A series of events will take place on Tuesday, April 1 to mark 100 years since the start of the famous Burston Strike.
The Burston Strike Rally happens every year in September to mark the longest running strike in history, which began with Burston School teachers Tom and Annie Higdon, lasting from 1914 to 1939.
“We are out for justice” was the text on one of the children’s placards as they marched around the Norfolk village one hundred years ago.
It started when the management committee of Burston School sacked Annie and Tom Higdon.
Annie was the school’s headmistress and constantly complained about the conditions for the children in the school. She was also a progressive educator who thought the 72 children in her care should be taught for the whole world – not just sufficiently for the world of work society thought they were fit for. She included French, typing, astronomy and world issues on her curriculum.
Tom was the assistant teacher but also worked with the agricultural workers’ trade union to support and encourage the fight for decent pay and conditions at work and in their community. The day after the sackings, April 1 1914, the children marched around Burston with music and banners stating: “We are out for justice”, “We want our teachers back”.
In response to this show of support the Higdons set up a school on the village green and by 1917 local, national and international solidarity had erected the building on the Green that is now the Burston Strike School Museum.
Trade unionists will be celebrating the centenary with an event outside the Strike School Museum on Burston’s village green at 2pm on April 1.
The children from Burston and Tivetshall schools will recreate the circular route taken by their forebears in 1914 and return to the Green to be met with refreshments, music and surprise guests.
TUC regional secretary Megan Dobney said: “The TUC’s support for this event is to mark the courageous actions of Burston’s children and their parents; to remind people of the realities of rural life in the early 20th century; and to celebrate the solidarity shown by the local, British and international labour and trade union movement.
“Our aim is not to live in the past, but to learn from it.”
Anne May, niece of 13 year old Strike leader Violet Potter said: “Villagers were fined up to half a week’s wages and evicted from their glebe land for their commitment to their children’s teachers.
Support came from as far and wide as suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst and Leo Tolstoi, the son of the internationally known author. “
There will be speeches from Kay Carberry TUC Assistant General Secretary and Peter Kavanagh Unite London & Eastern Regional Secretary, and music from rising star Maddy Carty