‘That lass playing Lil Bilocca’s good ‘int she?’ I say. ‘Yeah she is and she’s got all her mannerisms an’ all,’ this comes from a woman who used to see Mrs Bilocca on road.
‘It’s good her story is being told like this, people are understanding who she was, and what she did. She weren’t liked by loads of folk though you know: especially the men. It’s good that people are finally seeing just how important what she did was.’
I’m sat beside two ladies in the Jubilee Church with an audience 90% women. Many have friends and family in the cast of ‘Lil’ the other play about Lillian Bilocca and her campaign to improve safety on trawlers out of Hull. And by now we all know, or should know that because her and the other Hessle Road women who made a stand against ‘the owners’ changes were made to the fishing industry nationwide.
This play written by Val Holmes is largely set in January 1968, the year of the Triple Trawler Tragedy, when Hull lost 58 souls onboard the trawlers St. Romanus, Kingston Peridot and the Ross Cleveland. Directed by Chris Gruca, Lil is a community play, with some standout performances, the aforementioned Gina Garton really was born to play Mrs Bilocca, with all the no nonsense passion she can muster. When Rose brilliantly played by Jackie Rodgers, expresses her fears about her son going to sea, it is through her sense of dignity and fortitude that the emotional heart of the story is revealed.
Seeing what happens to her friend Rose, could be seen as the catalyst for Lil to go out and start making a noise, in spite of what it will mean to her standing in the community. The play doesn’t shy away from the fact that Lil Bilocca was not liked in her community, after she rocked the boat with her Five Point Safety Plan. The hate mail, the vicious threats and feelings of disgust towards her meddling with things that don’t concern her, are all on show, the idea that many from within her own community turned on her, is a part of the ‘headscarf revolutionaries’ story that is oft left out.
This play belongs to the community, the players on stage and the audience who have come out in their droves to support it. The connection between the story, Lil’s Lasses who have been out for months in their customary headscarves promoting the show and the audience tonight is tangible. Academics can argue and debate whether this is a story about empowered women, whether those changes would have come about – and we are therefore still telling this story – if it had not been for the loss of three trawlers in such quick succession and whether the effort made was for the betterment of men… surely not needlessly losing your husband, father or son at sea is a pretty good outcome for the women too.
The ladies sat beside me explain how none of the owners ever faced charges for negligence and also how incredibly difficult it was for the families to receive compensation, at the time of the collapse of the fishing industry and for a long time afterwards. I stood up caught in the emotion of it all and applauded alongside hundreds of others.
Well done lasses!
If there are any tickets left get them here LIL SHOW TICKETS
Lil A Play by Val Holmes runs at Jubilee Church from 6 – 11th November (with performance commencing at 7.30pm) For more Lil pictures click @Photomoments