It is more than 40 years since Ricky Tomlinson spent Christmas in prison. In December 1973 the actor was a young painter and decorator, married with two small sons, when he was sentenced to two years for his part in picketing a national construction workers’ strike. After more than a year behind bars, much of it in solitary confinement, he walked free – only to find he’d been blacklisted by the building industry and was unemployable.
Whether prison worked for Tomlinson is an interesting question. Unable to get work as a builder, he had a go at standup in the local pubs and clubs instead, landed a bit part in Alan Bleasdale’s Boys from the Blackstuff,