Tony Benn, Owen Jones and The Selecter are just some of the star names attending the South West TUC event


Politics takes centre stage at this year’s Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival, with a cast of high-profile speakers joining Tony Benn at the Dorset event.

(Pictured: UNISON marching band as thousands crammed the main street through Tolpuddle for the Sunday march at 2011 festival)

Music still plays an important part in the event, with headline sets from two-tone legends The Selecter, socialist R & B from Thee Faction and folk rock from Press Gang. Other acts include Robb Johnson, Grace Petrie and Chris T-T. A revamped Kids’ Area will include a wood and tin village to show films, tell stories and offer kids of all ageas an entertaining weekend.

Festival organiser Nigel Costley (Pictured, under the Martyrs’ Tree during last year’s festival) said: “The festival has always been a heady mix of music and politics, but this year the politics has become more prominent – just as it has in society.

“Unions face unprecedented challenges, whether it’s fighting the cuts, opposing regional pay or stopping the shredding of workers’ rights, and our programme this year truly reflects the increasing anger and determination of union members.”

The full list of debates is as follows:

* the UnionNews Debate – can the unions ever get a fair press? with Tom Watson MP, NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, Daily Mirror associate editor Kevin Macguire, Unite AGS Gail Cartmail and End Violence Against Women’s Holly Dustin

* the Matilda Kent Debate – women fighting back, with feminist activist and researcher Finn Mackay, TUC equality officer Scarlet Harris and women’s refuge chief Denise Marshall

* Fair Pay – with TUC DGS Frances O’Grady and High Pay Commissioner Deborah Hargreaves

* Protest – with BBC Newsnight economic editor Paul Mason and Chavs author Owen Jones

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber and Shadow Secretary of State for Transport Maria Eagle will join Tony Benn on the main stage.

The event runs from July 13th to 15th in the rural Dorset village of Tolpuddle in Dorset. Weekend passes cost £25 per adult, with £15 for a tent. The rally is free on 15th, with a £10 car parking charge.

Nigel Costley said: “We’re looking forward to another fantastic festival weekend, of inspiring debate, entertaining music and of equipping ourselves for the battles ahead.”

* Details of the festival can be found here.





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