Robert Tressell Centre Newsletter Number Two, May 2000

Dear Fellow Tressell Enthusiast,


The Second Robert Tressell Event 27th _-28th May 2000. click
Other Activities and news from The Centre - presentation of copies of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists click
Badges & Books click
Tressell in the new millenium click
What's In A Name? -By Maire McQueeney click
Looking Forward to 2001! click
Mentioning The Unmentionable. click 
Other Happenings click
Goodnight And Farewell. click

Welcome to the second of our Newsletters. The January edition produced a very positive response from readers and has definitely inspired us to continue in our efforts! As we mentioned in the last edition we would like this to become a forum for discussion and exchange of information so we would welcome any contributions that you would care to send us at the Centre or e-mail. Similarly, if you would like to speak to Susannah or Dee we can be reached on 01424 460735 at weekends or during the evening, we will always be happy to put readers in touch with other Committee members.

We would like to reassure readers that we do not pass on your names to any other organisations and that the only purpose of our mailing list is to keep you in touch with the activities of the Centre, the Festival and other enthusiasts. If you know of anyone who you think would like to receive the Newsletter please let us know, but please inform them know that you have passed their details to us.

Please feel free to copy the Newsletter as many times as you like and pass it on to friends, family, Union Branches, or even passing vague acquaintances with whom you have reched an embarrassing pause in conversation! The whole purpose of the Centre Is to encourage enthusiasm about the book and its ideas so the more people that read the Newsletter the better. We obviously accept that individual authors hold the copyright to their pieces but have given their permission for the articles to be copied

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The Second Robert Tressell Event 27th _-28th May 2000.

Believe it or not a whole yea. has passed since our last event and this years is nearly upon us. We have decided to make this years event a two day Festival rather than a three day as we had last year. We hope to put on a three day Festival every other year and a two day event in the alternating years.

This years event will start at 9.30am on the Saturday with the official opening by the Mayor of Hastings, Jackie Dowling. At 10am our keynote speaker will be addressing the Event, John Edmonds, General Secretary of the GMB. We are particularly pleased about John's agreement to visit the Festival as once again the Hastings wd East Sussex Branch of the GMB and The Southern Region of the GMB are our principal sponsors.

Following on from this will be the first of our ever popular walks, Trevor Hopper will lead this ramble, starting in Hastings Town Centre outside Debenhams at 12noon. Veterans of last years event will also be delighted to hear that this year the GMB have tent us their minibus to get walkers to the start of the walks and get them back to the venue afterwards!

After lunch, at 2.30pm there will be a talk by Clive Griggs on Working Class education during the l 9th and early 20th Centuries. Following on from Clive we are delighted to announce that John Nettleton from Liverpool will also be addressing the Festival. John is the man who was one of the prime movers in erecting the wonderful stone on Noonan's grove in Walton and has worked for many years to keep the memory of Tressell's work and ideas alive.

At 6.30pm Steve Peak will be repeating his very popular talk on 3000 years of Mugsborough at the top of  the West Hill - meeting at the top of the lift by the cafe. Please don't worry about finding your way to these strange and mysterious venues if you have never been to Hastings before - guides will be on hand to point you in the right direction!

There may or may not be on organised social event during the evening - it really just depends on how much time we have to organise it, but one way or another we will be meeting in a local hostelry where we can continue our discussions.

Bright and early on Sunday morning we have a rare treat in store. The Curator of Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, where the Robert Tressell "altar-piece"  is preserved, has kindly offered to specially open the museum for us to see the Fred Ball archive. The material left to the Museum by Fred is a fascinating glimpse Into the lives of two exceptional. men, Noonan and Fred Ball himself. This is a rare opportunity and we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Curator, Victoria Williams and her staff. There will be exact details of the times and so forth at the Festival itself. We will also be hearing specially selected readings from the novel during this time. 

At 12.30pm Maire McQueeney will be leading a walk from Warrior Square Station. The walk will include a visit to Alexandra Park and to the site of Noonan's former home on London Road as well as an opportunity to see what is believed to be a surviving example of Noonans wall sign writing.

Following Maire's walk we will be returning to the Bourne Hall for a talk by Cllr. Jeremy Birch, Chair of East Sussex Education Authority. We will be rounding the weekend off with an open discussion and will be happy to hear any ideas that you may have for future Festivals. Following that the organisers will follow the example that they set last year and will go home and soak in hot baths and then curl up with a warm cat each and go to sleep for a very long time! 

 Prices this year will be 5 for the-wholeweekend (3 Unwaged) or 3 per day (2 Unwaged). 

Please contact either Dee or  Susannah on the usual number for any further details. 

Other Activities and news from The Centre.

We have just entered a very busy phase for the Centre. Not only do we have the Festival coming up but we are also participated in some of the events around Hastings Millennium Festival. On Friday 21st April (Good Friday) Hastings Award winning Tourist Information Centre held a Hastings Historical Day which we were involved with. In the following week. 20th April-1st May, Old Hastings Preservation Society  produced "Hastings 2000, And All That - Exhibition Of Hastings History at the Bourne Hall where the life and work of Tressell were featuring thanks to work by members of the Centre.

