Category Archives: Uncategorized

Washington Oral Histories

From Jude Murphy, Heritage and Culture Development Co-ordinator at Washington Heritage Partnership

We’re starting to build a series of oral histories of people’s memories of life before, during and after the New Town era and we’ve uploaded our very first one: Bob Hope (and his wife Maureen) recalling his days at the Washington Development Corporation (including fascinating memories of sewage lagoons – don’t say I don’t give you appetising teasers!)  .

These can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAF76RKVACqidyDilbBa0OImt7QTUJNSx

Battle of Stockton Campaign Group. Winners of the inaugural Archie Potts Founder’s Award

Congratulations to the Battle of Stockton Campaign Group which has won the inaugural Archie Potts founders’ Award. There were five excellent submissions for the award, and Stockton’s was successful. Many thanks to the others who took part.

Here is The Stockton Group’s entry.

Fascism started to take hold across Europe in the early 1930’s. In January of 1933, Hitler was elected as Chancellor of Germany. Not long after this, the divisions that fascism brings became apparent. Looking to Germany and Italy as inspiration, Oswald Mosley established the British Union of Fascists. He hoped to appeal to the working class who were disillusioned with the lack of economic solutions posed by The Labour Party and The Conservatives to combat the effects of the Great Depression. The Battle of Stockton took place on 10th September 1933, when members of the British Union of Fascists (also known as Blackshirts) marched on Stockton High Street in the hope of recruiting new members.  For the Blackshirts, Stockton was seen as an ideal town to recruit new members as it had been hit especially hard by the  of the 1930s and they expected little, if any, resistance.

Instead, they were met with resistance at The Market Cross by 2,000 local people, including members of the National Unemployed Workers Movement, The Independent Labour party, Trade Unionists and members of the Communist Party. Those resisting forced the Blackshirts down Silver Street, back across The River Tees to Thornaby where their buses were waiting for them  No further attempts to carry out a march or rally in Stockton were ever made by the fascists.

Despite the number of people involved, the Battle of Stockton is little-known and rarely talked about, something which the Battle of Stockton campaign is beginning to change.  Formed in January 2018, this volunteer led social history project aims to raise awareness of the battle using a blended approach that engages people in a many different ways.

Working in partnership with Stockton Borough Council a plaque was laid as part of a heritage trail. This trail is 1.3miles and fully accessible and the Council explains that it ‘takes people  around some beautiful buildings and streets that some may not even know exist. A walk for all ages with plenty of places to stop for a lunch or a quick refreshment break’.  It is not possible for BoS to quantify the impact of this trail but the plague – see photo – is the centre piece for activities that commemorate the Battle of Stockton.

There is an annual fundraising concert, based in the Georgian Theatre, featuring local musical acts, spoken word, guest speakers and arts and crafts for children.  Word of the event has spread far and wide and last year one the performers travelled from Milton Keynes to take part. In his words to be part of radical heritage.  BoS estimate that over 500 people have attended the event since it started in 2018 – even reaching people online during the covid lockdowns.

As part of the work BoS has engaged with local choirs. A song has been written by a local artist and its has performed in the town, firstly  as part of a ‘flash mob’, then at the Georgian Theatre and in finally front of a packed house at the Globe Theatre.  During lockdown the 1933 Choir performed – socially distanced of course and this was shared on Facebook.  In the words of the sog, ‘the Blackshirts came and we drove them all away, back to their fascist homes’

With our local partners – a brewery and a micro pub – we created a Battle of Stockton beer, selling it in the Golden Smog.    We estimate that this reached over 250 local people, encouraging some discussion over a welcome pint.

We have sponsored two Basket Ball trophies; competed for by the world’s first micro pub basketball team with community and inclusivity ‘at the heart of our game’. Raising awareness with participants and spectators alike.

Supporting events such as the Durham Miners Gala and local book fairs has helped us spread the word to a wider audience whilst merchandising has seen Battle of Stockton T-Shirts at a number of places including Glastonbury.

This year the group was chosen to host the AGM of the International Brigades Memorial Trust and we were able to use this to not only showcase the Battle of Stockton but also the take pride in the wider history of Stockton on Tees.

Perhaps most importantly the events of 1933 have been brought to life in a film featuring artworks by a number of local Teesside artists. Narrated by actor Marlene Sidaway, this dramatic documentary explores the events of the day, the actions of local people and a sample of life in 1930s Stockton.  It premiered in 2021 and won an award at the Tees Valley Film Festival in 2022.  We estimate that it has been viewed by over 1,000 people.

So what has been the overall effect?   At its most simple we know that many more people are aware of what took place in 1933. Both locally and nationally.  At the last event volunteers set out to engage with people on market day.  The first question they asked was ‘do you know about the Battle of Stockton?’  Many did and were proud of what had happened all those years ago.  Those who did not know have embraced their newly found knowledge of a significant part of Teesside’s proud history.

One of the most significant outcomes of the work the Campaign Group continue to do, would be something our grandfathers who stood against the Blackshirts in 1933 would be proud of. Communities of Teesside are brought together to remember and stand united against the forces that seek to divide us.

