Jennie Lee’s Homework Project by William Hershaw, a play suitable for upper primary/lower secondary school ages. ‘Jennie Lee is a girl who seems switched off from school, family and life. Then a visit to a local castle where an archaeological dig is taking place results in an accident, taking her back in time to a meeting with her famous namesake.
Who knows? One day, young Jennie might follow her. One day, you might too ... The Real Jennie Lee...
Jennie Lee was born in Lochgelly on 3rd of November, 1904. Her Dad, James Lee, was a socialist and a member of the Independent Labour Party, an organisation that campaigned for equality and the rights of working people as well as to achieve home rule for Scotland. He influenced Jennie’s political ideas. Jennie attended Beath High School. She was a gifted pupil and wanted to go to university but the family didn’t have enough money. Due to a bursary awarded by the Carnegie Trust, who paid half her fees, Jennie was able to go to Edinburgh University. After graduating with a Master of Arts degree and a teaching qualification she returned to Fife. In 1929 she stood as the ILP candidate for North Lanarkshire in a by election and won the seat. She was the youngest MP at the age of 24 and one of only a handful of woman MP’s in the House of Commons at that time. A fearless debater and campaigner for what she believed was right, her first speech was an attack on the budget proposals of Winston Churchill accusing him of “cant, corruption and incompetence”. Jennie Lee married another politician, Aneurin Bevan, who helped to set up the National Health Service after World War Two. Jennie herself became Minister for Arts in Harold Wilson’s Government in 1964. She was put in charge of creating the University of Air or The Open University which allowed working ix
people who had missed the chance to study for a degree to go back and gain qualifications. They could study at home and learn from specially made tv programmes, sending essays and assessments to their tutor by post. Not an easy task when you are working and looking after a family. At the time, there were many people who opposed the founding of the Open University. Between 1965 - 67 Jennie Lee had to work and fight hard to make it happen. Since its founding The Open University has changed the lives of tens of thousands of people for the better.
In 1973 as she laid the foundation stone for the first OU library, she described the university as: a great independent university which does not insult any man or any women whatever their background by offering them the second best, nothing but the best is good enough.
About the Playwright
William Hershaw: Poet, musician and songwriter.
Hershaw has written poetry in both Scots and English; his pamphlet Winter Song won the Callum MacDonald Memorial Award in 2003, and he won the McCash Prize for Scots Poetry in 2011. In 2007 he collaborated with sculptor David Annand, writing the poem ‘God The Miner’ which is inscribed on the statue The Prop as part of the Lochgelly Regeneration Project. He was funded by Fife Council to write musical settings for the poems of the legendary Fife poet and playwright Joe Corrie: in November 2012 Cage Load Of Men: The Joe Corrie Project by The Bowhill Players was released. He has co-edited the literary magazine Fras.
Grace Note published three of his Scots language plays in 2016, including a translation of Shakespeare’s Tempest, and a novel, Tammy Norrie. His play with Ann McCluskey, An Iolaire was premiered in March 2016 at the Netherbow Arts Theatre, performed by pupils from Tynecastle High School and Stenhouse Primary.