Pupils from two Abingdon schools staged a musical about striking Ford car factory workers.

Last week Made in Dagenham was staged at St Helen & St Katharine school with the cast featuring pupils from the school, and boys from Abingdon School.

The musical tells the story of car factory workers fighting against inequality at Ford Dagenham in 1968.

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The characters are a fictional blend of the original strikers, interwoven with political figures from the time, including Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Barbara Castle.

The cast was led by Megan Murphy, who played Rita O'Grady.

Oxford Mail: Megan Murphy as Rita O'GradyKyia Grandi, director and head of drama at St Helen's, said: "It has been a sheer delight to direct this production of Made in Dagenham.

"From our very first rehearsal in September 2023, this cast have been fully invested in the world of the play, and their commitment has helped to make this piece a high-energy juggernaut that takes the audience from laughter to tears.

"The outstanding performances were supported by our band and stage crew, made up of students from Years 10–U6.

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"From laughter to tears, this show has a whirlwind storyline, that carries the audience along with the characters on their journey as they stand up for women’s rights. It has been such a pleasure to see audiences enjoying the production this week.

Oxford Mail: Made in Dagenham"We could not be more proud of everyone involved in our production of Made in Dagenham!”

Musical director Helena Rakowski said Made in Dagenham was a departure from more traditional musicals staged by the school in recent years.

She added: "As ever, the entire company has risen to the challenge and tackled the many vocal as well as staging complexities with enormous enthusiasm and immense good humour."

Oxford Mail: Made in DagenhamBased on a true story, Made in Dagenham explores the movement that caused a major reform in the law. 

Rita O'Grady, a fictional character, leads the 1968 Ford sewing machinists strike at the Dagenham plant, where female workers walk out to protest against sexual discrimination, demanding equal pay.

The strike drew attention around the world because at the time it was considered contrary to women's traditional family roles.

Oxford Mail: Made in DagenhamThe successful strike led to the Equal Pay Act in 1970, which came into force in 1975.

The 2010 movie Made in Dagenham starred Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson and Geraldine James.

Its theme song, with lyrics by Billy Bragg, was performed by Sandie Shaw, a former Ford Dagenham clerk, who now lives in Oxfordshire.

A musical version of the film opened at London's Adelphi Theatre in 2014.

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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