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Workers’ struggles headline at the Show

Unite event tops major rural event
Mark Metcalf, Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

The historic struggles of working people were brought to life at the Great Yorkshire Show (GYS) today (July 14) by Unite’s North East Yorkshire and Humberside region.


Schoolchildren and members of the public viewed a colourful new exhibition, featuring the history of the Luddites, Suffragettes, the lesbian and gay movement, and the miners.


Actors in period dress helped to animate the stories. There were also information booklets including a reproduction of the 16 July 1915 edition of the Official Organ of the United Suffragists, titled Votes for women.


Around 50 schoolchildren from Melior Community Academy, Scunthorpe were among the first visitors. Martin Foster, the Unite rep at the local Tata steelworks, helped broker the link between the Academy and Unite and helped make the visit a reality.


Entering the exhibition the children were invited by ‘Bill’, played by Jake England-Jones from the Red Ladder Theatre Company, to consider the importance of the Luddites two centuries ago.


Suffragette Annie Burford was played by Lynsey Jones of Red Ladder and Sue Pollard, the NEY&H Unite regional women and equalities officer, was dressed as suffragette Edith.


There were oral accounts of how the fight to build London Pride, and similar demonstrations and activities, has resulted in greater equality for the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community.


Finally, the role of mining communities in the development of trade unions in Britain was explored.


There were a number of stalls packed with information on Unite that visitors could take away and share with family and friends. By 1 pm today, over 200 people had passed through the exhibition – with some interested in joining Unite.


Pupil Sophia Zofia described the experience as “Good fun. I liked the way people were dressed in costumes as you could then imagine yourself as a suffragette.”


Her friend Courtney Hanson felt she had, “learnt a lot including that many women did not get a vote at first and had to keep campaigning.”


While Unite and its predecessor unions have had a long term presence at the Show, including a permanent building since the 50s, the programme today was radically different from previously.


“We are trying to show where trade unions come from,” explained Unite regional secretary Karen Reay.


“We want them to see why they remain important and how people have struggled to get some of the rights and conditions we enjoy today – and how they can be lost unless we continue to fight for them.


“We have used pictures and interaction and I am very pleased so far with the response we are getting from visitors to the show.”


The Great Yorkshire Show, Harrogate 2015

The Great Yorkshire Show, Harrogate 2015

Darcy Crewe (aged 10) talks to Anne Scargill


*Pics by Mark Harvey


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