Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Working class history revival - New free courses.

The WEA (formerly known as The Workers’ Educational Association), the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of adult education has jointly organised with the GFTU a series of online discussions about key moments in working class history from the Peasant Rebellions in 1381 onwards.  

Each 90 minute session will be facilitated by a leading expert on the topic and delivered in an inclusive and accessible manner. The courses are completely free of charge. The series is titled Their Legacy – Our History. Among topics to be considered also will be the 1549 rebellions, the development of the Chartists, the fight for the provision of adult education, great women trade unionists, Winstanley and the Diggers, the Levellers, Captain Swing, how songs changed history. 

The series begins on September 15th with Labour Historian Professor Keith Gildart discussing the origin of the modern trade union movement. A recent warning by leading academic historians that the closure of two university history departments reflected the trend that was seeing British history becoming more and more a subject for the elite, has been reflected in the adult education and trade union education worlds. Working class history was one of the primary subjects alongside politics, philosophy and economics on the trade union education curriculum. Now it is rarely looked at.   

The General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) has been working to reverse this trend by commissioning, plays, poetry, songs and graphic novels which keep this history alive in an accessible format. 

Simon Parkinson Chief Executive Officer of the WEA said: "We are dedicating this new series of history courses in memory of Nigel Todd a former WEA tutor, co‐operator and working class historian. The tradition of which Nigel was an important part deserves rekindling. Whole generations of activists in trade unions and community organisations were inspired by our history of winning rights, overturning injustices and creating greater commitments to equality. We hope future generations can feel this power and the living presence of what those who went before us achieved." (See further comment https://www.wea.org.uk/news‐events/news/tribute‐nigel‐todd) 

Doug Nicholls, General Secretary of the GFTU said: "So much of our history has been deliberately buried, people might have heard of Henry VIII, but not of equally important figures like Robert Kett or Anne Askew, and there's been a reason for hiding our past. This is going to be a pioneering series of learning opportunities led by some of our great popular educators with exceptional knowledge of the subjects covered.  

 Selina Todd, Professor of Modern History at Oxford University added: "This series represents all that is best in adult and trade union education and something that my father would have been proud of.  To forget the past is to ignore the future. The areas of study in this series cover moments in time when the people made history very decisively and with an impact still felt today."    

Contacts for further information and comment:   

Doug Nicholls,  doug@gftu.org.uk 

Phil Coward,    pcoward@wea.org.uk  

 Further information. 

Founded in 1903, the WEA is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of adult education, delivering over 6,600 part‐time courses for over 39,000 people each year in England and Scotland. With the active support of around 350 local branches, 2,000 volunteers, 3,000 part‐time tutors and 5,000 members, the WEA provides high quality, student‐centred and tutor‐led education for adults from all walks of life. We also maintain our special mission to provide educational opportunities to adults facing social and economic disadvantage. For further information on the charity, please visit http://www.wea.org.uk 

The GFTU was founded in 1899 and played a leading role in providing welfare services for workers and their families, campaigning for the creation of the welfare state and was the original international arm of the British Labour Movement. It provides free adult education provision for some 2,000 learners a year and a full range of services to trade unions and community organisations, and runs a hotel and learning centre, please visit www.gftu.org.uk.


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