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Tribute to the martyrs; Tolpuddle festival report

Andy Newman

Maybe 3000 to 5000 people at this years Tolpuddle Festival, difficult to judge as it sprawls into the village pubs,. Around 1500 marched through the village, and I always enjoy those official movement demos with Labour party and national union banners - including for small unions you have never heard of. Turnout better than last few years, and the event is growing in popularity, yesterday no doubt helped by the glorious weather. Lots of friendly faces and the opportunity to catch up with old friends. Actually the age distribution was very wide, with many younger trade union activists there, some with their children.

The local primary school children from Puddletown had a good delegation, in their little uniforms, and some of them are related to the martyrs. They had written a moving song and joined Billy Bragg on stage for the finale. They had also made a banner, and been asked what one word they though summed up the issue, and they had decided on RESPECT ,and made a banner using the Respect multi-coloured graffiti logo! Which they then brought and put behind Billy Bragg on stage. You could only laugh.

Not a very multi-racial participation, but not surprising as the main turn out is from the south west. Good turn out from the national unions, and free food for GMB members. A good mix of music styles, and good stalls. The Cuba Solidarity Campaign stall was doing a lot of business and Che Guevara T-shirts selling like hot cakes. I wonder if there is a demand for Hugo Chavez T-shirts? maybe next year.

Very strangely there was a UKIP banner on the march, the characterisation of UKIP as BNP in suits does seem wide of the mark, and the consensus amongst the people I spoke to is that UKIP are mainly stupid. Organisers took down the UKIP banner when it was displayed at the arena though.

Jerry Hicks (AEEU convenor at Rolls Royce Filton, SWP member, very good militant, Amicus exec) has been sacked by the way. I had a short chat with him This is a serious attack on union organisation, and I'm not sure how Amicus will respond. Amicus members in Swindon already had a solidarity petition on our coach, so there has been some take up of the issue.

Socialist Party and AWL both had stalls, as well as the SWP. Bookmarks were lucky to have their stall in the beer tent! Workers Fight/ Lutte Ouvriere seemed to have put a big effort into it on the day, but a few of their comrades were French and I got the impression that they didn't know anyone there. Unlike the SWP and SP who seemed to have friendly relations with a lot of the trade unionists No one selling the Morning star at all - although the GMB had produced a leaflet out of the Morning Star front page, advertising their battle with the AA, no-one was handing it out.


July 2005


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