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The Happy Lands’ director interviewed

This article is over 10 years, 3 months old
Robert Rae’s film The Happy Lands is about families in a Fife village during the 1926 miners’ lockout and General Strike. He spoke to Fife residents Lici Kopiej and Ian Waddell.
Issue 2380
Conflict in the Happy Lands
Conflict in the Happy Lands

The strikers’ relatives speak of their “inheritance” from 1926. Is that what drives the film?  

We wanted to use the film to bring their stories alive. As the Jocky character says, if you don’t know where you’re coming from you don’t know where you’re going.

With the decline of union organisation, people have fewer opportunities to share their history. 

A member of our family was blacklisted in 1926, and unions are fighting blacklists now. Do you see parallels with today?

It was a time of austerity and workers were expected to work longer hours for less money. 

Sadly, young people now are facing similar abuses to 1926.

How do audiences react? 

Overwhelmingly it has made people want to share their own stories, especially in northern France and other former mining regions.

They talk about industrial decline, their own family histories, and the socialist culture they were brought up in. But they also talk about what’s going on now.  

The film has helped reawaken audiences’ sense of community values. They all know there is something morally corrupt about austerity—the bedroom tax, for example. 

There’s a sense that whatever the circumstances, you can still take a stand. 

One character, Jacob, is a black South African. Did he exist?

The miners’ conditions were shocking and solidarity was essential. International speakers came to Fife.

We invented the character to represent the internationalism which was part and parcel of the early Communist Party. 

Happy Lands DVD


We have five copies of The Happy Lands DVD to give away. To win, tell us the date the 1926 general strike was called. 

Send your answers to competi[email protected] by Saturday 2 December 2013

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