Movie honour for passionate homeless campaigner Sheila McKechnie

Sheila McKechnie, who passed away in 2004
Sheila McKechnie, who passed away in 2004

A screening of Ken Loach’s famous film Cathy Come Home is being dedicated to social change campaigner Sheila McKechnie next week.

Falkirk Community Trust is hosting the event at Falkirk Town Hall on Wednesday at 7.30pm to mark a heritage project by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation.

Sheila, from Camelon, was the director of Shelter from 1985-95 helping to change attitudes about homelessness through the charity, which is one of the prominent in the UK today.

The tireless campaigner, who died in 2004, was educated at Edinburgh and Warwick universities before working as a trade union official in the 1970s and then going on to Shelter.

She raised the charity’s profile, significantly strengthened its campaigning work and helped to change attitudes about how homelessness can be tackled.

Sheila spent 10 years with Shelter and went to become director of the Consumers Association – now called Which? – fighting for consumer rights and helping to establish the Food Standards Agency.

Community trust archivist Elspeth Reid said: “Sheila was a fierce and formidable campaigner.

“Her story shows how ordinary people can impact on government, society and popular consciousness and play their role in democratic change.

“The Sheila McKechnie Foundation, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund has just completed a year-long project to compile memories, oral histories and information about her work. Teachers from the Falkirk area helped the foundation develop educational resources from these memories and oral histories.

“This is an opportunity to see this film on the big screen almost 50 years after it had such an impact on our understanding of homelessness.”

The resources will be launched at a Falkirk Community Trust reception on October 21 and will be available to schools and anyone interested after this event.

Elspeth added: “As the recent past becomes part of our heritage the online resource and the information which is being deposited in Falkirk Archives will help us understand the social and political changes of the 1970s-90s in new ways.” 

The public film screening of Cathy Come Home is at Falkirk Town Hall on October 21 at 7.30pm. Tickets (£6.50/£4.95 concessions) are available from the Steeple Box Office (01324) 506850.