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Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell encouraged by young people’s attendance at Burston Strike School Rally

PUBLISHED: 18:03 03 September 2017 | UPDATED: 18:59 03 September 2017

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, speaks at the 2017 Burston Strike School rally. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, speaks at the 2017 Burston Strike School rally. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2017

Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell has spoken of his encouragement at seeing so many young people attending this year’s Burston Strike School Rally.

The 2017 Burston Strike School rally parades through the village. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY The 2017 Burston Strike School rally parades through the village. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The 65-year-old was one of the headline guests at the event, this year marking the 100th anniversary of school’s official opening, which he called a “symbol” of the Labour Trade Union movement.

Now in its 33rd year the rally is held annually to remember the longest strike in British history which was sparked by the dismissal of Kitty and Tom Higdon from the village’s school in 1914.

He said: “It just inspires people to be here and you notice today the large number of young people - so we have a new generation of people coming through who have been taught about the strike and learning about the principals of the movement.”

He added: “The school strike is one of the most important events in the Labour Trade Union movement calendar.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, (blue shirt) takes part in the 2017 Burston Strike School rally parade through the village. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, (blue shirt) takes part in the 2017 Burston Strike School rally parade through the village. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“It is a real honour and privilege to be asked to speak here. We are paying tribute to people who stand for the principals of the Labour Trade Union movement; courage, determination and solidarity.”

The Labour Party stalwart joined the march around the village before addressing a buoyant crowd.

Trade unionist Len McCluskey also spoke to the masses – with between 2,000 and 3,000 people believed to have attended.

Mr McCluskey said he hopes Norfolk will turn Labour during the next election because the East of England is a “forgotten region in Westminster”.

Crowds at the 2017 Burston Strike School rally listen to the speeches. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Crowds at the 2017 Burston Strike School rally listen to the speeches. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The general secretary of Britain’s biggest trade union Unite said there was a need to invest in infrastructure and to stop the exploitation of rural workers.

He too also spoke of his pleasure at seeing an increased presence of young adults at the event and put it down to Jeremy Corbyn’s election campaign.

The Labour leader attended last year’s rally.

He said: “Many of them are inspired by Jeremy Corbyn and what he stands for. It has caught a resonates with young people.”

General secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, at the 2017 Burston Strike School rally. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY General secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, at the 2017 Burston Strike School rally. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

He added “It is really important that we remember these types of events. People like Kitty and Tom, they inspire us and they are part of our heritage.

“They fought for the working class community and it is a remarkable story.”

Burston School Strike

It is the strike started by rural Norfolk children which has inspired generations.

In 1911 Kitty and Tom Higdon took up posts at Burston and Shimpling Council School.

They were popular among pupils and their parents, and they worked hard to improve hygiene and comfort at the school.

They were dismissed in 1914 after they fell into conflict with the school’s committee.

On April 1 1914 a group of children, led by a pupil called Violet Potter, marched around the village waving signs and demanding their favourite teachers back.

A temporary Strike School was set up in a workshop, with the Higdons continuing to teach the majority of the village’s children.

Word spread and donations poured in from trade unions and Labour party branches which funded the building of the Strike School.

The strike only ended after Mr Higdon died in 1939, and Mrs Higdon was unable to carry on alone.

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