Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival to honour union stalwarts

Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival to honour union stalwarts

Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival to honour union stalwarts

First published in News Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Dorchester reporter

THERE will be time for reflection as well as celebration at this weekend’s Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival as union stalwarts are remembered.

The festival programme features a vast array of music, speakers and other entertainment, but the event will also be a chance to pay tribute to Tony Benn, Bob Crow, pictured below, and Ernie Amey.

Former union leader Mr Crow was a frequent festival visitor and Mr Benn, pictured right, inset, was such a regular his name almost became synonymous with the event.

Mr Benn’s granddaughter Emily will be among those paying tribute to the former MP.

Festival organiser Nigel Costley, from the South West TUC, said: “Tony was a great lover of coming to Tolpuddle, he was always the star of the show, and we will be paying appropriate tributes to them both.”

Mr Amey, from Blandford, was another festival regular, and served the Agricultural Workers Union with steadfast dedication for over 50 years.

Mr Costley said: “We do take seriously our responsibility to remember the agricultural workers, whose festival it really is, and Ernie Amey was an old school unionist who used to walk from farm to farm representing farm workers.

“He was very much a regular at the festival down the years.”

There will be plenty for people to enjoy at the festival as well this weekend, with a range of entertainment from Friday through to Sunday.

As well as the usual array of live music acts and political speakers, there will be children’s entertainment, theatre performances, poetry, debates, village tours and a Radical History School running alongside the festival.

On Sunday crowds will gather for the traditional wreath laying at the grave of martyr James Hammett before the main procession through the village from 2pm.

Mr Costley said there was such a range of musical offerings, including some bright young talents, that it was hard to pick out a stand out act.

He said: “One of the attractions of the festival and what makes is so special is the variety of things like discussions, groups, music, kids’ entertainment and theatre.

“We pack an awful lot into a weekend and there really is something for everyone, whether you are politically motivated, whether you are a trade unionist or whether you are not.

“We pride ourselves on creating a lovely, friendly atmosphere with lots of good food and drink.”

Mr Costley said that, given the recent background of public union strikes, the festival came at a particularly key time.

He said: “There is a lot going on at the moment within the trade union world, we have seen some of the biggest days of strike action for many years and I suspect, unless things change, we may well see an autumn of more disruption and discontent rising.”

For more information about the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival visit tolpuddlemartyrs.org.uk

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