On Tuesday 2nd May we also had a very special event. One of our original aims was to introduce a whole new generation of readers to The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. We are now in the happy position to be able to provide a copy of the book for every Secondary School and College in the Hastings and St Leonards catchment area. On the evening of the 2nd May at the Hastings Teachers Centre In Priory Road, we will be made formal presentations to representatives of some of the schools and colleges in question.


May 2nd 2000. Copies of "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" are presented to all senior schools and colleges in the Hastings Area. 
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To ensure that copies of this important work are available to students of secondary school age The Robert Tressell Centre donated copies of the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists to every secondary school and college in the Hastings area. County Councillor Jeremy Birch ( Lead Cabinet Member for Education in East Sussex made the presentation)  Above picture shows, from the left, Melanie Sykes, Librarian from St. Richards Roman Catholic College, Bexhill. Michael Foster, MP for Hastings and Rye,  Katie Harrison, Head Girl, year 13 Helenswood School, Wendy Graham, head of year 7, Helenswood School and Jeremy Birch.  Other recipients included Hastings College of Arts and Technology, Saxon Mount School, Bexhill College, Inglesea School, Thomas Peacocke Community College, William Parker School, Hillcrest School, Robertsbridge Community College, Filsham Valley School, The Grove School, Bexhill High School, Claverham Community College

Maire McQueeney, who conducts one of her walks during the Festival weekend also has an ongoing programme of Tressell walks. She is leading two during the Brighton Festival, the first on the 6th May at 11am, meeting outside Hastings station and the second on the Friday evening before our Festival, the 26th May, this one starting at 6pm, again meeting outside Hastings Station. Both these walks will last approximately two hours and will cost 5 per person (4 Unwaged). For further details of these walks please contact the Brighton Festival Box Office on 01273 709709 or contact Maire directly on 01273 607910,  E-mail,  or visit her website at, //

Many of us will also be attending this year's Tolpuddle Festival and Rally on Sunday 16th July at Tolpuddle, an event which is well worth attending, particularly if it is as warm as last year! If you live reasonably close to Hastings and would like to go along, the GMB is organising a coach from Bohemia Road. So if you would like to join us on the day please contact Dee on the usual number or at the Tressell Festival.

Badges & Books

Many visitors to last years Event enquired about the possibility of Tressell Badges similar to those produced some years ago. To this end, one of our members, Neil Bates has found a company who will be able to produce badges based upon our logo. These will be on sale at the Festival where the company, Just Badges, will also be exhibiting other examples of their work.

The signed copy of the RTP will also be raffled before, after and during the Festival. (The delay with this has been the need to apply for Lotteries Licence. We now have this however and are ready to go with the raffle.) Please contact Susannah or Dee for further details if you cannot make it along to the Event.

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Tressell in the new millenium 

As someone who has spent years researching the background to the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, I am constantly aware of the tremendous legacy that Noonan has left to so many in the labour movement in its broadest sense. Inevitably there is a close link with the trade unions, socialist parties and organisations. I receive countless letters from trade unionists, members of various parties or merely independent socialists who relate how closely the book relates to their experience of working class life. Many have had the book passed to them through comrades often in socialist education groups - either informal self help groups or through more organised WEA, trade union or party circles.

They have often expressed a concern that was aired at last years Tressell Event, that the disappearance of many of these groups or the weakening of them has led to a lack of appreciation of the RTP or even knowledge of the novel. The belief that there is a generation who no longer have access to these groups since the drop in union membership,lack of apprenticeships, communist party membership and general malaise of the left which occurred from 1979 onwards. Further, that the arrival of New Labour and perhaps a more middle class membership and attitude have led to a void in the appreciation of the RTP. This view is reinforced by the well founded belief that academia and schools education were not interested in the novel and its socialist message did not lend itself to inclusion  in any educational curriculum.

1 can report from that my own experiences that this is no longer the case and that universities In particular are increasingly turning to the RTP for inclusion in a variety of literature, politics and history courses and the more recently developed cultural studies courses. 1 have personally been the grateful recipient of both forms of RTP appreciation. receiving my first copy from a Labour Party comrade and then having my enthusiasm rekindled a few years later at University by a Labour History course which included the novel. A rarity then only fourteen years ago, now 1 personally know several Universities which include the RTP in their curriculum and 1 have even seen it included in an A level syllabus. There have also been numerous postgraduate theses on the RTP. 1 have found that there is a great enthusiasm for the RTP by students of all ages. 1 would suggest that yes, there has been a shift in the way that Tressell's work is circulated. But. circulated, reissued and sold it still is, appreciated and loved it still is and the relevance of its political observations are equally recognised by a new generation of readers. Indeed many middle class readers today have a greater experience of the casual labour market than their working class parents or grandparents. Fortunately, the growth In higher education is also giving them an opportunity to study and enjoy the book and to empathise with its message.

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What's In A Name? -By Maire McQueeney

The American humorist Samuel Langhome Clemens could get a bit sparky if adoring readers mistakenly addressed him as Mr. Twain; his famous pen name, Mark Twain, being the call of the hardworking Mississippi riverboatmen measuring the depth of the river's channels.

