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‘Mopping up’ after eight weeks of strikes at the National Theatre – 40 years ago in The Stage

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May 17, 1979: Following the 1978/79 Winter of Discontent, during which unions staged widespread strike action across the UK, there were also extensive strikes at the National Theatre. We reported on the conclusion of an eight-week unofficial strike at the South Bank complex.

“A major ‘mopping up’ process has begun to restore the South Bank complex to normal service following dismissed staff’s plea for reinstatement and acceptance of a peace formula,” we reported.

“Financial losses are severe, so full operation is likely to be a long time coming and must follow a very careful scrutiny of the budget. The first item to suffer in essential short-term cutbacks is the NT’s long-awaited major touring programme…

“From early last week it was becoming increasingly apparent that most involved in the dispute wanted a rapid return to peace. They formally disassociated themselves from militant action on May 9, when 10 men and women, identifying themselves as members of the South London Rank and File group of local trades unionists, halted a performance in the Lyttelton auditorium of The Double Dealer, claiming that they were supporting union members.

“The chanting demonstrators were described by the NT’s spokesman as clearly a ‘rent-a-mob’ gang. But security at the theatre was considerably tightened for fear of a recurrence.”


If you’d like to read more stories from the history of theatre, all previous content from The Stage is available at the British Newspaper Archive in a convenient, easy-to-access format. Please visit: thestage.co.uk/archive [2]

To Olivier with love: letters to and from the National Theatre [3]