Theatre Preview: Mosley Must Fall, JW3, Hampstead
- Credit: Topham Picturepoint/Press Associ
A play about The Battle of Cable Street reveals how Irish immigrants fought alongside Jewish neighbours to turn back a fascist march
October 4, 1936, when Police tried to force a march of 5,000 fascists through London’s East End, became known as The Battle of Cable Street.
The fierce opposition to Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts became a seminal moment when ordinary Britons took a stand against the fascism that was sweeping through Europe.
But while it’s widely known that it was waged by Communists and East End Jews, a new play at JW3 in Finchley Road highlights how Irish immigrants fought alongside their Jewish neighbours to turn back the march.
Writer, journalist and broadcaster Martin McNamara said: “A friend sent me an article from the Irish Times about how the Irish and Jewish were living cheek by jowl in Whitechapel and Aldgate in the 1930s. What interested me was the animosity between these two ethnic groups with signs put up by the Irish saying ‘No Jews in Our Street,’.
“You had these two very different migrant groups packed into this tiny area of London, both struggling to survive in the city and often in conflict with each other. But somehow the Irish came out in force and supported their Jewish neighbours when Mosley decided to storm their neighbourhood.”
McNamara, who has Irish parentage and has previously made documentaries about the Easter Rising and one of the Guildford Four, points out that the fight was against Police rather than the Blackshirts.
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“Mosely was charismatic and provocative and his Union of Fascists very deliberately wanted to march through the largest concentration of Jewish people in the UK.
“Police and the Home Office said they had a democratic right to do so. The assembled Police tried to force their way through the crowd, but a huge outpouring of people from the neighbourhood, inspired by the spanish civil war cry said no.
“Police tried to divert the march down Cable Street but people came out of their houses, built barricades and blocked the route until they called the march off. Mosely went off to Berlin the next day and married one of the Mitford sisters in the home of Joseph Goebbels.”
Told with original music Mosley Must Fall centres around the McEnroes, a struggling immigrant family whose patriarch Liam, is a disillusioned veteran of Ireland’s 1916 Easter uprising against British rule.
He has two sons, one toying with fascism the other dating a Jewish Communist.
“Mosley had Irish men among his supporters and painted himself as a friend of the Irish. Liam is disillusioned by the divided Ireland that was created after the civil war and Independence - a deeply conservative and religious country where there were no jobs for him. Like many revolutionaries he didn’t like what he got at the end of it.”
McNamara adds that the battle has become legendary because: “People saw what was happening across Europe with fascist groups and this was a rising that came from ordinary people on the street. It was a day when the people on the street were on the right side of history.”
Mosley Must Fall is at JW3 on November 15.jw3.org.uk