FORMER Beautiful South frontman Paul Heaton will take to the stage for this year’s Martyrs’ Festival at Tolpuddle.

The event, on July 18-20, combines music with politics and is one of the highlights of the trade union calendar.

Music this year is provided, among others, on Sunday by Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, formerly of The Beautiful South, and The Men They Couldn’t Hang.

Speakers include TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, TUC president Mohammad Taj and Guardian columnist Owen Jones.

The big Tolpuddle debate on Saturday will focus on the future for unions and work, touching on blacklisting, the fast food campaign, trade union freedom and collective bargaining. There will also be sessions on education, young feminism, the World Cup, housing and music’s role in changing the world. There is a large kids’ area.

Event organiser and South West TUC Regional Secretary Nigel Costley said: “This year marks the 180th anniversary of the Martyrs’ arrest and trial, and we’ve done our best to remember them by providing a programme that is packed even more than usual.

“Particularly relevant is the discussion around trade union freedom because, as festival-goers will know, the whole issue with the Martyrs’ was their right to join a trade union.

“180 years after the Martyrs were transported this government is continuing the attacks on trade unions, stopping facility time and check-off and worst of all, through the outrageous Gagging Bill forcing unions to reveal membership data to government agents and third party auditors. We are fighting the same battles as the Martyrs.”

The event and rally is free to attend on Sunday. There is a charge to attend on Friday and Saturday. Details The Radical History School takes place on site from the Thursday, and looks at the role played by trade unions in the First World War