It sickened her that men died because the authorities failed to bring in the shipping laws that could save them. In a few weeks that startled the world, she roused her community and shook the government.
Her tale knocked Vietnam off the world’s headlines. Years pass. Brian lives among the community, and years of patience, research and enquiries have unlocked people’s full stories for the first time. ‘Brian’s story made me feel as if I was back in the fight in 1968,’ says Lily’s fellow campaigner Mary Denness. ‘It was almost like he had been with us.’
This book not only takes readers out on the women’s campaign trail – it takes us out to the high seas too. The ships’ battles through the almighty waves of the North Sea are written with vivid detail, and we come to share the stark ordeals of the lone survivor.
Alan Johnson, the former minister, local MP, and author of the award-winning This Boy, writes of The Headscarf Revolutionaries: ‘This is a story of the men whose exploits built a city’s wealth and helped to feed a nation. Lavery’s tale of how the Triple Trawler Tragedy unleashed the fury of the formidable women of the Hessle Road is an inspiration, Lily Bilocca personified the courage and determination of an entire community.’
John Prescott has tweeted: ‘Mark my words, this could become the next Made in Dagenham. Lily Bilocca was a remarkable woman.’ It shares 1968 with Made in Dagenham, and the ruthless spirit of women determined to change industry. It carries that high-octane brilliance of The Perfect Storm too.
Listen to Brian tell something of the story, with a particular take on what the tale says about journalism, on his BBC Radio Four Thought piece.
‘In addition to writing an inspiring history of the Headscarf Revolutionaries, Lavery has also written a social history of a world that has largely ceased to exist. With a novelist’s eye for colour and detail, he brings alive the fishing industry of the 1960s… an enthralling read, a fitting tribute to an extraordinary woman, and an important addition to working class history.’ – Libcom
The book is available now.