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UCS 40th Anniversary Celebrations, Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow

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SO how do you work with the grizzled survivors of the Clyde's famous shipyard struggle of 40 years ago and weave around their story a night of music? As organiser Stephen Wright put it: "Working with the veterans was like a Marxist version of Still Game –but with a lot more swearing."

The swearing must have been effective, as out of the discussions came an evening of protest songs, Clyde nostalgia, speeches, and fine musicianship to mark the anniversary of the UCS work-in that saved shipbuilding on the Clyde.

Inevitably, there were swift changes in styles: one minute renowned flautist Eddie McGuire was leading his small orchestra in a lyrical and moving new composition, the next folk singer Arthur Johnstone had the audience singing along about the Shieldhall sludge boat with such memorable rhyming couplets as “the terrible aroma/will put you in a coma.”

As you might expect, veteran performers Jimmie Macgregor, with his phenomenal memory for epic Glasgow poems, Fraser Speirs, who can make a harmonica sound like a speeding locomotive, actor David Hayman’s spellbinding delivery, and Dick Gaughan, with his awesome guitar-playing skills, were there, but it was not just a night for auld timers.

Emma Pollock, who cheerfully admitted she was born the year of the Clyde work-in, and James Grant brought a more youthful clarity to the night’s singing.

As Scotland’s strong links between trade unionism and the arts were celebrated, there were some abrupt changes from music to monologues, but when you hear the songs written about the late work-in leaders Jimmy Airlie and Jimmy Reid, you realise their long-lasting impact on the lives of many.

Will we still be singing about Fred Goodwin and Big Brother in 40 years time? I doubt it.

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