University of Hertfordshire

The performance of protest: the 1889 dock strike on and off the stage

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolitics, Performance and Popular Culture
Subtitle of host publicationTheatre and society in nineteenth-century Britain
EditorsPeter Yeandle, Katherine Newey, Jeffrey Richards
Place of PublicationManchester
PublisherUniversity of Manchester Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9780719091698
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016
EventPolitics, Performance and Popular Culture in Nineteenth-Century Britain symposium - Birmingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 19 Apr 201220 Apr 2012


ConferencePolitics, Performance and Popular Culture in Nineteenth-Century Britain symposium
CountryUnited Kingdom


For many working people in the East End of London the late 1880s was a time of antagonistic industrial relations, frequently leading to open conflict with employers and authority. Many events, such as the strike of Bryant and May match girls in 1888 and the 1889 Dockers Strike, are remembered as important moments in labour history. Given that most East End theatres had predominantly working-class audiences, it is reasonable to suppose that such turbulent and significant contests would be reflected on their stages. In this chapter I test this hypothesis by examining the repertoire of the area's theatres and music halls to establish how managements responded to the issue during and after the 1889 Dock Strike. I consider whether the institutions dramatise the conflict of capital and labour in melodramas and pantomimes and whether they engage with events in other ways. I then look at the importance of performativity to the strike itself with a particular focus on the processions. In these activities the street becomes a site of political theatre.

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