Made in Dagenham   

by director Nigel Cole

I grew up near Dagenham, an industrial suburb of East London. It was dominated by a giant Ford factory that employed 50,000 men and produced half a million cars a year. I was at school with boys whose fathers worked there. So I was incredibly surprised, even ashamed, when I discovered that a great victory in the battle for equality had happened on my doorstep and I knew nothing about it.

In addition to all those thousands of men it turns out that there were 187 women who worked sewing the covers for the car seats. They had a dispute with the management over equal pay that was being ignored and they soon realized that the apathy that they encountered was all because of one thing. They were women.

Much to the amazement of their husbands and fellow workers they went on strike and soon brought the entire factory (the largest factory in Europe at the time) to their knees. They also won an audience with the most senior woman politician of the time and persuaded her to introduce a new law guaranteeing equal pay for men and women.

It's a story that has remained untold the last 40 years. Partly because there was a lot of other stuff going on in 1968 and partly because women often get written out of history. So it was a great opportunity for me to tell a story that was not only inspirational but a chance to celebrate these brave women's achievement after nearly half a century of being forgotten.

Films about working class strife are usually bleak, depressing tales of poverty and lack of hope. But when I listened to the surviving women's stories it was immediately obvious that if we could capture the humour and excitement with which they recalled their battle we could make a film that was funny and entertaining as well as inspirational. It's been a long time but these women deserve to be celebrated and, rather than a complaint or lament, Made In Dagenham is a victory parade for a great success.

It's also a great story for our own times. Now more than ever we need to be reminded that however powerful forces are against you, it's still possible to stand up and say no. Sometimes, like these women, you might just win.

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