A record seven debates are being held as trade unions fight back against government’s austerity agenda


The head of the rally at last year’s Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival. Pic by Karen Hatch Photography http://www.karenhatchphotography.com/

Politics takes centre stage at the weekend’s Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival as trade unionists ratchet up their fight against the government’s austerity agenda.

Traditionally the event, organised by the South West TUC and attended by 8,000 people, hosts two debates amid a mixture of music, but this year organisers have planned seven discussions around low pay, the media, women, industry, austerity, schools and young people.

UnionNews is hosting a debate, The Sun sets on Murdoch – can trade unions ever get a fair press, at 1.pm on Saturday, featuring NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, Mirror associate editor Kevin Maguire, Unite AGS Gail Cartmail and End Violence Against Women’s Holly Dustin.

Nigel Costley, Regional Secretary of the South West TUC, said: “We’ve always had politics at the heart of the festival, but it’s tended to take a back seat to the entertainment. This year, we’ve listened to punters who want more serious debates to help plan an alternative to what the government is doing to the country.”

The festival starts at 7pm on Friday and runs through until 6pm on Sunday. Sunday is the biggest day, with thousands expected to march through the rural Dorset village with their trade union banners.

The festival commemorates the six farmworkers who in 1834 were transported to Australia after joining a trade union in protest of their low wages. There was a mass outcry at their treatment and three years later they returned home, pardoned, as heroes, inscribing in law the right to join a trade union.

Tony Benn, Maria Eagle MP and TUC general secretary Brendan Barber are speaking on Sunday afternoon, with headline music being provided by two-tone legends The Selecter.

More information about the event, and tickets, can be found here www.tolpuddlemartyrs.org.uk.

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