Born into a working class family in Liverpool in 1939, Ricky Tomlinson was an active building union member and served time in prison for his part in the 1972 strike.
The son of a baker born one month after the start of WW2, life was hard, his family sleeping six people in two rooms.
After ending his four-year membership of the far-right National Front (which he put down to being "politically naive and poorly educated"), Ricky, working as a plasterer at the time, became involved in the 1972 building workers' strike where he was involved in the Wrexham Strike Action Committee, organised flying pickets and refused to testify against his fellow strikers in court.
This resulted in him earning a two-year prison sentence for intimidation and affray. Talking about the sentencing in 2002, he states the political nature of the trial: "We were on trial because we'd actually taken the bosses on. It was a political trial and we were the scapegoats". He served time in 14 different prisons in total, most of the time in solitary confinement due to his refusal to wear prison uniforms on the grounds of it branding him a criminal. It was while he was in prison that he became a socialist after being given a copy of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist by one of the prison guards, an ex-bricklayer.
After leaving prison in 1975, he had to leave the building trade after, like many other builders at the time, finding himself blacklisted. That year he also attended the TUC national conference and after being refused a platform to speak, he caused chaos by shouting from the wings.