Photo gallery: Hundreds take part in Burston Strike School Rally

A small south Norfolk village become a hive of political activism today as the annual Burston Strike School Rally took place.

Hundreds of people marched along the rural roads of Burston, near Diss, this lunchtime to commemorate the longest strike in British history.

Accompanied by colourful banners representing trade unions and workers' groups from across the country, and rallied by rousing music from two brass bands, the procession followed the same route taken by the village's schoolchildren who marched in support of two teachers almost a century ago.

The teachers - Tom and Kitty Higdon - were sacked from the Church of England County School due to their union connections so set up an alternative known as The Strike School in 1914, which ran until 1939.

The school building remains to this day and continues to be a national symbol for trade union solidarity and the battle for democracy in the countryside.


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Since 1984 campaigners have gathered at Burston village green to remember the strike, and to speak on the issues affecting workers' rights today.

This year crowds heard passionate speeches from NHS frontline worker Dave Carr and student activist Mary Robinson, who focussed on Government cuts and reform, while Labour MP for Luton North Kelvin Hopkins and Diana Holland, assistant general secretary of Unite, also took to the stage.

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Ms Holland said: 'Let's remember the inspiration of Burston and say we want a decent, progressive society. Let's build that huge alliance and in the spirit of Burston demand a society based on need and not on profit.'

Music was supplied by group Red Flags and Robb Johnson and the Irregulars, while poet John Hegley also entertained onlookers, which this year included Labour MEP for the East of England Richard Howitt.

Mr Howitt said: 'People do not associate Norfolk with left-of-centre politics but this really is an event which backs the trade union movement across the country. It shows the Labour movement has a strong presence nationally.'

Since its closure, the Burston Strike School has been developed into a museum which was open to visitors throughout the day.

Mike Copperwheat, trustee of the Burston Strike School, said it had been a 'very, very busy' year for the rally possibly due to people's frustrations surrounding ongoing national spending cuts.

'I think it has encouraged more people to come along to hear what's being said and to voice an opinion. I think there's also a lot more young people here which is good and that's what we've been hoping for,' he said.

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