Ricky Tomlinson, star of BBC sitcom The Royle Family talks openly about how him and his building work mates were stitched up by the establishment, charged with conspiracy and sentenced to three years imprisonment.
The trial in 1973 lasted 55 days and in today’s money cost around £10 million. Now he’s asking why the government won’t release the papers after 42 years, and why Kenneth Clarke MP does not want the files reviewed until 2021.
I’ve been a fan of Ricky Tomlinson for many many years, and I was lucky that his one and only Fringe date, was on my final day in Edinburgh. This was in-fact the 76-year-old’s Fringe debut, but we weren’t in for an hour of laughs.
Before he came out on stage there was a real buzz in the packed out Music Hall at The Assembly Rooms, and when he did come out on stage he was greeted by wonderful applause, and the audience could not have been warmer towards him throughout.
He discussed at length how and why he was sentenced (wrongly) to two years in prison. He began by telling us how in the early 1970s he was working as a plasterer in North Wales and was shocked by the standards of health and safety he saw. Coal miners at the time were recording a death a day, and Ricky believes builders weren’t far behind that statistic.
This is when he decided to strike for better work conditions. To this day the strike that Ricky carried out remains the only national builders’ strike in the UK. Weeks went by without fanfare but then one day he was approached by police detectives who wanted him to be a prosecution witness against a group of strikers. Ricky refused to do so, which is when he was arrested, leading to a trial lasting 55 days.
Ricky then spoke about the time he went on hunger strike for 31 days, how bad the conditions were inside and called on a change to allow people to see how our British prisons are run. Having now hired his own researcher, Ricky is keen to get his hands on his case documents which have been locked away for national security reasons. However he has been faced with setback after setback, and believes that someone somewhere has something to hide, and he wants to know what.
Out of all the performers capable of making me cry, I didn’t think Tomlinson would be the one to do so. Tears of laughter maybe, but when Ricky himself got emotional I couldn’t help but join him. He spoke so openly and honestly about a time in his life which clearly means a great deal to him, and I sincerely hope that Ricky does receive some answers. It’s the least he deserves. One thing’s for sure, Ricky isn’t a man who’s going to give up.
After a fascinating hour, which actually overran by 10 minutes, Ricky received a deserving standing ovation from the audience and promised to be back next year with his comedy show, where he will tell us stories about Norman Wisdom and the truth about Cilla Black, who he didn’t like.
It’s a shame he only did one performance as I would highly recommend going to hear him speak. He really is a fascinating man with a very passionate story to tell.