I was a little surprised by one of the other speakers (and I don't mean our Andy Croft) who wondered whether there would have been so much interest had it been the "Norwegian Civil War" because of the romantic nature of Spain and the Spanish people. Would 2,500 British people have travelled to fight in Norway? Yes, actually, had the situation and times been the same. Anti-fascism is not determined by the number of fjords a country has.
International Brigade... Cable Street... There are a number of good reports and photos on line. A good place to start is http://stevesilver.org.uk/blog/battle-of-cable-street-75-anniversary/. And then back home in time to pack for a Leicester Trades Council event celebrating the Dirty Thirty, with David Bell speaking to the Five Leaves' book of the same name and Alan Parry singing, including the song he has written about the group. Eight or so of the Dirty Thirty were present including Malcolm Pinnegar and Darren Moore who spoke, and Johnny Gamble, who got his own special cheer for being the only man in his pit to have gone on strike. Jane Bruton, a nurse, who used to be involved in the women's support group also spoke, reading out old minutes and letters from back in the day. This was the second evening in a row that ended with the Internationale - though in this case not the Billy Bragg version, but the full strength original version, standing, with clenched fists aloft.
Finally, today I attended a meeting of local UNISON members who were taking up the Six Book Challenge as part of their Union Learning. It became a Seven Book Challenge as they were presented with copies of the Five Leaves' Nottingham anthology Sunday Night and Monday Morning. A printer we had dealings with found 400 copies of the book in their warehouse which we had not accounted for and we have been steadily finding ways of giving them away to good homes. Why is reading so important to trade unionists? Apart from its intrinsic value, and the value of building a reading culture in the workplace, as the number of veterans of the Spanish Civil War and Cable Street - and even the 84/85 NUM pass on - we can find out what they thought at the time, what they believed in, find their stories, their tall tales, and find what they can teach us through books. Reading allows us to meet remarkable people doing remarkable things. UNISON is doing a great job working with the Reading Agency to promote reading in the workplace.