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Burston Strike School Rally - 'the longest strike in history'

Sunday 4 September, 2005
Burston, Norfolk

The struggle continues for trade union rights, working class education, democracy in the countryside and international solidarity.

On 1 April 1914 the pupils of Burston School marched in support of their two dismissed teachers, Tom and Kitty Higdon. The Higdons were closely associated with the Agricultural Workers' Union which brought them into conflict with the squirarchy and the Church of England which was responsible for the education of children in the countryside.

Association with the farm workers' union and Tom's election to the Parish Council as a Labour member had prompted the dismissals. The school children, 66 out of 72, had gone on strike. This was to be the first day of the longest strike in history.

The Strike School, the alternative to the CoE County School from where the Higdons had seen sacked, was firstly located in the blacksmith's workshop and latterly in purpose built premises erected on Burston Village Green by Labour Movement subscription.

The Strike School continued to function until the beginning of the Second World War. Tom Higdon died on 17 August 1939 and the school closed a few months later. Kitty, then in her seventies, was unable to carry on alone and the remaining pupils transferred to the County School. Kitty died on 24 April 1946.
In 1949 the Strike School was registered as an educational charity. There are 4 self-perpetuating trustees who, with the support of the T&G, manage the school and try to develop it as a museum, visitor centre, educational archive and village amenity.

Since 1984, an annual rally has been held in Burston to commemorate the first rally held in 1914 and celebrate the struggles that took place in Burston in the first half of the last century - a celebration of a challenge to the old rural order that has yet to be completed, but continues to be inspired by the struggle that began in Burston.

"But there really can be no peace or victory for us which does not bring with it freedom for the countryside, liberty and life for the labourer and prosperity and plenty to his home and family. The labourer must henceforth take his place industrially, socially and politically with the best and foremost of the land. He must do this himself - by the force and power of his union. And he can!" Tom Higdon in The Labourer January 1917.

11:00 - morning opens with JANET YOUNG, T&G General Executive Council

11:10 - speaker NICK DEARDEN, War on Want

11:25 - music GRAHAM MOORE

11:45 - speaker ZELMYS DOMINGUEZ CORTINA, Political Counsellor, Cuban Embassy

12:00 - speaker TONY BENN

12:15 - March around Burston "Round the Candlestick" following the route of the children?s original demonstration ~ plus entertainment on the Stage and Green with PALFI

13:30 - music fado

13:50 - afternoon opens with MICK CONNOLLY, TUC Regional Secretary

14:00 - speaker BARRY CAMFIELD, T&G Assistant General Secretary including the award of Norwich TUC?s lifetime membership to Mike Pendred

14:25 - music RED FLAGS

14:45 - speaker PAUL KENNY, GMB A/General Secretary

15:00 - music BLEEDING HEARTS