PICTURES: Burston Strike Rally commemorates the legacy of the ‘struggles of working people’
Thousands gathered on the village green in Burston on Sunday to commemorate the annual Burston Strike Rally – the longest-running strike in history.
In 1914, children walked out in support of sacked teachers Tom and Kitty Hidgon, after the pair were dismissed due to their association with the Agricultural Workers’ Union which brought them into conflict with the Church of England and the local squirearchy.
Of the 72 children, 66 went on strike, which ran until 1939. Guest speakers at the rally included Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, Megan Dobney, TUC regional secretary, and John Hendy QC, and Christine Blower, Workplace 2020.
Megan Dobney described the day as having a “fantastic atmosphere”. She said: “It’s wonderful that people don’t just travel from round the corner but also come on coaches.
“You can see the smiles and support that people give and I think it’s very important that the local community are involved.
“The legacy is a reminder of how awful living conditions were and how that only changed through the struggles of working people themselves, and if we don’t continue to struggle that will go back.”
The rally represents the continuation of the struggle of workers rights, which has been going on for the last few hundred years and it was a strike which lead to a very creative and innovative solution
At the end of the first year of the strike, an appeal was made for funds to build a new school. After a national appeal, a new school was officially declared open in 1917.
Mr Hendy said: “The rally represents the continuation of the struggle of workers rights, which has been going on for the last few hundred years and it was a strike which lead to a very creative and innovative solution – namely the creation of an entirely new school.
“It shows us that we have to very innovative and imaginative in the creating the new society that we would like as well.”
Mike Ward, chair of the trustees at the Burston Strike School charity, was once part of the Agricultural Workers’ Union.
He said: “For a modern world, the strike shows what can happen if people don’t fight to improve upon their mean of production and wealth. If they don’t fight for it, they won’t get it.”
The Red Flags, the RMT Brass Band, the John Ward Band and Dave Thomas Blues Band provided musical entertainment.
The day featured a brass band playing as the march launched through the streets of Burston – with many banners and signs overhead.
Band manager, Paul Brickle, added: “Its a big union day and a big turnout for Burston. The band plays a big part and has done for the last ten years.
“The procession goes right outside the village and on the country roads. It’s odd because you’re plying to trees, hedges and cows. The march takes it out of you – you’ve got to be fit.”
Mike Cash, the general secretary of National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, was also present on the day.
He said: “It’s a big part of our history as a movement, this allows us and others to get together and remember what happened in the past and talk about what we are doing currently and in the future.
“It’s a great opportunity and great part of the world to be doing it as well.”
The event was completely funded by trade unions, making it free of any ticketing and charging.
As many as 4,000 people are thought to have visited last year’s rally, which was attended by current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.