UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival‏: Weaving international solidarity with local disputes

The 77th Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival opened at the weekend with its usual mix of politics, music, comedy and drama, blended with solidarity and diversity. After a rain-lashed start, Saturday morning opened with a UNISON sponsored debate on the NHS with John Healey, Roger McKenzie speaking, chaired by Joanne Kaye, UNISON South West Regional Secretary.

Speakers described the ideological onslaught on the NHS by the Tories, a party who had consistently voted against the NHS and seem equally determined to determined to prevent it even reaching retirement age.

Other debates included Fighting the Cuts, with UKUncut, Compass and 38 Degrees speakers , North Africa and the Middle East, and a CND sponsored debate on scrapping Trident. Invited speakers taking to the Main stage were usual favourites such as Tony Benn, Rodney Bickerstaffe and new speakers Sharan Burrows, Len McCluskey and Mick Leahy.

Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival is inspired by the legendary tale of six farm workers whose spirit and determination to fight starvation wages and exploitation gave rise to a movement which forced the system to its knees.

But today it is about so much more than that. It weaves international solidarity with local disputes - the Southampton strikers were out in force on the march, as well as uniting the diverse political voices of our movement in a stronger voice.

Those attending the festival sang together, laughed together, marched together, defeated rain and wind and at the end of Sunday returned home knowing our movement is an indefatigable force, which the ConDems will take on at their peril

Joanne Kaye