TOP bands and powerful speakers are just part of the fun lined up for this weekend’s Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival.

Organisers have secured a line up of respected academics, journalists and writers under the title of Paths of Protest – the changing nature of struggle by working people.

The two-day event will feature sessions with BBC Newsnight economic editor Paul Mason, author Louise Raw, columnist and writer Owen Jones and Lord John Monks, former general secretary of the TUC.

Some cracking live music is also planned, plus drama, fringe events, family entertainment plus the rally, church service and wreath-laying on Sunday morning.

In 1834 six farm workers from Dorset were arrested for fighting against starvation wages and forming a union.

Since 1934 a rally has celebrated their sacrifice and the campaign that freed them and over the last few years a history school has taken place to explore not only the background to the Tolpuddle Martyrs story, but also to look at social and working history in general.

Festival spokesman Keith Hatch said: “We have some great bands such as Selector, who were a political band in the 1980s, plus much more.

“It’s not just a music festival and we really wanted to open it up so there are talks and speeches but also a lot of events for families to enjoy.”

Event organiser Nigel Costley said: “At a time when we’re seeing growing public unrest about inequalities in our society, it’s appropriate this year’s school looks at how people have fought campaigns throughout the ages.

“Tolpuddle is seen by many as the birthplace of the trade union movement yet would that have happened without the protests surrounding the Martyrs’ deportation and the campaign for their pardon?”

Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival and rally takes place from July 13 to 15. For more information and tickets visit the website at