Solidarity never felt so good..

Matthew Collins - 16 07 12
Workers Beer Tent: Fascists not welcome

Workers Beer Tent: Fascists not welcome

No, this is not about the BNP’s faux Trade Union (what kind of union charges 10% commission for instance?)

I’m actually talking about the Toldpuddle Festival. I’ve just returned after four days at the 2012 Festival with the Hope Not Hate team.

Bringing together the entire Labour movement, the Toldpuddle Festival not only commemorates but also celebrates; Progressive causes, Trade Unionists, politicians both young and old, brass bands, banners, debates, live music, arguments and ale make this an event I had always wanted to attend.

As Nigel Costley, TUC South West Regional Secretary says of the festival, “We need to make the case for the alternative, and recharge our batteries to fight what’ss going on with the austerity and cuts from this vicious government. So we need to marshal our forces and our arguments, but we also need to debate the alternatives. And this is a great place to do it”.

The Hope Not Hate team arrived Friday evening to prepare our stall before heading to the beer tent where friends old and new awaited us.

In the Martyr’s Marque and the Fringe tents, debate raged. Topics discussed included the nature of organised protest with Owen Jones, author of “Chavs” as well as an excellent debate hosted by the NUJ about Levison and the demise of the Murdoch media.

There was also a timely and excellent discussion “Women Fighting Back”, recognising that women are bearing the brunt of the austerity cuts and still remain a marginalised group in society. My favourite event of the weekend however was “Money Trick”, a play based on a chapter from the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists performed brilliantly by Townsend Theatre.

Life at the Hope Not Hate stall was always interesting. Sitting next to Matthew Collins is never dull. Eyes streaming with hayfever, he had to wear sun glasses while constantly complaining about having to share a tent. This apparent discomfort didn’t stop him selling out of copies of his book ‘Hate’ in less than an hour before then attempting to eat the excellent curry stall out of stock.

Paul Kenny, the General Sec of the GMB popped by to grab himself the last of the very popular antifascist mugs and Manuel Cortes the General Sec of TSSA dropped by to pick up a T-shirt.

There was some excitement too when Irish singer Paddy Nash arrived seeking T-shirt, book and mug before shooting off to do a gig in nearby Weymouth.

The Sunday was the day of rousing speeches and the famous march into down behind the banners of the Trade Union movement. Half way through the march who should be seen sitting by the side of the road? None other than the great Tony Benn, smoking a pipe and waving at brass bands.

The Tolpuddle Festival has run since the 1930’s. I regret not discovering it much, much sooner.

Paul Kenny: He approves..

Paul Kenny: He approves..


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