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So That You Can Live (1982)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Diane Butts interviewed about her experience of London. In a Welsh valley, a man wonders what it was like during the Industrial Revolution. Diane reads from Raymond Williams' The City and the Country. Two older men and a woman try to identify people in an old photograph taken of their area. A children's marching drum band is coached by a man who plays the bass drum. They practice marching, led by a majorette.

Women on strike for equal pay at the Treforest GEC factory in 1976. Shirley, the union convenor, and other women complain about the company's attitude to the Welsh factory. In the replica of the South Wales Miners' Library at the University College, Swansea, a man reads from an article about the origins of the workers' library movement. Members of Cinema Action accompany Shirley on her way home from work. She explains how her parents and grandparents made their living and how much she enjoys working.

Some years later, Diane describes her reaction to meeting the filmmakers. She narrates how Shirley lost her job at the factory and consequently had to leave the union's District Committee. Arrangements for a motorbike rally. Shirley selling refreshments from a caravan. She explains in more detail about the strike's end and her anger at the union for not fully supporting the women's action. She complains about the sexual discrimination implicit in jobs advertised at the Job Centre. She hopes that things will improve for Diane's generation.

Diane narrates events in the two-year gap. Shirley is still unemployed. She watches for Royston returning to the house from the mine. She feels lonely during the day and misses the union. Roy describes the history of the property to which the family has moved and plan to turn into a smallholding.

Shirley's mother watches two of her great-grandsons playing cards and lists her extended family. Diane and an archaeologist visit the site of an iron works, with the workers' houses on the site. Royston's wife explains how each of them would share the task of looking after the baby, depending on who was in work. Diane in her metalwork class and writing a letter to Cinema Action in a break from her exams.