285 - Made in Dagenham

Speak Up brings the British movie "Made in Dagenham", which has been given a rather different title: We Want Sex. This is short for “We Want Sex Equality” and the film tells the true story of a strike that took place at the Ford Motor Works in Dagenham in 1968. It involved 187 female employees who demanded the right to equal pay. The film stars Sally Hawkins, who plays Rita O’Grady, the strike’s unlikely leader:

Sally Hawkins (Standard British accent)
I… I play… I play Rita and she’s married to Eddie, the very… the very lovely Danny Mays. She’s got two kids, Sharon and Graham, and she lives in Dagenham, she works at Ford, as a machinist.

And, as she explains, life wasn’t easy:

Sally Hawkins
So they… I mean, their working conditions were quite… incredibly hard, and, ultimately, it’s a story of… you know, it’s not… hopefully, it’s not sort of political polemic, in a way, it’s not “preachie,” it’s just about this… these women’s fight for… for equal pay and equality, and getting the same… getting acknowledgement of their skill, and that’s the fight that… that Rita leads.

And Rita’s character develops during the course of the film:

Sally Hawkins
Because Rita develops throughout so much…. throughout the… the film… you know, almost it’s only at the end she realises how much she cares and how much she’s got involved and… and how important it is. So it’s sort of… it’s like Rita’s sort of discovering it, as I was, and… and discovering parts of herself she didn’t really know existed.

And, as Sally Hawkins explains, the story of the Dagenham women is still relevant today:

Sally Hawkins
Still, in this day and age, we’re fighting that fight, and that’s why it’s so important, and that’s why you get so rattled by it. And… it, hopefully, will spark that spark, and not only in women, I think, you know, it’s… it… it bridges all genders, hopefully. It’s just… it’s injustice and it’s what, you know, it’s fighting… fighting the fight and it’s about, ultimately, I suppose it’s, at heart, it’s humanity and a very human story, and… lovely, it’s a gift, a gift, so, yeah. What’s so nice is the fact it’s from true… true life, it’s real, this happened, and these women, you know, they were… they… they were paramount, they were… set in motion The Equal Pay Act, you know, of 1970. It’s... without them, that wouldn’t have come about, and that’s… that’s phenomenal, it’s huge.

The film’s producer is Stephen Woolley, who discovered the story of the Dagenham women almost by chance:

Sally Hawkins
And thank God for Stephen Woolley, for taking it on board and, you know, the story about how he came across this story and this fight and these women, through the radio, through an article, that he heard on, I think, Radio Four, and hearing these women speak, and hearing their voice, you know, obviously triggered something in Steve and he thought, “That’s... that’s the story I want to tell.” And, absolutely, he’s so right, and thank God! Thank God! And it’s very sad that we haven’t… we didn’t know, really, not… not many people do, but they’re still going on, they’re still fighting, they’re still going up to see Gordon Brown!

And Sally Hawkins says that she met the real women of Dagenham, more than 40 years after the event:

Sally Hawkins
I… I really wanted to meet those real women that you read all those articles about, you know, then plunged into… to the research and sort of this whole world opened up, I thought, “God, these women existed! And these women’s voices were so, they’re” like Stephen said, they’re so individual, and I…I, like Stephen did, and Nigel (Cole, the film’s director – ed) did, I really wanted to meet those women and hear… and I think it’s quite important, as an actor, but also just for me, I was interested, and they’re brilliant! I went to Dagenham: they’re still all there, and they’re still all friends, and they still have that camaraderie, and seeing that spark between them, and them sort of, you know, being quite witty with each other, quite cutting, but also, ultimately, they really love each other and they’re really good friends and… and they were just… that… that… it’s about that, really.

In conclusion, she talked about the cast:

Sally Hawkins
Lovely… lovely girls to play with, oh, the cast are phenomenal, but the… the… that camaraderie was so important, you see that right from the beginning, you know, all those girls going to work, and they’re all friends, they’ve known each for years, they all live in the same place, all look out for each other, ultimate girlie friendships, you know, it’s… it’s friendship, at the core, and it’s about love and… and, hopefully, that will translate, that sort of, you know, they… I… We had some phenomenal actresses to work with.
Made in Dagenham Movie Trailer.