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Jim Allen (playwright)

Jim Allen (playwright): “

Tevildo: New article

”’James ‘Jim’ Allen”’ (7 October 1926 – June 24, 1999) was a [[Socialism|socialist]] [[playwright]], best known for his collaborations with [[Ken Loach]].

== Early life ==
Allen was born in the [[Miles Platting]] area of [[Manchester]] on October 7, 1926, the second child of Kitty and Jack Allen, Catholics of Irish descent. At the outbreak of war in 1939, Allen left school at the age of 13 to work in a wire factory. He had various jobs during the war, before being called up into the Army in 1944. He joined the [[Seaforth Highlanders]], and served with the British occupation forces in Germany. After leaving the army in 1947, he worked at a variety of jobs, including a builder’s labourer, a fireman in the [[British Merchant Navy]], and a miner at [[Bradford colliery]].

== Politics ==

During his military service, Allen was imprisoned for assault, where a fellow inmate introduced him to the ideals of Socialism. He was a passionate socialist for the rest of his life, although he detested [[Stalinism]] and refused to be associated with the [[Communist Party of Great Britain]], instead joining the [[Revolutionary Communist Party (UK, 1944)|Revolutionary Communist Party]] in 1958. In 1959, a faction of the RCP lead by [[Gerry Healy]] and [[John Lawrence]] split from the party to form the [[Socialist Labour League]] (the forerunner of the modern Worker’s Revolutionary Party), a group within the mainstream [[Labour Party (UK)|Labour Party]]; Allen was a part of this faction. The SLL objected to the close association between the CPGB and the [[National Union of Mineworkers]], and Allen was a prominent campaigner for the League, attending rallies at coalmines throughout the UK. In 1962, the Labour Party declared the SLL to be a ‘proscribed organization’, leading to Allen’s expulsion from the party. He subsequently resigned his membership of the League, and was not associated with any recognized political party thereafter.

== Writing career ==
Allen began to write during his time as a miner. In 1958, he was involved in the launch and publication of ”The Miner”, an anti-NUM paper which actively recruited for the SLL. The proscription of the SLL, together with the [[closed shop]] system of the time, made it impossible for him to find work in the mining or building trades, and he decided to adopt writing as a full-time profession. In 1964, he submitted a script to [[Granada TV]], and was taken on as a scriptwriter for the soap opera ”[[Coronation Street]]”. He worked for Granada until 1967; his 1969 play, ”The Talking Head”, tells the story of a talented writer driven to a nervous breakdown by the pressure of deadlines.

His first full-length play, ”The Hard Word”, directed by [[Ridley Scott]], was broadcast by the [[BBC]] in 1966 as part of their drama series ”[[The Wednesday Play]]”. It was followed by ”The Lump”, directed by [[Jack Gold]], first broadcast in 1967. Both plays were based on his experiences in the building trade, and ”The Lump” features an activist worker who frequently quotes [[Lenin]] and [[Jack London]], establishing the political nature of Allen’s work which was to continue throughout his career.

Allen was introduced to [[Ken Loach]] through ”Wednesday Play” producer [[Tony Garnett]], beginning their long collaboration. The first of Allen’s plays to be directed by Loach was ”The Big Flame”, also for the ”Wednesday Play” series, broadcast in 1969. The play depicts a strike among the dockers of Liverpool, lead by a [[Trotskyite]] docker against the wishes of the established union; the strike is violently broken by the army and police.

In 1975, Allen wrote, Garnett produced, and Loach directed ”[[Days of Hope]]”, Allen’s best-known work. A [[mini-series]] with four episodes, it tells the story of the British Labour movement between the end of the Great War in 1918 and the [[1926 United Kingdom general strike|General Strike]] of 1926. The series’ depiction of the British Army was the subject of much hostile critisism in the press.

Allen also wrote five plays (”The Rank and File” (1971), ”A Choice of Evils” (1977), ”The Spongers” (1978), ”United Kingdom” (1981) and ”Willie’s Last Stand” (1982)) for the BBC’s ”[[Play for Today]]” drama series, and several episodes of the Granada series ”[[Crown Court (TV series)|Crown Court]]”.

Allen and Loach’s most controversial production was the stage play, ”[[Perdition (play)|Perdition]]”. Presented as a courtroom drama, the play dealt with an allegation of collaboration between Hungarian Zionists and the Nazis during the Holocaust. The play was due to open at the [[Royal Court Theatre]] in January 1987, but was cancelled 36 hours before the opening night; the script was read in public at that year’s [[Edinburgh Festival]], but not produced as a stage play until 1999. [[Lord Goodman]], in the [[Evening Standard]], wrote: ‘Mr Jim Allen’s description of the Holocaust can claim a high place in the table of classic anti-Semitism.’

With Loach as director, Allen wrote the screenplays for three feature-length films: ”[[Hidden Agenda (1990 film)|Hidden Agenda]]” (1990), which portrays the murder of an American civil rights activist in Belfast, ”[[Raining Stones]]” (1993), a kitchen-sink tragicomedy set in [[Middleton, Greater Manchester]], and, Allen’s final dramatic work, ”[[Land and Freedom]]” (1995), telling the story of an idealistic young Communist from Liverpool who joins the Government forces in the Spanish Civil War.

== Death ==
Allen was diagnosed with cancer in Feburary 1999, and died the following June.

== References ==
*{{cite web
| last = Slaughter
| first = Barbara
| title = Jim Allen: A lifetime’s commitment to historical truth (Obituary)
| publisher = World Socialist Web Site
| date = 11 August 1999
| url =
| accessdate = 2008-10-01}}

* {{Citation
| last = Trodd
| first = Kenith
| title = Obituaries: Jim Allen
| newspaper = The Independent
| year = 1999
| date = 6 July 1999
| url =}}

== External links ==
* {{imdb name|nm0020654}}

{{DEFAULTSORT:Allen, Jim}}
[[Category:1926 births]]
[[Category:1999 deaths]]
[[Category:English dramatists and playwrights]]

(Via Wikipedia – New pages [en].)

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