THE story of a young mill-hand, fired up by the injustices meted out to the suffragettes, inspired East Lancashire class warrior Boff Whalley.
When Mr Whalley, former guitarist and writer with Chumbawamba, was able to delve into an archive, detailing the real-life experiences of a crusader, he was able to pen his new play.
Wrong ’Un tells the story of Annie Wilde, a Lancashire girl spurred into action by a burning sense of injustice, as the First World War draws to a close.
Mr Whalley was told about the ordeal of Norfolk-born Grace Marcon, otherwise known as Freda Graham, who was imprisoned in Holloway Jail, and went on hunger strike in support of her principles. Her granddaughter, Ginny Scholey, uncovered a trove of memorabilia about Grace’s struggle, ranging from newspaper cuttings to letters, photographs, and even the recognition she received for refusing food during her incarceration.
Mr Whalley, from Burnley, said: “Among the finds was her grandmother’s suffragette medal, awarded to those women who were imprisoned and force-fed in Holloway for taking direct action.
“Suddenly, something distantly historic became personal and human, and I knew I had a play to write.”
His one-woman play based on this research, performed by Ella Harris, comes to The Lowry, in Salford, on Thursday, January 16, and Friday, January 17.
Annie’s journey will be traced from her schoolroom to a prison cell, with plenty of lessons about class, and privilege, along the way.
Mr Whalley and his colleagues finally brought the curtain down on 30 years of musical activism with Chumbawamba last year.
But he is already looking to the future, with plans for a new book based on walks revolving around great moments in radical history, a musical centring on the 1984 miners’ strike under discussion, and new songs, with fresh collaborators, pending.