Crowds going to Tolpuddle Martyrs Event

Tolpuddle Martyr’s Festival 2016

This festival is held every July, to honour the six farmworkers who were sentenced, in 1834, to seven years transportation to the Australian penal  colonies for daring to form a Trade Union.

It is held in a beautiful Dorset valley next to the village of Tolpuddle, where every year thousands of like-minded people gather for music , politics ,film, drink and discussion. Of course none of these are compulsory, and it is possible to avoid any of these if you want….except the drink and music! No one will hassle you to attend fringe meetings , or discussions, and the political side of events is kept low key, but the variety of events will  to appeal to all.

I always arrive on the Friday, get the camper sorted and early evening attend the main marquee where you will find drinks flowing and bands playing. Friday night is not very busy, maybe only a few hundred people, so it’s a quiet start to the weekend.

Saturday sees the marquee full of stalls promoting various left wing causes, plus animal rights groups and Union stalls, and in the “Talking Tent” there are various discussion groups including Cuba (the Miami Five), NHS, Green Jobs, Sports Direct Etc.

Also over the weekend there are free films , shown in a unique Cinema bus. I managed to see “The Fourth Estate” and “Selma” over the weekend.

With music all day Saturday, and the bar open, things begin to liven up, and finishes at midnight after a great performance by The Tom Robinson Band (overheard, “Is he gay? “) and Rob Heron.

On to Sunday, and possibly the highlight of the weekend, the March. After the relatively “quiet” Saturday, the Sunday brings thousands into Tolpuddle, with coaches arriving from all over the country, with hundreds of colourful banners. In the morning are the usual discussion groups and music, and the afternoon festivities start with a commemorative wreath laying ceremony at the grave of the one martyr who remained (and died ) in the village.

The March: As it was probably the hottest day of the year , I decided not to go with the march through the village, and left it to my much fitter comrades to walk the mile through the village and back, instead sat by the roadside taking photos.

Leading the march was a fit looking Jeremy Corbyn, Frances O’Grady and Maxine Peake , and there followed marching bands, Samba dancers, hundreds of banners and thousands of smiling trade unionists.

Actress Maxine Peak & Jeremy Corbyn on Tolpuddle Demonstration.
Actress Maxine Peak & Jeremy Corbyn on Tolpuddle Demonstration.

After the march , Jeremy Corbyn was given a standing ovation as he entered the arena, as well as another ovation as he finished his speech.

Jeremy Corbyn Giving a speech to crowds.

The afternoon finished with some great speeches and some excellent music, including Ferocious dog, ( one of my favourites) and Dreadzone.

Samba Dancing on the Demonstration

As soon as the last band finishes, the crowds start their exodus, and by 7o’clock only a few hundred die-hards remain, and as the on site bar has by now run out of beer, everyone congregates in the The Martyr’s Inn, the local pub.

As a friendly and cheap weekend away  (the Sunday is completely free), I can recommend the festival, and even if you were to go on your own, there are many opportunities to meet old friends and make new friends.

On the demonstration with banners and balloons.

If you have any Questions regarding the Festival, or are interested in going next year, please get in touch. Our email is: contact@swanleydistrictlabourparty.org

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