‘On The River’ is a unique set of recollections of many older Londoners who have lived by and worked on the River Thames and London’s docks. Their stories convey the sense of bustle and industry when the river was London’s main thoroughfare, a crucial source of income for Londoners and the centre of world shipping. We interviewed dockers, stevdores, lightermen, barge-builders, and workers from trades relating to shipping and docking. We also interviewed river and dock workers’ wives about their experience of managing on unpredictable budgets in the insecure economic climate of casual labour and frequent accidents.
The stories were compiled into a verbatim reminiscence theatre production in 1989, marking the centenary of the Dockers Tanner Strike. During the devising of the show, we had a tremendous amount of help from retired lightermen and dockers, who attended rehearsals and demonstrated for the actors the skills and techniques they remembered from their working days. With backing from the trade union movement , the show toured nationally, playing especially to river communities in all the port cities.
A handsome illustrated book of edited memories was published to accompany the show.