|The Bishop blessed the banners and a brass band led the way playing tunes that echoed the resilience and determination of an old mining community which remains united and will never be defeated. Following not far behind you could hear the beating of the drums of the PCS Union drummers proud to be seen and heard marching along so many people determined to stand up and be counted as they keep up the fight for worker’s rights.
Martyn Richardson, the son of a former miner and one of the key organisers of the event, was one of the first speakers on the main stage. He spoke of his personal history with the movement (his father a coal miner and a proud trade unionist from the area), and the need more than ever in an age of precarious and underpaid work for people to stand together and join a trade union.
There were artists of all kinds who spoke, sang or danced throughout the event between a variety of trade union speakers all of whom relayed stories of struggle and injustice, but also of hope. Every union leader spoke of the inspiring campaigns and actions to improve worker pay and conditions across different work sectors.
Francis O’Grady (General Secretary, TUC), Jon Trickett (MP) and John McDonnell (MP) were the headline speakers, all of whom spoke passionately about the need to grow the trade union movement, legislate for better working rights and end the draconian anti-trade union legislation. Francis O’Grady spoke of a “New Deal For Workers” that calls for a minimum wage of £10 an hour, an end to exploitative zero hours contracts, more funding for the NHS and our public services and a crack down on tax dodgers who starve our schools and hospitals of funding. Jon Trickett spoke of the impact of austerity on working people and the important work of the unions supporting local communities. John McDonnell outlined the Labour Party’s vision for an economy that works for the many, not simply the few.
The final speaker was Sarah Cobham, Director of the “Forgotten Women of Wakefield” leading the group in a familiar song: “We are women, we are strong, We are fighting for our lives, Side by side with our men, Who work the nation's mines, United by the struggle, United by the past, And it's - Here we go! Here we go! For the women of the working class.” Sarah highlighted the role of women in the local community before proudly unveiling a recently commissioned blue plaque for Alice Bacon, the first woman MP from Yorkshire.
With Banners Held High is an event that continues to grow each year in numbers and support, especially as the need for collective bargaining and unity grows in the face of poor working conditions and low pay.
The TUC supported With Banners Held High 2018 as part of our 150th anniversary, and this year organised a sister festival running alongside it called Collective Spirit. You can read more about this here: https://www.tuc.org.uk/CollectiveSpiritWKF2018