History of the Rally

From March 31st 1914 numerous protest meetings, demonstrations and rallies were held in support of the Higdons and the evicted glebe tenants. May 13th 1917 witnessed a particularly large gathering for the official opening ceremony of the new Strike School. Even once opened an annual agricultural rally was still organised by Tom Higdon in his role as Norfolk County Secretary of the National Union of Agricultural Workers (N.U.A.W), and he continued to do so until 1938.

A few months after Tom’s death in August 1939 the Strike School was closed and the remaining pupils transferred to the Council School. During the War the building was used for storage and then afterwards stood empty for a number of years. After Annie’s passing in 1946 the Strike School was left without a legal owner and so in 1949 the N.U.A.W stepped in and facilitated the establishment of the ‘Burston Strike School’ foundation to save the building for prosperity and to promote its legacy.

On August 15th 1949, the Burston Strike School became an educational charity administered by four trustees. Three new appointees came from the N.U.A.W, along with local resident (and N.A.U.W member) Mr. Sol Sandy who was the last remaining trustee from when the school was a functioning educational establishment. During the subsequent decades the self-perpetuating trustee committee was drawn from members of the N.U.A.W / N.U.A.A.W (in 1968 the word ‘Allied’ was added to the unions name) and then from 1982 when the remains of the agricultural union merged into the Transport and General Workers’ Union’s (TGWU) the Agricultural and Allied Workers’ Trade Group of the TGWU.

raaw-logoShortly after the merger, the trustees turned the Strike School into a museum, and in 1983 a rally was re-established to commemorate and celebrate the struggles that took place. As a consequence of the merger, and since that time, a number of trustees have also been district/regional officers and lay members holding constitutional roles within the Agricultural Trade Group of the TGWU and its successor.

All General Secretaries of the N.U.A.W and the TGWU supported the work of the trustees in their guardianship of the Strike School and commemorative activities. In 2007 the Transport and General Workers’ Union and Amicus unions merged to form Unite – the Union. And in 2015 the RAAW sector was reconfigured to become the union’s Food, Drink and Agriculture (FDA) industrial sector.

Since 1983 the Burston Strike School Rally has once more become an annual event, with the day now being fixed to the first Sunday in September. The event is completely funded by trade unions which allows it to be free of any ticketing and charging (except for those wishing to have a campaign stall). Although today the trustees are not exclusively members of Unite, as the inheritor of the ‘rural and agricultural tradition’ UNITE remains the organiser of the Rally.