LIKE A PHOENIX RISING FROM THE ASHES OF THE DOCKERS’ DISPUTE
THE INTIATIVE FACTORY AND THE CASA WERE BORN
A BRIEF HISTORY
THE CASA venue was created from one of the most heroic industrial struggles of the modern era.
The 850-Day Liverpool Dockers’ Dispute – 1995 to 1998.
The dispute went on to be one of the longest in British industrial relations history. In February 1998 the dockers finally accepted a settlement.
After the dispute some of the dockers – through funds raised – bought a derelict building which used to be known as “The Casablanca Club”.
To buy the building a trust was established called “The Initiative Factory”
The objective of the trust to uphold the aims of the ‘Sacked Liverpool Dockworkers’ in promoting ‘Fairness and Justice’ for all.
It has provided a lifeline for countless desperate people in need of help and it is estimated the venue has provided around £15m of free advice since opening on Christmas Eve, 2000.
For over 17 years THE CASA has developed a space to support unemployed people, workers and socialist activities, as well as relieving poverty, sickness, hardship and advancing education in Liverpool.
THE CASA is a hub for “social justice.”
THE DOCKERS’ DISPUTE
On 29th September 1995 Liverpool dockers refused to cross a picket line in support of a group of fellow dockers working for a company called Torside.
The dockers were sacked by their employers. Some dockers were offered new contracts but all the contracts were subject to alteration by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company MDHC and so the dispute began.
The dispute made headlines across the world and forever changed the lives of hundreds of Merseyside families.
COLLABORATION AND SUPPORT FOR THE SACKED DOCKERS
The collaborative support for the Liverpool dockers both in the UK and internationally was amazing.
Over the next two and a half years the dockers waged a very high-profile public campaign for their reinstatement and allied themselves with dockers and support groups across Europe, America, Africa, Japan, India and Australia.
Jim Donovan, the leader of the Maritime Union of Australia, said:
“I have never seen anything like the Liverpool campaign. It’s a phenomenon. They’ve gone to every corner of the earth to seek support and they’ve done it on their own.”
On one international solidarity day of action there were 52 countries all over the world doing something in terms of either solidarity action or going to embassies in various countries to make their protest.
Many high profile and well-known artists, musicians, writers, film producers, sports personalities, comedians etc ……supported the dockers during the dispute. Just some of them include;
A T- shirt was designed to show support for the dockers incorporating Calvin Klein “cK” into the word docKer.
The T-shirt was worn by many celebrities but most famously by ROBBIE FOWLER during a goal celebration while playing for Liverpool F.C.
In 2015 Robbie donated 100 signed pictures of his famous protest to raise funds for the on-going services that THE CASA provides.
Alan O’Callaghan with the Donated Picture
Ken is a British film and television director, who is internationally known for his socially critical directing style and his socialist ideals.
Ken made a documentary about the dockers’ dispute called The Flickering Flame (1996)
Ken also recently received the Palme d’Or for the second time at the Cannes Film 2016 festival for his film “ I, Daniel Blake” (2016)
Oscar winning Director Ken Loach
JIMMY McGOVERN AND IRVINE WELSH
In order for the dockers to get their message across about their struggle a group of dockers decided to write a script about their experiences in collaboration with well-known Liverpool screenwriter and producer Jimmy McGovern (Brookside, Cracker, The Lakes….) and author Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting, Ecstacy, Filth….)
Although the credited screenwriters for the drama were Jimmy and Irvine the drama was largely written by sacked dock workers and previous union members under the supervision of the two screenwriters.
This unusual writing method was considered an experiment in ‘democratic television’ and was documented in a separate channel 4 documentary Writing the Wrongs.
The script was commissioned by Channel 4 and a film called DOCKERS was broadcast in 1999, which was later nominated for a BAFTA award
Jimmy McGovern (Left) and Irvine Welsh (Right)
THE END OF THE DISPUTE
In February 1998 the dockers finally accepted a settlement.
The sacked dockers wanted to leave a lasting legacy, something that was always going to be there that would reflect on the two and a half years of the struggle and to remember all the great people and groups who supported our struggle.
It was then that the idea of purchasing a building to continue our work and support the local, national and international socialist community was born.
BUYING THE BUILDING
Liverpool City Council offered us a building known locally as The Casablanca Club (or The Casa) on the condition that the sacked dockers worked ‘to alleviate poverty’ in the City of Liverpool.
The building had been vacant for some time and had fallen into disrepair. Effectively it was just a shell and needed totally refurbishing and re-developing.
The dockers who collaborated in the film DOCKERS shared the co-production rights and received £127,000.
In 1998 the dockers used all of the £127,000 fee to buy the three-storey building on Hope Street. It took 2 years and thousands of hours of voluntary work by sacked dockers and many other community groups with the skills we needed to refurbish the building.
Our main focus in the design of the building was to ensure that The Casa was a multi-functional and multi-purpose venue. The plan was to offer the venue to community groups, trade unions, pensioners and just about anyone who needed our assistance.
To facilitate this huge project The Initiative Factory Charitable Trust and The Casa trading company (Community Advice and Service Association) were established.
The revenue from The Casa trading company has enabled us to offer our spaces and services to many community groups who share our caring and collaborative ethos including;
The House Of Professional English
Our resident theatre group Burjesta
Salsasaborlatino our weekly Latin American dance group
On December, Christmas Eve in 2000 THE CASA was officially opened
Tony Nelson (Right) – Director of The Initiative Factory / The Casa and Brian Reade (Left) – Award-winning Liverpool journalist.
THE ON-GOING WORK OF THE CASA
THE INITIATIVE FACTORY is a Charitable Trust Organisation and welcomes charitable fundraisers to use our venue.
THE CASA – Community Advice and Service Association provides a service to the people of Liverpool, by delivering new community based support programmes aimed at reducing hardship brought about by the economic downturn and maximising income levels to the poorest households of the City.
The Casa offers free, confidential and impartial Welfare Benefit Support, Employment Protection, Debt Counselling and Legal Services via advice surgeries, home visits and or telephone support. This service provides people in need a whole range of measures to protect income levels and improve the quality of people’s lives.
COME AND JOIN US AND SEE THE GREAT WORK WE DO FROM THIS AMAZING VENUE IN THE HEART OF THE UNIVERSITY STUDENT, THEATRE AND CULTURAL DISTRICT OF LIVERPOOL.
WE GUARANTEE YOU A FRIENDLY WELCOME.
29 Hope Street