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Last updated:26 March 2018

Drama and literature

Drama and literature: an introduction

There is literature and drama produced about the working classes and there is that produced by them. Our collection holds both. Occasionally the two are the same.

Our holdings include the archive of Jim Allen, Manchester-born playwright who started to write while working as a miner. Jim was a scriptwriter on Coronation Street and wrote screenplays for socialist director Ken Loach for TV dramas such as Days of Hope and films like Spanish Civil War drama Land and Freedom.

Walter Greenwood was a local clerk and Labour Party activist, whose experiences in Salford gave him the material for his famous novel Love on the Dole. Library co-founder Eddie Frow has an unusual link with him. He is the basis for one of the characters in the book.

Shelf of books by Jack LondonAlso on our shelves are most of the books by Jack London, famous generally for Call of the Wild, but also the author of the classic socialist novel The Iron Heel. He was a member of the Socialist Labour Party and the Socialist Party of America.


Established in 1976 the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers grew as part of a campaign of working class dissent and to work for the recognition of working class writing.

From the late 1920s to the mid 1930s a network of socialist and communist theatre groups spread across the country. This was the Workers' Theatre Movement (WTM)

Out of the ashes of the WTM came Unity Theatre. Originally a club in London, by 1940 it had generated a network of 250 local theatre groups. We have records and scripts from both the national and the local Manchester troupes.

Flyer for a Theatre Union production of Last Edition: a living newspaper dealing with events from 1934-1940Another development out of the WTM was the work of Jimmy Miller (Ewan MacColl) and Joan Littlewood. As Jimmy Miller he started adapting other writers work, before creating original scripts as dramatist for Theatre Union and later under the mame of Ewan MacColl for Theatre Workshop.

Howard Goorney was a young member of Theatre Union and mainstay of  Theatre Workshop. in 1986 together with Ewan Macoll wrote Agit-Prop to Theatre Workshop, Political Playscripts, 1930-1950. He wrote an afterword which looks at the political theatre companies of the 1980s in the light of his Theatre Workshop experiences.

Founded in 1986 Frontline: Culture and Education was an educational theatre company operating in North West England and Ireland.  It ran workshops with a variety of groups with the aim of producing a play at the end of each workshop.


Related Object of the Month

July 2017: For the few not the many

Howard Morrison (from the Paper Piano collective) was inspired by Robert Tressell's book The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists  to produce an artwork which he has kindly donated to the Library.