The Story of Lilian Bilocca
People have done it before, we can do it again.
All progress has been built by everyday people. Every time people have moved society it's taken this work, take the story of Lillian Billoca:
In 1926, Lillian Bilocca was born in Hull and like a lot of local people, her life was intertwined with the local fishing industry. Her dad, husband and son all worked at sea on the Hull fishing trawlers and Lilian herself worked onshore, filleting the catch like her mother had done before her.
In early 1968, over the course of three weeks, Lilian's community was hit by the Hull triple trawler tragedy, resulting in 58 deaths. This wasn’t just sad, it was unjust. These tragedies were preventable if they had had certain safety equipment and enough people on board. After the second trawler was lost at sea, Lilian is said to have turned to her daughter and said ‘enough is enough!’.
Instead of feeling hopeless, Lilian turned her rage and pain into power.
Lilian came together with other local women Yvonne Blekinsop, Christine Jensen and Mary Denness and launched their campaign for safety. They arranged meetings between trawlermen’s wives, trawler owners and the community at large. They listened to the community, analysed the problem, and made a charter of changes they wanted to win.
They ran public actions like picketing the dock as well as demonstrating their collective power by gathering 100,000 signatures. From there, they travelled to London to meet with ministers to discuss their demands to bring reform to the fishing industry.
They won every single request on their charter. Mary Denness said, “We have achieved more in six weeks than the politicians and trade unions have in years”.
Not only did Lilian name her pain - she saw that what was happening to her community was unjust and knew that building collective power was the way to force the change that was needed.