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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Inspirations from Tolpuddle

Talks, songs, drama, a visit to a grave, marching with your trades union banner… sitting around eating and drinking, catching up with old friends, finding out about new books, new campaigns… There’s no one thing that makes Tolpuddle the best possible battery-charger for activists but it is definitely more than the sum of its parts. It was only a few weeks ago but, faced with so many desperately important campaigns and so much opposition, it can feel like forever as if it all happened in another world – so here are some reminders of ideas that fired everyone up and made Tolpuddle 2016 a weekend that sent so many people home filled with courage, hope and bright ideas…

Owen Tudor


Owen Tudor (Head of TUC European and International Department)

Brexit was about taking back control. Our job now is to fulfill that wish. The 1% brought the economy to its current state. We must move forward now without the 99% being left to pay the price. Brexit must not erode workers’ rights. Post-Brexit UK must include an end to austerity and wage-freezes, it must include investment in UK infrastructure and the NHS. There must be a voice for the Trades Unions, and a better debate about migration, taxation and wealth creation.

Manuel Cortes


Manuel Cortes (Gen Sec TSSA)

The Trades Unions deal with workers’ issues, not just workplaces. Our members need houses, libraries, schools and hospitals.

No-one listens to me because of what I say, they listen because of my place in the union. Join a trades union. Make your voice heard.

If the Trades Union Act makes legal actions impossible, well then the unions will have to support their members in illegal actions.



Roger McKenzie (UNISON Asst Gen Sec)

The sisters in this room will know how hard it is to continue walking into a room when you’re the only woman at the meeting. Know that that is too often the case for black people, and for many other ‘minority’ people, in the unions.

In your union, campaign on the issues deeply and personally felt by your members. In the Labour Party, support the candidate for socialism and against austerity and racism. (no-one felt it was necessary to ask him who he meant.)




Unite the Union

Campaign hard, but don’t forget to have fun. Unite chose pantomime, rather than political speeches, to demonstrate the plight of the British worker, and what needs to be done.






                                                                                Gail Bradbrook (Compassionate Revolution)

Gail is campaigning to disband the corporate media, and encourage people to peacefully (where necessary, mischievously) take back their own story, and hence their own lives. We need to get out of the habit of doing as we’re told, of thinking in the terms of what’s in the corporate news…






The Morning Star

One of the very few well known, non-corporate national newspapers in the UK.


Boomarks bookshop



Bookmarks Socialist Bookshop


Boomarks events at Tolpuddle introduce many books that it’s hard to find in your average highstreet or online store. Here, Tim Coles, author of Britain’s Secret Wars explains where and how to find out what our government is really doing.


Trades Union banners at Tolpuddle



As people arrive, the union banners are put on display round the margins of the fields.


Trades Union Banners are famous for the images and words different branches and unions choose to represent them. RMT Liverpool choose the legendary Bob Crow, Thomas Mann and the Tolpuddle Martyrs.





Food tent at Tolpuddle



Nigel Costley (TUC regional sec) said, “this is the bit near the end where we would be thanking the sponsors but this is the only major festival that has no commercial sponsors. We do all this ourselves, with volunteers. It’s also the only carbon-neutral festival…” – and he thanks the various unions and organisations who did the work, provided the excellent food and facilities, the solar panels and infrastructure of the stage and campsite. He’s followed on the main stage by Frances O’Grady, who offers solidarity to all those workers who have sacrificed wages and spent time on picket lines in the fight against cuts and exploitation.


And then of course the march. Tolpuddle. Always fun, always inspiring and you just never know who you’re going to find among the band of friends (who’s that in the white jacket?)….



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