how it could be altered...a real purposeful and meaningful message.

And it wasn't the whole part of the meeting - that frequently helped to attract the crowd and then the other two would get up and expound the whole thing! It was very very successful. In many Lancashire towns, for instance in Rochdale, ... the town hall square was a huge area for a meeting place, the appearance of these youngsters, in this sort of way which had never been seen before, really did create a tremendous impression".

Click here to go to our Ewan MacColl mini-site and find out more about his political, theatre and musical career.