Rebel Festival brings Jeremy Corbyn and controversial RMT union boss to Jarrow as UK hit by rail strikes

Jarrow’s Rebel Town festival has added very topical and controversial speaker to address the crowds.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Jarrow MP Kate Osborne will now be joined by Alex Gordon, president of the RMT rail union. The festival takes place on Saturday, June 25 on what will be the third day of industrial action by the union.

The annual festival commemorates the 1832 story of the seven men who were deported to an Australian penal colony for a crime they almost certainly did not commit. It also marks the Jarrow’s role in the history of Britain’s industrial relations since the 1830s.

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The addition of Mr Gordon in the wake of the strike makes the 2022 festival even more politically charged.

Jarrow's Rebel Festival 2022 takes place on Saturday, June 25. Picture by Kevin Brady.
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David Douglass, a festival organiser and former National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) official, doesn’t expect the event to be affected by travel disruption as those attending are mainly local.

However, he firmly supports the strike.

Mr Douglass said: “This is the most important industrial dispute since the Miners’ Strike in my view, so it was important to invite Alex Gordon to mark the current struggles.

Speakers Jeremy Corbyn and Jarrow MP Kate Osborne will be joined in Jarrow by RMT president Alex Gordon.

“The only way workers can improve their living standards is through unions and unions aren’t a lot of good if they’re being de-powered.

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“I’ve heard other workers saying how low-paid they are. Well the problem for the railway workers it that they’re going to be low-paid as well.

“They’re only asking for their wages to be where they were before inflation. So they’re only standing still really. The fact that others have fallen so far through the safety net is a really good argument for joining trade unions.”

But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the Commons it was: “A strike orchestrated by some of the best-paid union barons representing some of the better-paid workers in this country, which will cause misery and chaos to millions of commuters.”

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Away from politics, Rebel Town Festival offers much entertainment with a host of live musical performances.

The day starts at the Jarrow entrance to the Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel at 10.30am. Mr Corbyn will later speak from a platform outside the Albion Gin & Ale House in Walter Street.