Interview with Mark Thomas
This is Clapham was fortunate enough to speak to local comedian, activist and theatre-maker Mark Thomas who is currently touring the country with his award winning play ‘The Red Shed.’
Mark grew up on Victoria Rise, went to Macaulay Primary School and still has family in the area. His mother was a midwife, his father a self-employed builder and his nan a local air raid warden during the war. Born into a family of self-employed tradesmen Mark was the first person to go to university, studying drama at Bretton Hall College near Wakefield in Yorkshire.
Although Mark describes himself as an atheist at the age of eight, a Marxist at fourteen and an anarchist by the age of sixteen, his time spent living in the coal mining heartlands of Yorkshire during the 1980s played an important role in shaping his political and social views.
He recalls walking alongside the miners in a Yorkshire village as the men marched back to their colliery after their strike ended in defeat. He remembers the children in a primary school looking through the railings of the playground as their fathers and brothers went by, and singing to them in the face of defeat.
Mark tells us about the impact the miners strike had on the local community of Wakefield, which at its height saw 140,000 miners on strike and half a million people using soup kitchens across the UK. He reflects that the memories of the strike and the feeling of being forgotten, which was prevalent during the 1980s still exists today. It is one of the factors that likely influenced voters in Wakefield during the EU referendum where 66% of the population voted to leave.
During his time in Yorkshire Mark attended ‘The Shed,’ a small wooden building on the outskirts of Wakefield, home to the local trade union movement and now celebrating its 50th birthday. The Shed was home to Mark’s first public performances and was where Mark’s true political prowess began. It lends its name to his new award winning live show ‘The Red Shed,’ which is currently touring the UK.
Interviewing old friends and comrades, Mark pieces together the club’s history and works alongside it to campaign with some of the poorest workers in the country. It is a tale of strikes, fights, dinner ladies, crap beer, good beer, burger slingers, pickets, placards, commies, friendship, love, history, dreams and, above all, remembering.
Part theatre, part stand up, part journalism, part activism, Mark realises his obsession with community and struggle.
You can see Mark at the Battersea Arts Centre from the 6 March to 11 March. Tickets are available through Mark’s website – http://www.markthomasinfo.co.uk/tour-dates/