Further details about the work of the Battle of Stockton Campaign can be found on Facebook at

https://www.facebook.com/thebattleofstockton

Issue 54 of the NELH Journal now Available

Copies available from the Secretary:

  • Ragamuffins and Sons of Liberty; the 1774 General Election in Morpeth and Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Clerical Exactions from the Poor, William Parker, Ballast Hills, and Affordable Burials for the Working Poor, 1800-1857
  • Five Russians in the North East of England
  • Socialists and Speculators: the Walker Estate as a Battleground of Housing Ideologies 1902-1919
  • Northeastern England and America’s Bloodiest War
  • Shield’s First Socialists
  • Pneumocoiosis and Social Class in Twentieth-Century County Durham Mining Communities
  • The Growth of the Co-operative Movement in North East England

 

Cover photograph, Jennie Shearan who led the campaign against pollution from Monkton Coke works

North East Labour History Society Subscriptions Rates

At the 2023 Annual General Meeting we passed a resolution to increase our subscription rates on 1 October 2023. This is because the current subscription rates are not keeping pace with the rapid increases in printing and distribution costs for our Journal. The Journal represents over 80% of our annual income.  In 2019 it cost £2,200 to produce 300 copies, this year it is costing just short of £3,000 to produce 250 copies.

The subscription pays for printing and delivery of our Journal to every member of the society. It also pays for the online availability of our eighteen most recent Journals (from 2005 onwards) and a wealth of online oral history and biographical information about radical and working-class movement figures from the history of the North East.

As was discussed at the AGM, the Journal is known for its well-researched articles on a wide range of bottom-up politics and campaigning in the North East: the labour movement, the women’s movement, diversity, health, education, housing and so on.

The new rates are:

Waged:                          £35 pa
Student or in receipt of benefits:      £17 pa
Solidarity rate*:           £50 pa
International postage, please add £5 pa

*The Solidarity Rate is a new rate introduced for those who feel able to pay a little more.

If like most of our members you pay by standing order, click here to open and print a form that will enable your bank to replace your existing Standing Order with a new one for the new subscription rate that applies to you*. Alternatively, you can send a cheque to:

Judith McSwaine

NELHS Treasurer

12 Whitfield Road
Forest Hall
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE12 7LJ

Professor Willie Thompson

From David Connolly, Secretary of the North East Labour History Society

It is with great sadness that I have to inform you of the death of Professor Willie Thompson, he was the author of numerous books on socialist history and edited the Society’s journal for several years. Our thoughts and sympathies go to his family and loved ones.

Willie’s funeral will take place at Sunderland Crematorium in Chester Road on Tuesday 18 July at 2.00pm.

An obituary published by the Society for the Study of Labour History can be read here https://sslh.org.uk/2023/07/03/willie-thompson-1939-2023/

Unite Community Membership

From Unite Community

People can achieve so much more when they work together.

Unite’s mission is to organise people to strive for a society that places equality, dignity and respect above all else.

But our union recognises that we can only achieve this if we bring people together from all walks of life.

Even now in the 21st century, too many people in our country are being pushed to the margins of society. They deserve to be heard; they too deserve the support to organise collectively.

It is with this in mind that Unite has founded its community membership scheme, making us the leading community trade union in the UK and Ireland.

Unite’s community membership scheme brings together people from across our society.

Those not in employment are welcomed into the union family, adding another dimension to our strength in thousands of workplaces across the UK and Ireland.<

Membership form and more information here: https://www.unitetheunion.org/why-join/membership-types/community-membership/

Glasgow University: Oral history project on picket lines between the late 1960s and 1980s

Diarmaid Kelliher is a researcher at the University of Glasgow undertaking an oral history project on picket lines between the late 1960s and 1980s. If you were involved with picketing in that time and interested in talking to him, please email

Hannah Kent, winner of the 2020 Sid Chaplin Labour History Trophy

In 2020, Hannah Kent won our Sid Chaplin Labour History Trophy – a miner’s lamp – for her brilliant dissertation on the Colonial Office hostels on Tyneside for African and Caribbean sailors and students, 1939-52. Because of the pandemic not only were we prevented from presenting the lamp in the usual way, at our AGM, but we were unable to award it at all last year. Hannah got to keep the trophy for two years, but now we have a winner for 2022, we arranged to collect it from her at the Discovery Museum on the evening of 10 August. This was an exciting occasion because it was the official opening of the museum’s exhibition, Stories of Service, which explores lesser known stories of the home front on Tyneside in WW2, and Hannah’s research contributed to its development! The exhibition is on until 25 September, and the article based on her dissertation (‘One Aim, One God, One Destiny’: an investigation of Black lives In Tyneside, 1939-1952) can be found in our 2021 journal.

https://discoverymuseum.org.uk/whats-on/stories-of-service-tyneside-s-home-front-during-the-second-world-war

Radical Bookselling History Newsletters

In 2020 the Alliance of Radical Booksellers began producing a series of fascinating newsletters about the history of radical bookselling, publishing and journalism. The latest newsletter includes a history of John Cobbett.

You can find these newsletters on their website: https://www.radicalbooksellers.co.uk/?p=652

Issue number 2 has an article on Days of Hope, Newcastle’s Left-Wing bookshop between 1975 and 1986. The article is by Martin Spence who was one of those running it for a number of years.