Network of Regional Youth Work Units England blog

A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.

Heritage Heroes – celebrating South West people who made a difference

Heritage HeroesToday, 28 August 2013, marks 50 years since Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I have a dream’ speech. Here, Gill Millar from the South West Regional Youth Work Unit reflects on her Unit’s own Heritage Heroes project and why it’s important to remember those throughout the ages who stood up to make a difference…

Members of Youth Parliament (MYPs) and other young people in the South West region have been working on a project that celebrates people from our region who have stood up and campaigned for change in their communities, comparing their struggles with the campaigns that current MYPs and other youth forums are conducting on behalf of young people in their areas.

A rich history

The South West has a rich history of pioneers including suffragettes, anti-slavery campaigners, and the first woman English Member of Parliament, as well as the Tolpuddle Martyrs – without whose example the trade union may not have emerged. Often these stories are lost or ignored, and young people may not be aware of those who have gone before them.

The ‘Heritage Heroes’ theme has been woven through the activities of UK Youth Parliament and SW Regional Youth Conventions throughout 2013. The annual induction residential for MYPs in March introduced the idea, and MYPs spent time researching individual histories.

Tolpuddle Festival

For one strand of the project, MYPs attended the annual Tolpuddle Festival in Dorset in July to find out more about how the martyrs were imprisoned and deported for campaigning for workers’ rights, and took part in debates about equalities and issues for young people. The Festival also provided an opportunity to promote MYPs’ current campaign for a Curriculum for Life, inviting festival goers to sign their petition calling for better personal, social and relationships education in schools.

Last week 80 MYPs and youth workers met at Tolpuddle where they were given a tour by Nigel Costley from the South West TUC- this was a chance for them to see the tree where the martyrs met as well as the grave of James Hammett, the only martyr who returned to Tolpuddle after deportation.

sw martyrsFrom there they went on to Shire Hall in Dorchester and saw the cells where they were imprisoned and the courtroom which imposed their sentence of transportation to Australia. Also in the dock that day was Martyn Underhill, Police & Crime Commissioner for Dorset charged with answering questions on what the PCC would be doing for young people.

Partnership building

The South West Regional Youth Work Unit co-ordinated the project, which has been a great example of the kind of partnership we can pull together through our regional and national networks. We worked with Dorset Museums Service, South West TUC and a range of local authorities and voluntary youth organisations, supported by a grant from Heritage Lottery Fund.

More information about the project will be available soon, as we complete the final report. Check our website for more information.

Gill Millar
Regional Youth Work Unit at Learning South West

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