Bread and Roses Film Festival

Issue section: 
Issue: 
(368)

A hundred years ago women and immigrant textile workers went on strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, for better pay and working conditions.

These became known as the "Bread and Roses" strikes, named after a James Oppenheim poem. To celebrate this centenary, studioSTRIKE have organised the Bread and Roses Film Festival supported by National Lottery funding on behalf of the BFI.

It is hard to overemphasise the significance of the Bread and Roses strikes. Over the course of two months, workers from over 20 countries speaking 45 languages faced daily violence and intimidation from the police and hired militiamen. They developed an innovative system of strike techniques and organisation including one of the first ever moving picket lines to avoid police attacks and bans on loitering outside mills.

Eventually the strikers won an initial 15 percent pay hike which eventually translated into a pay rise for 150,000 New England textile workers. The strikes tackled the oppression of women, immigrants and unskilled workers by proving that they were fully able to organise and mobilise themselves as part of the labour movement.

Scheduled films include classics such as The Grapes of Wrath, detailing the trials of migrant workers surviving the Great Depression, and Sergei Eisenstein's seminal work Strike (1925), which will be shown with a live score performed by The Cabinet of Living Cinema. There will also be screenings of films closer to home, including My Child the Rioter, which investigates the aftermath of last August's riots for the families of those involved. The films will be accompanied by associated events running throughout 2012 including talks, exhibitions and panel discussions with activists, academics and filmmakers.

The Bread and Roses centenary marks a window of opportunity to examine through film the narratives, histories and debates surrounding capitalism, workers' rights, particularly female workers' rights, strikes, protests, riots, social activism and immigration.

Rosalie Allain


The studioSTRIKE Bread and Roses Film Festival will take place in Lambeth between 27 April and 10 May 2012 at the BWTUC-supported Bread and Roses building, 68 Clapham Manor Street, London SW4 6DX. For festival details go to www.studiostrike.com or email hello@studiostrike.com