In 1834, farm workers in west Dorset formed a trade union. Unions were lawful and growing fast but six leaders of the union were arrested and sentenced to seven years’ transportation for taking an oath of secrecy. A massive protest swept across the country. Thousands of people marched through London and many more organised petitions and protest meetings to demand their freedom.
After massive pressure, the Government agreed on 14th March 1836 that all the men should have a full and free pardon.
Trade unions had won and survived their first big challenge. The six farm workers from Tolpuddle were on their way home as free men.
Tolpuddle has become a place of celebration for trade unionists and socialists ever since the Martyrs’ came home in triumph.
Every July thousands of trade unionists and their supporters gather to celebrate trade unionism and to remember the sacrifice made by the six farm workers of the village.
Trade unionists also use the weekend to catch up on the activities of current Labour Movement campaigns and battles.
Keep the weekend of 16th to 18th July 2021 free and float over to the Tolpuddle 2021 web pages and see what’s going on. This year’s festival will as always have a fabulous atmosphere, a vibrant mix of political debate, speeches, music to suit all tastes, poetry, comedy, stalls and lots of entertainment for children. It will be different. It will be virtual.
Sunday 18th July is when the rally and the grand procession of banners through Tolpuddle village would have happened and it would have been a tremendous sight. The experience of thousands of marchers with colourful banners, bands and protest songs is a highlight of the Festival. Everyone has some reason to join the procession and everyone has a place.
2021 is different, as was 2020, the festival will be almost entirely online.
You can still join in. There will be a small procession representing local Dorset workers which others can join online. There will be online music. There will be online campaign stalls. There will be online debates and set speeches. There will be Labour Movement education with films and a history school.
So wear your campaign teeshirts, union badges and caps and get involved!
Much of the event will be filmed and streamed to www.tolpuddlemartyrs.org.uk and the Tolpuddle Facebook and YouTube channels.
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