Pickets Victory Celebration

On Sunday 26 September the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign, the Shrewsbury pickets and their families were finally able to celebrate the magnificent victory at the Court of Appeal on 23 March 2021 when all the pickets’ convictions were quashed. The celebration, at St David’s Hotel, Ewloe, had been postponed from June, due to Wales’s continuing Covid regulations restricting indoor gatherings.

Group photo of attendees

We began the afternoon with a showing of the 1974 film, Free the Six, by Jeff Perks and Michael Rosen to remind us all of the dreadful conditions that prevailed on building sites in the 1970’s. The film also included contemporaneous interviews with the pickets’ families. Later we watched a warm message from Elsa Warren, who explained what Des Warren went through when he was given the longest prison sentence of three years. The video of Ian Prowse singing Alun Parry’s song, My name is Dessie Warren, was inspiring and got many of us singing along with it.

The most emotional part of the afternoon was when the pickets spoke about what they went through in 1973-74. Particularly moving was hearing, for the first time, family members speaking about what it was like for them. Heartbreaking stories such as being told by kids in the school playground that their dad was in jail. Feeling a sense of shame about their dad throughout their lives. But worst of all, not knowing what really happened, as none of the pickets would ever talk about it. This celebration helped to open the door to the truth: that their dads/grandads/ husbands/ brothers/ uncles were not guilty of the charges that were so wrongly brought against them. They were trade unionists standing up for their rights and those of fellow building workers against ruthless employers.

There were many tears but also much laughter, as pickets’ families met each other for the first time. Many of them had known each other within North Wales over the years but were unaware of what connected them – they were all related to a Shrewsbury picket!

The Shrewsbury 24 Campaign left the celebratory event with a sense of pride and satisfaction in the knowledge that we had stood with the pickets and never gave up the fight for justice. We had helped to bring so much happiness to so many people.

The pickets had achieved the justice they deserved. We never gave up – and we won!