Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival
- Friday 14 July 2023
Tolpuddle, near Dorchester, Dorset
This annual festival where thousands of people come together to celebrate trade unionism and remember the role of the Tolpuddle Martyrs offers a full programme of traditional and contemporary music and other attractions.
Check back nearer the time for full details of what is planned for the 2023 celebration, and read on to find out what was planned in 2022.
Tolpuddle took place in real life in 2022, from the 15-17 July 2022.
What happened in 2022
The festival kicks off midday on Friday as campers arrive in Tolpuddle to experience a weekend for supporters of the labour movement. Situated in the former cottages’ orchard, the NASUWT Kids Area is the place for children to play, explore and have fun. With lots of activities to keep children of all ages happy and entertained all day long. There’s also films in the Radical Cinema, with the theme this year around war and peace, and there’s music from El Borez, Jonah Corren, Danielle Sharp, and folk punk singer Shannon White. Friday in the fringe hears from Hannah David South West TUC chair and PCS vice-president, Paul Nowak TUC deputy general secretary, Niomi Pohl Musicians’ Union general secretary, Mark Serwotka PCS general secretary, Jo Grady UCU general secretary, and Crys Matthews US Protest singer/songwriter. There’s also music in the Martyrs’ Marquee including Dorset Red, Theo Mizú and Banda, Crys Matthews, Jez Hellard and The Djukella Orchestra followed by the Cable Street Collective.
Roll up to the Unite Marquee in its new location at the bottom of the slope, the Unite stall will host a menu of discussions and music.
From 11-1 hear Birmingham Clarion Singers will perform a rendition of Rob Harper’s ‘Asbestos Song’ plus a focus on members’ services, including the work of Unite’s legal team in support of Thompsons Personal Injury Unit and asbestosis mesothelioma.
From 13:05-14:00 hear the migrant worker’s story — the rise and fall of the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority with chair Amanda Campbell, Unite Landworker editor; Stéphanie Kasprowski South West Unite regional committee member; Chris Kaufman ex-Unite national officer; Kristjan Bragason EFFAT; plus voices of Unite migrant workers and other Unite speakers.
From 14:45-16:00 covering Climate Change and Food Production - Chair Amanda Campbell Unite Landworker editor; with Bev Clarkson Unite national officer; Steve Leniec Unite agri sector chair and farm worker; John Burbidge Unite rural campaigner and farm worker; Gareth Lowe Unite regional officer and Sue Longley IUF general secretary.
From 17:00 see the Skimmity Hitchers - The self-styled ‘denizens of Dorset and weirdos of the West Country’ with songs dedicated to cider drinkers and badgers everywhere. Bring your badger suits and dancing shoes.
Other features on Saturday include the chance to shine with Tolpuddle Talent – open mic sessions with poetry from noon and music from 13:00-16:30 (no advance booking – get your name on the board). The Martyrs’ Marquee has a packed programme of discussion and debates in Talking in tents and music in the evening with former frontman of The RPM’s Jack Valero to showcase his latest work, revolutionary punks Negra Santa from Argentina playing Ska, Reggae, Cumbia, Ragga, Reggaeton & punk plus Rhoda Dakar, ex lead singer of 2-Tone stalwarts The Bodysnatchers.
Sunday – Martyrs’ Day
On Sunday, the tiny village of Tolpuddle gets even more visitors as they arrive to take part in the big procession to commemorate the Martyrs. The road is closed to allow for the many unions banners march through the narrow road. There’s a festival service and songs of praise at St John’s Parish Church at 11:00.
The action at the Unite tent continues, from 10:00-11:00 drop in to hear the real story of country life: Rural deprivation and the workers’ fight for change with John Burbidge and Ivan Monckton Unite rural campaigners, and Steve Preddy Unite regional secretary.
From 11:00 tune in for Scrumpy and Western rap from agricultural hip-hop artist Corky. Rapper, poet, educator and events producer Craft-D takes over at 11:40 followed by crypto-social ukeabilly protest folk goth collective Bats Feet from Worthing. From 13:00-13:45 is multi-instrumentalist Holly Carter and Hannah Johns and Davey Malone take over from 15:45-16:45 blending modern and trad folk.
The main wreath laying is at 13:10 while acts on the main stage include Robb Johnson, The Leylines, Carsie Blanton and Ngaio and the Ngostics. From 14:00 join the grand procession through the village and back. Accompanied by a range of marching bands. Robb Johnson plays while the march returns. From 15:15 speakers include Nigel Costley South West TUC regional secretary, Frances O’Grady TUC general secretary and others. That’s followed by Peat & Diesel from 15:45-16:30 while Billy Bragg closes the main stage before the end of festival service at the Methodist Chapel at 17:00.
More details on 2022
Visit the Tolpuddle Martyrs museum website or the festival event page for details and more on plans for the 2022 festival. Find out more from the Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum, Tolpuddle, Dorchester, Dorset, DT2 7EH or call 01305 848237.