THE spirit of trade unionism shone through over the weekend as more people than ever before flocked to the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival.

Thousands of people gathered at the festival to support equality, justice, fair pay and to remember the sacrifice made by six of the village’s farm workers 181 years ago.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs were six agricultural workers who were exiled to Australia in 1834 after forming a union.

The festival started on Friday and continued throughout the weekend. It featured live music, speakers and entertainment for all the family, as well as the opportunity to camp nearby.

People gathered at St John’s Church yesterday to lay wreaths on the grave of James Hammett, the only martyr to settle again in Tolpuddle.

The service was concluded with a performance from the Red Notes choir, who sung ‘We Will Be Free’ and ‘Tolpuddle Man’.

This was then followed by the main procession where flags were waved, songs were sung, and banners were held.

Yesterday also saw speeches given by Leslie Manessah, TUC President, and Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary.

Speaking to the crowd, Mr Manessah said: “The struggle for justice lives on. We are witnessing a major assault on the lives of working people and their unions in order to shift the balance of power even further in favour of employers.”

People came from across the country to show their support in the village and make their voice heard.

David Lee-Bastable was at the festival in his role as chairman of Portsmouth Pride.

He said: “We have come along because the trade unions have supported LGBT issues with Portsmouth Pride.

“It’s fantastic. We have made a lot of contacts. It’s not political. It’s about people supporting each other and keeping the government in check.”

Yesterday’s events were concluded with a performance from singer-songwriter Billy Bragg.

Nigel Costley, South West TUC regional secretary and festival organiser, said the event had been ‘fabulous’ with more people in attendance than ever before.

He said: “The spirit is phenomenal. You would expect to some extent it to be downhearted and gloomy but it is far from it.

“People are really upbeat and determined.”