Robert Tressell Centre Newsletter – EDITION FIVE , Summer 2002.
Tolpuddle and Banners
Dublin's Fair City
Dear Tressell Enthusiast,
Apologies for the very long delay in issuing this Newsletter, Unfortunately this has been due to a problem with funding which has left us very unclear about how we can move forward with the Centre and the Festival. We suffered a great deal at last years event with the moving of the General Election and consequently had a much poorer turnout than in previous years. This obviously had a knock on effect on our finances which has meant we have spent much of the last year trying to establish how we can move forward.
We have come to the conclusion therefore that regretfully it is simply not financially possible for us to run a full Festival this year. The GMB have undertaken to assist us financially next year so we will be up and running again in 2003 - guaranteed! We are terribly sad not to be having a Festival this year, although they are very hard work to organise we do enjoy them enormously. Hopefully with a whole year to organise next years Event we will be able to make it particularly special. We still have all your suggestions from last year so we will be putting them into action for the next event.
I would ask that you are patient with us, we are all volunteers and organise the Festival and issue the Newsletter and do all the other things to publicise Tressell's life and work in our own time. Most of us have full time jobs as well as a myriad of other commitments outside work. We do try our best but as the society has a very hand to mouth existence it can be very difficult to be as efficient as we would like.
Once again we are very grateful to Southern Region of the GMB for assisting us financially and practically with the production and distribution of the printed edition of the Newsletter, particular thanks to Derek Hunter, Regional Secretary and Mark Thikell, Political Officer.
We have had lots of ideas for trying to get other fundraising methods going but none have had a dramatic effect so far. Many supporters have suggested appealing to other Trade Unions. I have in fact written to every General Secretary of a TUC affiliated union in the UK at least twice asking for Publicity in union Journals and/or financial assistance. Unfortunately I have had virtually no replies. If you are union members and think you may be able to put us in touch with a supportive voice in your union please let us know.
And now for the good news following all the doom and gloom!
Tolpuddle and Banners
At the last Tressell Festival our stunning new banner was unveiled. It is done in the traditional manner and features a portrait of Tressell in the Centre and some very intricate detail that reflects Tressell's life and work. It was produced by local Hastings signwriter, Pete Thompsett and was actually still wet when unveiled in May 2001. I have to admit that your correspondent did have a tear in her eye when it was revealed as it is the most beautiful piece of work and does great justice to both Pete and the great man himself. The banner was paid for by Southern Region of the GMB to whom we are so very grateful for allowing us to produce this permanent reminder of Tressell's massive contribution to socialism and literature.
Pete has now been commissioned by Southern Region of the GMB to produce a formal portrait of Tressell for donation to Hastings Museum and Art Gallery where the Fred Ball Archive is lodged. As far as we are aware there is no portrait in existence of Tressell although we are lucky enough to have access to contemporary photographs of him for Pete to work from. We hope that the portrait will be complete towards the end of the year and will be unveiled in October. It is planned that both the banner and the portrait will be reproduced as postcards by the GMB and will be available for sale through us.
The Hastings and East Sussex Branch of the GMB organise an annual trip to the Tolpuddle Festival each July. This year we were able to take our wonderful Tressell Banner along to have it's first real outside airing. It was wonderful to see so many old friends from our Festival who saw the banner and immediately came to say hello. The effect that the banner had on visitors to Tolpuddle was wonderful; it was definitely the most photographed banner in the area that day and acted as a great ambassador for Mugsborough. We made a lot of new contacts at Tolpuddle and hopefully when we are back up and running fully in 2003 some of these new supporters will be able to come along. We will be going along to the Tolpuddle Festival again this year; complete with banner so if you catch sight of us do come and say hello.
Dublin's Fair City
One of our most staunch supporters, Ron Bill has done some amazing work with the Dublin Writers Museum and the Irish Painters and Decorators Union. Ron noticed that the Dublin Writers museum had no display on one of the city's most famous authors when he visited a couple of years ago. Ron, with the help of friends from the Painters and Decorators Union decided to rectify this oversight. He has negotiated with the Writers Museum to put together a display and a copy of the best known portrait has been made courtesy of Hastings Museum and Art Gallery. This is in the process of being framed as I write and will be unveiled by Ruari Quinn on the 18th April followed by a brief reception. Two of us from Hastings are hoping to attend the event and will ensure that photos are taken and that an account of the unveiling will appear in the next Newsletter and on the website.
The Dublin end of Tressell's story has always been the time that least was known about. This deficiency is also being addressed at present and hopefully in the next Newsletter we will have more news of exciting progress. Tressell is to be the subject of a lot of interest in Dublin over the next couple of years, not only will the display be unveiled in April but it has also been suggested that we transfer the Festival one year in its entirety to the City of Noonan's birth. This seems like a wonderful idea to us and is the early stages of pre-planning to establish how it could work. Very tenuously we are looking at 2004 for this very special event where I'm sure we could all learn so much and meet new enthusiasts from the other side of the Irish Sea. We will keep you informed as work progresses.
If you do visit Dublin at all - and I can thoroughly recommend it (your correspondent may be biased however as many of my family hail from that part of the world and still live there!). In addition to the new display at the Writers Museum in Parnell Square if you take a walk round near St Stephen's Green have a look at a map and make your way to Wexford Street where you will find the plaque erected to commemorate Noonan's birthplace. It really is very easy to find (honest - I managed to find it very quickly last weekend), it is above the cycle shop at the top end of Wexford Street near the junction of Aungier Street. It is a very distinctive plaque, beautifully made and well worth trying to find. To find it also takes you off the tourist trail a bit and lets you see another side of the Fair City.
Our congratulations are extended to Ron and his colleagues for this achievement after all their incredibly hard work over the last year to get the permanent display dedicated to Tressell and his work off the ground.
As we were unable to hold a full Festival this year we wanted to do something to make sure that Tressell was commemorated in some way in Hastings in 2002. To mark the Anniversary of the Battle of Hastings there is a week long series of events each October and we have decided to organise a talk in the Hastings Museum and Art Gallery or in the Library about Tressell during this week. If our planning runs smoothly we also plan to coincide this event with the unveiling of the portrait mentioned earlier. When we have some final dates in mind we will let everyone know so if you are local enough you will be able to come along to support us (or if you live a very long way off and are very dedicated!)
We have some other projects, which remain ongoing. One of the most important of these is the re-printing of One Of The Damned. We were delighted when Jackie Slocombe (Fred Ball's wife) and some of her family attended last years event. I spoke to her at some length and she confirmed to me that she holds the copyright to One Of The Damned and would be delighted to see it republished. We are now in the process of attempting to find a publisher to re-publish this immensely important book.
In addition to this we were also contacted by Barbara Phillips, who edited a young people's version of the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists in the early 1970's. This was done totally with Fred's co-operation and he gave his full approval to the project but unfortunately the book was never published. We are also keen for Barbara's version to be published and hope that we can get both books published at around the same time.
Well, that's about all the news for now, once again we are so sorry that we couldn't put on a Festival this year, it will be a shame not to see many of you for a year. But we will be back in 2003 bigger and better than ever. Now that our finances are more secure we will be in touch far more often with news about all the events and news mentioned in this Newsletter. If you have any ideas or suggestions for events or fundraising we would be delighted to hear from you at the usual address or via e-mail.
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