Friday, 20 March 2015

Gary Lewis and Tommy Sands lead Glasgow's MayDay festivities.

--> MayDay festivals have been celebrated since pre-Christian times. Earliest celebrations marked the beginning of summer and linked to many pagan festivals including the Gaelic Beltane. In 1891 MayDay was formally adopted as International Workers Day – primarily to mark the anniversary of the 1886 Chicago Haymarket Massacre, when four strikers were killed when police opened fire on a demonstration after a bomb was thrown. 

Despite the gravity of this event, and maybe because of earlier festival links, the celebratory side of International Workers’ Day is longstanding and international, especially in Glasgow. The story of labour in the west of Scotland is peppered with cultural input – choirs from the Orpheus to the Eurydice, theatre from the Glasgow Workers’ Theatre to 7:84 and Wildcat, Glasgow Trades Council even once ran a film society! This is the background to the increasing range of activities now being organised in the city by a range of TU, campaigning and labour organisations.

The now hugely successful Great MayDay Cabaret, organised by Glasgow Friends of MayDay (GFoMD), celebrates its third anniversary at Oran Mor on the Mayday Monday (4) evening. This year’s headliner is celebrated Irish singer and peace activist , Tommy Sands. Also performing are poet Elvis McGonagall, actress Juliet Cadzow, comedians Bruce Morton and Susie McCabe, and singers Arthur Johnstone and Siobhan Miller. Dave Anderson comperes.

In addition, Glasgow-based film actor Gary Lewis (Billy Elliot, Gangs of New York) stars in a specially commissioned rehearsed reading of John and Willy Maley’s play – From the Calton to Catalonia – republished last year by Calton Books. This play about their father’s experiences in the International Brigades launches, appropriately enough, in the Calton, then goes on a small tour during the period including Irvine’s Harbour Arts centre (2) and Oran Mor (3).

Chris Bartter, Chair of Glasgow Friends of Mayday said “This year’s celebrations have moved up a gear. Many more organisations and people are planning events and we are delighted that we’re able to add a theatre performance to the already successful Cabaret.”

Trade Union Councils throughout Scotland continue to organise MayDay marches and rallies on the Mayday Weekend (Sat and Sun 2/3 May). Plans and speakers are still being finalised.

An interesting project run by Glasgow Museums and Glasgow University plans to get trade union and campaign banners out of museum storage and into local communities, where people with a connection to the struggle will tell their story. One is scheduled in Glasgow’s Castlemilk on the afternoon of May 1 with banners from the local Anti-Poll Tax Union, and the Tailors’ and Garment Workers’ Union. Similar events are planned in Barmulloch and Govan later.

Love Music, Hate Racism have organised a gig in Glasgow’s Stereo on the evening of May 1 and are also showing the film, The Clash: Westway to the World on Sunday 10 May at the CCA.

Other film showings, include the third in a series of film showings at the CCA organised by a local GMB Branch. Linking International Workers’ Memorial Day (28 April) with MayDay, they are showing Ken Loach’s The Navigators on April 30.

A new MayDay tradition of walks through Glasgow’s heritage continues, with the Friends of MayDay organising a Women, War and Rent Strike walk on Saturday April 25. And the Glasgow Women’s Library has one of its Women of the Merchant City walks two weeks later (9 May).

Of course established venues often have relevant events – most obviously The Tron’s Mayfesto festival – an important part of which will be Rites, a powerful NToS and Scottish Refugee Council-backed piece by Cora Bissett on female genital mutilation. David MacLennan’s legacy– A Play, a Pie and a Pint- also serves up The War hasn’t Started Yet – a view from modern Russia from May 4–9.

Amongst a number of talks and discussions, the ever-interesting Morning Star Our Class, Our Culture series has an intriguing presentation by John Quinn of Glasgow School of Art – Portraying the Heroes of Red Clydeside in the STUC on 5 May. 

The festival events in Glasgow take place in the weeks before and after the MayDay weekend (this year Sat 2 – Mon 4) and are organised by a wide variety of trade union, cultural and campaigning bodies.

Tickets for both The (Third) Great Mayday Cabaret (4 May) and From the Calton to Catalonia on the 3 May are available from Oran Mor (over the bar) or via their website - (booking fee).

(Currently the OM website is being revamped, so tickets for the cabaret on line are available from ticketweb here - And the OM performance of From the Calton to Catalonia, here -

The full 2015 programme is due to be published early in April. It will be available on as well as Oran Mor, the STUC, trade unions and other outlets.