The festival celebrates the six agricultural labourers – paid just 9 shillings a week and living in dreadful poverty – who in 1834 were transported to Australia for taking an oath of secrecy while forming a trades union to bargain for better pay and working conditions.
As well as live music and political speakers, there was children’s entertainment, theatre performances, debates, village tours and a Radical History School running alongside the festival.
The main event, on the Sunday, included the procession, wreath-laying and speeches. Thousands of people took part in the procession, with one of the biggest turnouts the festival had ever seen.
Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy, who was one of them, welcomed the chance to spend time with Prospect reps and other trade unionists and described the energy as “fantastic”.
He said: “There are not enough opportunities for us to get together, recharge our batteries and remember why we do what we do.
“The emotions, our shared objectives and shared challenges are all here today. I think people gain a lot in terms of the spirit here and hopefully they can take it back to work on Monday morning.”
Prospect had a good presence. Alan Grey, current union president, marched alongside Barry Gibbs, a former president.
Lloyd Collier, branch secretary at Diamond Light Source, organised the Prospect stall, including designing and ordering some very popular Prospect lollipops for the kids. He said: “It was a fantastic weekend.
“The Prospect reps and staff pulled together to run a very successful stall and it was great to see so many of us walking with the Prospect banner this year. Looking ahead, we have some great ideas to make the event even bigger and better next year.”
Steve Clark, a health and safety rep at Devonport Dockyard, said: “I come to Tolpuddle to show my respect for the martyrs. It’s really good to talk to other trade unionists, share issues and concerns and learn from each other. The sense of solidarity is inspiring – we are all united behind the same goal which is to benefit our members.”
Mike Clancy expressed special thanks to the Prospect volunteers who organised, set up and ran the union stall. They were:
- Lloyd and Wendy Collier and their children Daniel ,13, and Jessica, 10. Lloyd and Wendy both work at Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire
- Steve Clark from Devonport dockyard
- James Leppard from AWE, with Carey Nelson and Jude, aged two
- Ele Wade from the Intellectual Property Office
- David Nunn from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory
- Mandy Garrick and Joe Lawrence from the National Trust – the Trust looks after the Tolpuddle Martyrs tree – more than 320 years old and one of the most famous trees in the country.