The short play was One of the Damned by local playwright Tom McLennan, an hour long performance by members of Vauxy Theatre. It was a skilfully put together piece, beginning in real life with a conversation between a dying Tressell and his daughter Kathleen, before switching back and forth to portray some of the most powerful scenes from the book. The five players used a simple selection of hats and coats on stands at the back of the stage to denote different characters, and the result was a beautifully performed and genuinely passionate tribute to a man and a book much loved in Liverpool.
It was all too easy to see that the everyday problems affecting the working people in 1910 are looming just as large today. Preceded by an address by council leader Joe Anderson (on the fateful day he had publicly told David Cameron what he could do with his Big Society) and concluded with a speech from the PCS deputy general secretary Chris Baugh, a mix of city pride and the collective respect for a classic book made for a really inspiring evening. Following a debate and feedback session, everyone was given a free copy of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and told to keep it or pass it on to someone who had never read it – to keep passing on its message.
The Robert Tressell events (which had also involved a wreath laying at the plaque at the former Liverpool Infirmary where he died, and a visit to his grave – unmarked for so many years – on Rice Lane) are part of the 2011 City of Radicals, “marking 100 years since Liverpool was at the height of its power and influence”.