Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival returns to celebrate the labour movement15 July 2016
Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival: 15 – 17 July
This year’s annual Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival will bring together trade unionists and supporters to celebrate the lives of the six agricultural workers who fought to form a union and the struggle of the working class to defend them in the 1830s.
The festival, which runs from 15 to 17 July, aims to show respect and solidarity by remembering the workers who, in response to pay cuts, took an oath of secrecy to form a union, for which they were arrested and sentenced to seven years’ transportation.
Five martyrs were shipped to New South Wales, while one went in chains to Tasmania. In protest, thousands of people marched through London and organised petitions demanding their freedom. The campaign was ultimately successful and they returned to the UK free and pardoned men. Their pardons confirmed the right of working people to form trade unions.
The three-day event hosts a packed programme of music, comedy, reenactment of the martyrs’ story and debates on topics such as the steel industry and Brexit.
On Sunday (17 July), a number of speakers will take to the stage including Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and newly-appointed Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees.
This year’s festival is dedicated to the memory of Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spenborough.
Tom Jones, head of policy at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “This annual festival commemorates the bravery of the Tolpuddle martyrs and is a celebration of trade unionism and the continued fight for fair working conditions.
“The issues the men fought for all those years ago celebrated at this event still resonate today. Thompsons is proud to have always stood shoulder to shoulder with trade unions and the Labour movement doing what we can to advance the rights of working people across the UK.”