To see all of the pictures click here
To find out more about who the Tolpuddle matters were, and why they are importnat, click here
Members of Southwark Respect went to Tolpuddle last weekend for the annual festival.
The festival is held every year to commemorate the Tolpuddle Martyrs (to find out more about the Tolpuddle Martyrs click here).
Supported by the trade union movement it attracts several thousand people both across the weekend and on the main day, which is Sunday.
We arrived on Friday to set our tent up on the campsite, which is set up for the festival. The weather was windy (which made the tent erection a bit difficult) but pleasant. The rain that was forecast managed to hold off.
The first night saw the arrival of many more campers, the start of the entertainment and the opening of the bar. It sold a selection of local ales and ciders as well as the usual lager fare. (Somewhere also available it seemed was cider in plastic cartons, which I, the townie, identified as diesel, until corrected).
You could even drink the beer out of the official festival beer glass which said solidarity all over it in various different languages.
We also managed to meet up with Respect members from Tamworth and some of the local Dorset members who ran Respect stall in the Martyrs Marquee.
The music was provided by a number of different live acts. None were big name groups but the standard was high (if with a high folk-rock quotient).
The entertainment on Saturday night was nothing if not eclectic, ranging from the agit-prop/performance art Radio Gagarin, to the klezmer/gypsy inspired Gadjo. The evening was finished off by your classic Irish guitars-and-bodhran affair, the Dublin City Workingman’s Band.
There was also debate and discussion and lots of nick-knacks to take home. Most of the unions which were there to campaign about something (on the other hand some of the union stalls could have been for a supermarket), were campaigning against something New Labour had brought in. This probably counted for the general feeling of hostility or indifference to Labour that seemed to be in the air. People either seemed angry at Labour for what it had done, or resigned to the defeat that faced it, and its seeming inability to change direction.
On Sunday morning some of the Southwark comrades joined the Prison Officers Association hike from Dorchester Prison (where the martyrs were taken in 1834) to Tolpuddle. The walk was 8m miles across the countryside, through woods and across fields. The weather held up, which made the walk very pleasant but also resulted in some serious sunburn.
More than fifty people took part in this year’s walk, which is apparently twice as many as last year. For our efforts we were all given a commemorative badge.
Sunday saw the parade through the village accompanied by brass bands and a pipe band. The day finished off with the Service at the Methodist Chapel, or if you were more secularly minded music from the Trans Global Underground (who was excellent) and Billy Bragg (who wasn’t).
Some of the Southwark comrades then had to return to London but others stayed the night again in Tolpuddle and had a quiet drink in the village pub before returning to camp to find that for the first time all weekend the wind had completely dropped. So we sat a looked out across the hills before returning to our tent.
We returned the following day having had the breakfast at the camp and packed at our leisure.
It was an excellent weekend to be recommended to all.