Union Banners laid out ready for the march
Union Banners laid out ready for the march

It was September 2nd, just back from our late summer holiday and off to the Burston Strike School Rally. Always held on the 1st Sunday in September since 1983 the rally commemorates the longest strike in history. On April 1st 1914 teachers Tom and Annie Higdon were dismissed from their posts in the rural village of Burston, Norfolk. On that day the children (66 of the 72 affected) marched around the village with cards hanging from their necks demanding that “We Want Our Teachers Back”. The strike ended with the death of Tom Higdon in 1939.

There were hundreds of trades unionists, Labour Party members, members of many other organisations and members of none at the rally. Quite a few more than last year, John McDonnell and Emily Thornberry were headlined but as it happened Emily Thornberry could not make it.

The beer tent proved very popular on such a warm summers day with hot and cold food and drink also available in the marquee.

Crowd sitting listening to the comedian, music & speeches
Crowd sitting listening to the comedian, music & speeches

We gathered on the green outside the school to be entertained by comedy, music, and speeches. There were stalls for many of the organisations, giving out information and talking to people.

Mick Case addressing the rally and Anto Morra singing to them.
Mick Case addressing the rally and Anto Morra singing to them.

Those who wanted then assembled for the March round the candlestick following the Shire Horses, as is traditional, a circular walk of a couple of miles around the village, following the same route the children took in 1914 in support of their teachers. Well, it was more of saunter than a march giving plenty of opportunities to chat to our fellow marchers and pick the odd blackberry whilst enjoying the stirring efforts of the accompanying bands. Many of the villagers were sitting outside their houses watching us and waving. Unfortunately, unlike in previous years, our Broadland banner wasn’t there — we will make sure it is next year.

People marching and the marching bad playing
People marching and the marching bad playing
People marching
People marching

When we reassembled on the school green there seemed to be even more people eagerly awaiting John McDonnell’s speech, and he did not disappoint. John is local lad having been at school in Great Yarmouth. He spoke about taking vital industries (Train, Water, electricity) back into democratic control so they would be run for the benefit of all rather than the profit of a few. He said that a Labour government would seek to extend workers engagement with the companies in which they work by having more democracy in the companies with workers on the boards and also the extension of cooperative business models. All great stuff and just what is needed to rescue all of us from the damage being done by the current Tory government that went down well with the audience. Johns speech was videoed https://www.facebook.com/burystedmundsbranchlabourparty/videos/232283024105339/ only to be obscured by yours truly taking pictures. But I did manage to get a selfie with John.

John McDonnell and Philip Williams
John McDonnell and Philip Williams

And all too soon it was over, banners furled, coaches swallowing their passengers, and we made our way back to the car park — plenty of free parking easy to access — for the short drive home and reflect on what we can do to get a Labour government and improve things for all of us.

The crowd sitting on chairs and the grass listening to John McDonnell
The crowd sitting on chairs and the grass listening to John McDonnell

It had been a great outing seeing all the banners, meeting up with old friends and making new ones. The excellent sunny weather had been a bonus. Next year the rally will be on Sunday 1st September, put it in your diary now and come and join us for a great day out.

PDF Copy of this report here.

Philip & Julie Williams
September 2018

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