What reaction, I wonder, might Dubliner Robert Noonan have had to being called Mr. Tressell? Considering the circumstances of the writing of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists., Bob Noonan, like Sam Clemens, may have had no personal identification with his famous pseudonym. The proper name Robert Tressell appears once in the authors handwriting on the title page of his 250,000 word manuscript unpublished for three years after Noonan's death in April 1911.

Tressell is a spin doctors dream of a name even for a posthumous public life. It is brief and easy to say. It is a dignified evocation of trade tools with a quirky and memorable spelling. According to his biographer, Fred Ball, it was Noonan's universal spelling of trestle, so it is also something of a writers orthograph. Surnames are all about inheritance, two prickly thorns to an Irish gentlemen's illegitimate son in exile. Curiously, the Guinness Book Of Names credits the Norman Conquest in 1066 with the first appearance of family surnames in England, by which I'm sure they meant Hastings. Sir Graball d'Encloseland's people likely arrived with the Conqueror.

Mugsborough, alias Hastings and St Leonards is full of Saxon villains with names ripe with dynastic ambition such as Sweater, Rushton, Didlum and Grinder. But for many their allegorical byname was full of meaning, but temporary and not passed on to the next generation. Has anyone over declared with pride I come from a long line of Slymes'? In the meanwhile, the damned serfs of Mugsborough have nothing but their good names to call their own. Consider Frank Owen, and the magic he worked on the Unity Players Ragged Trousered Philanthropists adaptor, one Bill Rowbotham. He was subsequently better known as the late Bill Owen, ultimately best known as Compo.

Tressell's good name has grown throughout the Twentieth century, attracting itself to friends of powerful reputation: Unity Theatre, BBC Television, 7:84 Theatre Company (thanks to A.L Kennedy for that one), Brighton International Festival and even a Chippendale. I'm looking forward to the sight and sound of  "In The Red",  lan Chippendale's brass band musical adaptation of RTP playing in London on May 21st as a perfect warm up for the second Robert Tressell Festival Weekend.

Whether Noonan or Tressell it is always Robert, which means  "bright flame". Just another example of the sort of friendly chatter exchanged during the many walking adaptations of RTP and One Of  The Damned offered by Steve Peak, Trevor Hopper and me during the Tressell weekend. One conversation that is sure to have legs will be whether we need the new millennium to bring a new name for socialism.

Looking Forward to 2001!

We are hoping to continue with the themed Robert Tressell events in years to come. The idea for 2001 is to make the theme "Robert Tressell And The Visual Arts" involving local schools and colleges as well as local artists. We hope that we can produce murals, street art and! perhaps an art competition for schools and colleges in the area.

If anyone out there has any experience of running art competitions, or would like to take part in a public art programme around the theme of Robert Tresselis time in Hastings, and the ideas propounded in `The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" please contact us. we need to start planning as soon as possible to make the bonanza Tressell Event in 2001 as successful as possible

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Mentioning The Unmentionable.

We continue to be very lucky with our sponsorship from the GMB. We are also very grateful to Hastings Borough Council for their assistance in circulating this issue of the Newsletter. Similarly we wish to express our gratitude to the Euston Branch of the TSSA for their generous donation as well as to a number of individual donors for. their great generosity. We do however rely entirely on donations, sponsorship from Trade Unions and the proceeds of the annual festival. We have decided that we will not be asking readers for membership fees but what we would ask is that if you think your union branch or trades council would be interested in becoming affiliated to the Centre that you would approach them, if you would like any advice or literature either Susannah or Dee would be happy to help out.

Finally, if you feel you could make a small monthly donation to the Centre it would be much appreciated. A standing order is always a way for us to know that we have a guaranteed monthly income to support the distribution of the Newsletter and our ongoing educational work Our bank details are as follows; Midland Bank, 26 Norman Road, St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex, TN37 6NR. (Sot Code 40-40-09) for the credit of the Robert Tressell Centre (Account Number 01224174). Even 1 a month buys four stamps!

Other Happenings

You may have read in Tribune or in your Union Journal about an initiative to make a film of the book. This initiative actually has no connection with the Robert Tressell Centre or the Festival but we have agreed to publicise the initiative on the website. If you would like further details of this work please  contact Derek Andrews who is co-ordinating it, he can be reached at 142, Littlecroft, South Woodham Ferrers, Chelmsford, Essex, CM3 5GF

Goodnight And Farewell.

All there is left to say now is we hope that you are all well and that you are happily spreading the word about the Festival and the work of the Centre. As usual we are happy to answer any questions or try to help with any projects, just phone - the usual rules apply - not during the Sunday morning Archers Omnibus if you expect: a coherent answer! We hope to see many of you at the May Event, please sign the Visitors Book at the event and let us know who you are - you'll be able to spot us as we'll be the two looking stressed and wishing that they still smoked!

If you cannot make it to the Festival well be giving a full account in the next edition which if all goes well should be with you around mid-July

Yours Fratemally Dee Daly & Susannah Farley-Green

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