Friday, 12 August 2016

EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL – labour movement and James Connolly

James Connolly’s life as a trade unionist and socialist activist in Edinburgh and Leith is the theme of a morning of readings, songs and commentary at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival. It takes place at 11.00 a.m. on Saturday 20 August in the International Festival centre, The Hub, at the head of the Royal Mile, near the Edinburgh Castle esplanade.

The union sponsorship making the event possible has been co-ordinated by Edinburgh Trades Union Council, which since the International Festival began in 1947, has nominated a member of the Festival Council. The current nominee is Terry Brotherstone, UCU, who is also co-ordinator of a group of trade unionists interested in increasing active union involvement with this major international event, and greater participation of trade unionists and their families in the cultural experiences it makes possible.

In 2014 a union-sponsored lecture and discussion on War Reporting – in a Festival that commemorated the beginning of World War I – featured NUJ members Lyse Doucet and Orla Guerin and was widely acclaimed. The year before Paul Mason, also an NUJ member – in a Festival programme concerned with the arts and technology – made a presentation on the role of new technologies in international protest movements.

A number of unions, or union branches, have contributed to make this initiative possible: they include EIS and EIS/ULA, Equity, the Musicians Union, the National Union of Journalists, Prospect, TESSA, Unison, Unite and the University and College Union Scotland.

This year’s event – featuring Scottish performers – recognises the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, following which Connolly was executed in Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin. But it starts from his birth, in 1868, in Edinburgh’s Cowgate; focuses on his time in Edinburgh, where he lived for longer than in any other single place; and reflects on the fact that it was in Scotland’s capital and in working-class Leith that he became a dedicated trade unionist and revolutionary socialist.

The event sold out quickly but additional tickets (at £6) were released at the end of July by The Hub booking office, Castlehill, Edinburgh, EH1 2NE; online: telephone: 0131 473 2000.