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Echoes of Erin Brockovich as doughty campaigner for justice 'stars' in Dust

THE story of a Leeds woman who fought for legal justice against a factory which spewed asbestos dust into the local community is being brought to the stage.

Dust tells the true story of June Hancock, the woman from Armley who took on the owners of the J W Roberts factory, Turner and Newall, and scored an improbable victory.

The play, written by local playwright Kenneth F Yates, dramatises the events which saw Mrs Hancock take on the corporation in a story reminiscent of Erin Brockovich.

Mrs Hancock launched her landmark legal case in 1994 in a bid to get Turner and Newall to take responsibility for the deaths in Armley caused by asbestos-linked lung cancer mesothelioma.

She was diagnosed with the cancer in 1993, and in January 1994 was given two years to live, but continued her struggle for justice. In April, 1996, Mrs Hancock won her court battle and was awarded compensation of 65,000. The court victory opened the doors to claims from asbestos victims around the world.

On July 19 1997 Mrs Hancock died, aged 61.

The people of Armley have come together to tell her remarkable story. A community cast of 22 will stage a one-off performance of Mr Yates's play Dust at an industrial building in Ledgard Way, behind the Pet and Garden World store, as part of the I Love West Leeds festival on July 11. The play, which is being produced by the West Yorkshire Playhouse, will then be staged at the theatre for four nights.

Mrs Hancock's son Russell said: "Me and my sister (Kimberley) have been involved with the production, meeting with Ken and telling him what mum was like and giving him the information he needed.

"It is a slightly surreal experience, but we've talked about it and we realise the person up there playing our mum on stage isn't really playing our mum – she represents someone who took on this cause.

"We are really proud that this play is happening and really proud of all the people who are giving up their time to tell our mum's story."

Mrs Hancock's family moved to Armley in 1936, where she became a pupil at the Armley Board "Clock" School.

The loading bay of the nearby J W Roberts factory was a well-known play area for local children, and many have told the playwright how they remember making "summer snowballs" from the thick white dust on the ground.

All proceeds from the Armley performance of Dust will go to The June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund.

The 2009 I Love West Leeds Festival runs from July 2 to 18.

Tickets can be reserved by calling West Yorkshire Playhouse Box Office on 0113 213 7700.

 
 
 

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