Theatre group celebrates the 25th anniversary of The Freemans Five Equal Pay Victory in Peterborough

Freemans Five
Freemans Five

In the late 1960s a group of women machinists from the Ford car plant in Dagenham highlighted the need for Equal Pay legislation. Then, in 1970 Barbara Castle steered the Equal Pay Act through Parliament.

But it took until 1993 and a campaign by five women warehouse operatives from Peterborough’s Freemans Distribution Centre for the idea of equal pay for work of equal value to be enshrined in law.

Twenty-five years on, Eastern Angles are highlighting the story of Irene Pickstone and her four fellow workers. The theatre company, have already staged a community play, ‘All Wrapped Up in Westwood’, inspired by the Freemans story. Now, Eastern Angles have been invited to take part in Peterborough Women’s Festival to explain more about this piece of local history.

“On the 22 nd February 1993 an Industrial Tribunal in Bedford issued the final say,” explains Eastern Angles’ Artistic Director, Ivan Cutting. “The Peterborough women’s historic breakthrough in establishing equal pay for work of equal value included 2 tribunal hearings, a High Court Appeal, a further appeal to the House of Lords, the threat of reference to the European Court of Justice, and a final dispute over a three-point difference in job evaluation. It really was a hard-won, but very important victory.”

“As part of our Delivered by Freemans project, backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund, we have unearthed new information from the National Archives, interviewed Rene Pickstone, and brought together various elements of the story to celebrate the 25 th anniversary.”

Eastern Angles will present their findings and throw new light on the Freemans Five story during a 40-minute presentation at Peterborough Town Hall at 12.40pm on Saturday (March 10). The presentation will form part of this year’s Peterborough Women’s Festival. The annual event, which is supported by Peterborough Trades Union Council (PTUC) has been timed to coincide with the week of International Women’s Day. Taking ‘Women and Arts’ as this year’s theme, festival activities will include theatre performances, talks and workshops and will take place in various venues across the city.

Eastern Angles will contribute to the festival by telling the story of the five women who worked at Freemans Distribution Centre in Peterborough and their long fight to gain equal pay for work of equal value.

The women, led by Stanground resident Irene Pickstone, began their pay dispute in 1984. But it took fourteen long years for a final Industrial Tribunal to recognise their grievance and grant the

Freemans workers their right to equal pay.

“Taking part in Peterborough Women’s Festival will give us a fantastic opportunity to introduce people to the Freemans story,” says Ivan. “We will present a dramatic interpretation of the women’s journey, stating the arguments for and against the claim, and celebrating a victory which has gone down in legal history and is still cited as a major plank in the road to Equal Pay. We are also hoping that Rene herself will be joining us to chat to the audience and answer questions. Rene’s victory opened the floodgates for many future claims and it’s down to her and her fellow workers that the term “work of equal value” has become such a vital tool in the equality argument”.

For more information visit the Peterborough Women’s Festival 2018 page on Facebook or email peterboroughtuc@gmail.com or visit www.easternangles.co.uk