Radio Humberside to air show about Triple Trawler Tragedy and the Fishermen’s Wives Campaign for Safety at Sea

Turning the Tide
Turning the Tide.

26 years after its first broadcast on BBC Radio 4, ‘Turning the Tide’ is being aired by Radio Humberside at 1pm on Bank Holiday Monday, May 25th.

Written and presented by Hull writer Rupert Creed it tells the moving story of the loss of 58 trawlermen from Hull during the winter of 1968, and the successful campaign of Hessle Rd women led by Lil Bilocca, to improve safety for fishermen at sea. 

The story is vividly told by the women themselves featuring the voices of prominent campaigners Yvonne Blenkinsop, Christine Smallbone, Mary Denness and also Lil’s son Ernie Bilocca- all recorded by Rupert Creed in 1994.  It also includes archive material from Lil Bilocca and contributions from John Prescott who was active in the campaign in 1968. It is the first time the programme has been aired on Radio Humberside, and the first time since its original broadcast in 1994.

Writer Rupert Creed says: “I think it’s a really appropriate time to tell this story. It’s about the Hessle Road community, and the city as a whole, living through a time of intense grief and loss, but finding a shared strength and unity, and ultimately hope. It’s a story that doesn’t age – a story highly relevant to now, of how good things can ultimately come from tragedy, so I’m delighted it’s being broadcast during the current lockdown”.

Emma Hardy, MP for Hull West and Hessle says: “It is welcome news that we finally get another broadcast of Rupert Creed’s Turning the Tide on the BBC, many of us already know the story of how the wives & mothers of Hull’s close-knit fishing community challenged the government to improve safety on trawlers following the awful tragedy in 1968, not only that they also managed to challenge deep rooted practices within the industry, and male prejudice against what was acceptable for working class women to achieve.

“This story of Hull’s 1968 trawler tragedy & of the Headscarf Revolutionaries campaign for safety is at the heart of our community and it is such a huge part of our heritage.

“I for one, will be tuned in to the wireless to listen to this inspiring tale of bravery in our great city of Hull.”

Lorna Denness, daughter of Headscarf campaigner Mary Denness, writes: “In 1994 I placed my tape recorder next to the radio so I could record Turning The Tide. I listened to it on my Walkman, in awe of the fact that my mum had been on Radio 4, which was, after all only 3 away from Radio 1.  I am so looking forward to hearing the voices of those amazing women power through my radio once again. Their actions saved lives and their words can inspire and offer hope in these trying and unprecedented times”.

Ian Cuthbert runs the Hull Facebook page ‘Headscarf Pride’ that celebrates the women’s campaign. Ian is a fervent advocate for greater recognition of the women’s achievement and lobbied for the programme to be broadcast.

Ian says: “I am looking forward to hearing this show. It is the timeless and inspirational story of the most successful civil action campaign of the 20th century. I am very proud of the part I played in the last surviving member of the four ladies, Yvonne Marie Blenkinsop, being given the Freedom of the City of Hull, and it was a great pleasure to accompany her on her trip back to Westminster fifty years after she went with her comrades with the petition which made the most dangerous occupation on earth safer. They are Hull’s greatest heroes and their story will never be extinguished from history”.

Rupert Creed
Rupert Creed.

Since its original broadcast as a documentary radio drama, ‘Turning the Tide’ was published as a book in 1998, and then re-written by Rupert Creed as a multi-media stage show. The show was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2014, with musical accompaniment from local acapella duo Hissfyfit and acclaimed live storyteller Shonaleigh. The show enjoyed a further 5 sell-out runs at Hull Truck from 2015 to 2018, and was performed at Hull University last year to celebrate International Womens Day. Rupert Creed was also the writer of ‘Made in Hull’ – the opening event for Hull 2017 City of Culture, and co-writer with Garry Burnett of ‘Turn and Face the Strange- the story of Mick Ronson’.

You can hear the original radio broadcast of ‘Turning the Tide’ at 1pm on Monday May 25th on BBC Radio Humberside.

[Rupert Creed]