COLUMNIST Ruth Wishart looks ahead to the upcoming Cove Burgh Hall show Fibres, which lays bare the human cost of asbestos.


None of us knew about asbestos back in the day. Weans cheerfully stripped flakes of it from their granny’s ironing board. Houses and other premises installed it willy nilly for fire protection.

But it proved to be a lethal substance when disturbed and distributed, not least in cities like Glasgow where day-to-day exposure to it was all part of the job in areas like shipbuilding.

It was many years before exposure was found to cause serious and life limiting illnesses like mesothelioma, a type of cancer that infects the lining of vital organs, most usually the lungs.

Because the effects didn’t become apparent for maybe two decades after the initial exposure, it wasn’t until the dying embers of the 20th century that the full extent of the danger caused asbestos to be banned.

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But in the meantime, people were ill and dying prematurely. Not just the folk working with it, mostly men, but those in their family who came into contact regularly with their work clothes. Wives who unwittingly washed asbestos laden overalls, even children who played with their dad before he changed out of his work clothes.

And many of these families had a long and weary fight to gain any kind of compensation.

All of which is the core material for Fibres, a new play co-produced by the Citizens Theatre and award winning production company Stellar Quines. And we get to see it locally on the 19th of this month when it comes for one night to Cove Burgh Hall.

The odd thing about this production though, written by Frances Poet, and starring well-kent TV faces like Jonathan Watson and Maureen Carr in the four strong cast, is that it’s garnered a reputation for a comedy as much as a drama.

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Frances, who was prompted to write the material when she came in contact with a youngster who had lost both parents to the disease, says: “Because it’s a Glasgow story, I found my characters making me laugh, even in the face of tragedy. Their resilience was irresistible. And suddenly the play I was writing wasn’t a tragedy but a love story with as many laughs as tears”.

In essence, it tells four inter connected stories of families who have all in different ways been affected by a hidden menace that it took years and many campaigns to understand.

Fibres is at Cove Burgh Hall on Saturday, October 19 at 8pm; cash bar from 7.30pm.