Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Tales from Tolpuddle

Perhaps it was a bad idea to sit out in the sun for five hours... I'm still recovering from the sunburn to my legs. Anyway, the Tolpuddle rally was a success, attendance was much greater than last year - it seems to get bigger each time. A local I was talking to during the march said that a few years ago, no one he knew in Dorset had even heard of the festival, and this time nearly everyone he knew were going. So that's good. Our coach was absolutely packed - mainly Labour Party members, students and Trade Unionists - so with the money made, hopefully it didn't cost too much to hire out for the day. I only managed to go on the Sunday this year; already I'm planning, next time, to head up on the Friday and camp the whole weekend with some friends.

The speakers were as interesting as ever. This year the theme was, of course, migrant workers. I was expressly looking forward to hearing the exiled Maung Maung, and the speaker from Colombia (who I'm very sorry to have forgotten the name of). Both of their speeches (the latter translated on stage!) were very powerful, and made the surprisingly impassioned speech of John Monks (secretary of the European TUC) all the more poignant. The positive atmosphere was as great as ever, I'm sure most people could rid themselves of their media-imposed prejudices against Trade Unions if they just spoke to a couple of their members! I saw some people I hadn't spoken to in ages, which rocked.

As ever, the various Trotskyist groups were trying to get rid of their complementary leaflets and newspapers. There were a few Anarchists and New Age types, as well. Oh, and I managed to spot at least one 80-year old Communist Party member trying to sell The Morning Star! Billy Bragg was as enjoyable as ever, but there a lot of great bands in the Marquee too (which, from the listings, must have been The Dead Plants, and Dr. Stomp & Prof. Oz - I think I'll stay around there next time, much more shade as well! The Bristol Socialist Choir was brilliant, and I had the pleasure of walking behind them during the march through Tolpuddle (during which we lost a few of our group to the Martyrs' Inn!!). I was very glad we weren't too near the samba band: talk about burst eardrums...

Anyway, it was a good time all around. There was too much going on to jot down here, even though we only went for the day. Tony Benn was signing copies of his biography after his speech, pretty much all afternoon, which was great because I spoke to him when we got a copy signed for a raffle! He's looking a little frail now, but fabulous to speak with nonetheless.

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