BLACKLIST is an intimate portrayal of a group of construction workers, who were denied employment because of political or trade union activism.
3213 files on workers, created by a secretive anti-union organisation were uncovered in 2009. Subscribers from the construction industry paid to access files on job applicants identified as “troublemakers”. They included details of disputes over health and safety and unpaid wages, as well as involvement in political campaigns. With this discovery, the union members’ self-education in the law and battle to obtain justice began.
“Lucy Parker has been working hand in hand with blacklisted workers for a number of years. We have taken her into our hearts as one of us. It takes an artist to convey the emotional as well as the factual side of the story.”
Dave Smith, secretary of Blacklist Support Group
The film features these workers alongside student lawyers who are examining the case, pitting their impulse for justice against an understanding of the mechanisms of the law. It goes beyond individual portraits, focusing instead on spaces and conversations that lead to change.
Blacklist shows the isolation and paranoia of being denied work and how the fight for justice can build a community.
It has particular poignancy at this time as the police surveillance of activists and the collusion with the construction industry blacklist was revealed by the Undercover Policing Inquiry in March 2018, where Blacklist Support Group has Core Participant status.
The film combines discussion with blacklisted workers and their families, seminars with law students, archive material, and a filmed meeting with many campaign groups who come together to share experiences of being victimised for their trade union activities.
Blacklist builds on research carried out over the past 4 years and will be exhibited and screened to introduce new audiences blacklisting and to encourage debates around employment rights, activism and the law. It is being made independently by City Projects and filmmaker Lucy Parker. It will be shown widely at cinema screenings, community events, art galleries, film festivals, Video On Demand and will be made freely available to campaigning groups.
By bringing together law students, academics, construction workers and trade union activists the film demonstrates how the concerns of one group become the concern of another. Educational spaces are a focus of the film, through formal classroom settings to informal conversations in the pub the film captures a variety of moments where listening and understanding take place. Gradually we see the build up of a community who work together to support each other’s needs for change. During the scenes of group discussion the camera intimately follows the speakers, making the audience feel like they are seated at the table, almost part of the conversation and ready to speak
The film keeps the history of the blacklist in mind as it gets close to the individuals effected. With each case or incident it asks us to remember the intrinsic connections between the private corporations which we rely on for our work and wages and the state that we rely on to protect our rights. It does not take for granted that justice will prevail but gives an indication of what action is necessary and what can be achieved through collective action.
Is it a surprise to discover that the police have been spying on left wing groups and trade unionists, as has recently been revealed in the Undercover Policing Inquiry? What are our leading industrialists doing today to protect their interests, and how do we prevent a new generation of trade unionists from having the same fate? Does the law protect human rights? Will these student lawyers be able to hold blacklisting companies to account or are they likely to gain employment working to protect corporate interests, where most jobs for lawyers will be. What can activists do?
Lucy Parker is a filmmaker and lecturer in filmmaking at Kingston University. Her films have been shown at Images Festival (Toronto), Anthology Film Archive (New York) and with the Independent Cinema Office, who distribute films to cinema’s across the UK. Research films for this project have been screened at Voltaire Gallery, London; Rhubaba Gallery, Edinburgh; Scottish Parliament (with Neil Findlay MSP), Birkbeck University and forthcoming at Eastside Projects, Birmingham. The project has built a strong support network from political, art, education and film organisations.
City Projects has produced works with leading British artists since 2004 including Anja Kirschner & David Panos, whose film The Empty Plan (2010) on Bertolt Brecht lead to a Jarman Award and a Channel 4 Random Acts commission. City Projects lead producer Kate Parker also produced Piercing Brightness by Shezad Dawood (2013) a feature film distributed by Soda Pictures to UK cinema's and produced on DVD.