During a performance of Dunkirk Spirit by David Edgar, in July 1975, which was a benefit for the International Socialists, Noel Greig stepped out of character and went on strike. He said that ‘as the only homosexual member of the General Will, I am, at the moment, being subjected to a campaign of harassment and discrimination by my co-workers, therefore…I am withdrawing my labour’.
The company was shocked. Dusty Rhodes was ‘poised there with [his] guitar when Noel ‘whipped out his Equity card’. Dusty claims, ‘that none of us were aware’ of the harassment and that they ‘were absolutely gob-smacked’. Gay Liberation members came forward with collecting buckets for the striker and mayhem broke out amongst the left-wing audience. This action prompted arguments at the event and for many years afterwards. Margaret Robson remembers, ‘position papers flying around like confetti’. For some it was acrimonious and divisive. Some did not want this debate in a public place. For Noel, the memory was painful long after the event: ‘It was an awful for an actor to do that to his colleagues, a betrayal, it really upsets me’.
Later David Edgar wrote: ‘More about the temper of the times than the spirit of the man, this action was a protest against a left that dismissed gay liberation as unserious. Noel was the gentlest of people, but he was militant for the causes he believed in and knew that emancipation is never handed to anyone on a plate.’
For Carol Moss, administrator who lost her job subsequently, it was a bitter experience: ‘They had seized what we had done and claimed it as their own, I didn’t like that division.’
For Dusty Rhodes and Bobby Weaver it was the logic of what had been going on – there had been debates around people struggling to find a voice. The General Will hadn’t written for 6 months, ‘they didn’t know where they were going’. They had been in a state of flux, attempting to work out the relationship between feminism and gay politics with class politics.
Noel wanted gay and lesbian people to be at the heart of the enterprise but that the work should touch everyone. General Will became constituted in this manner and it became an umbrella organisation which sought to give voice to the community, however defined.