Today is the 80th anniversary of the start of the battle of Jamara, just outside Madrid, where fascist forces sought to break through republican lines to penetrate into the capital, and where they were opposed by, amongst others, the British Battalion of the International brigade. On that day, former speedway and daredevil motorcycle rider, Clem Beckett, and the extraordinarily glittering Communist intellectual, Christopher Caudwell were both killed, as the British and Irish volunteers were roughly handled by the experienced veterans of Franco’s army.
On Friday night I was fortunate to catch the new play by Neil Gore, “Dare Devil Rides to Jamara” at the Pound Art Centre in Corsham, which brought to life Beckett’s fascinating sporting career and political evolution, set against the tumultuous background of the 1930s. Beckett’s hatred of fascism led him to volunteer to lead a convoy of ambulances to Spain in 1936, at which point he met, and developed a friendship with Caudwell.
This is great political theatre, combining an entertaining evening of drama and music with a poignant examination of the background and personality of those who bravely and inspiring volunteered to risk their own lives to make a stand against the rising tide of fascist violence.
It was encouraging to see that so many local Labour Party members and trade union activists attended, especially at a small venue in the middle of rural Wiltshire. Indeed, the tour is sponsored and supported by a wide range of trade unions, primarily Unite.
It is important to build and maintain cultural celebration of the values and traditions of our movement, and the courage shown by our comrades in the past can help inspire the determination that we need to show in the future.
The play is on tour, and future dates are available on Facebook. There will also be an opportunity to see the performance at the GMB tent at Tolpuddle this July.