Historic, legacy and contemporary issues were highlighted during a weekend of events linked to the International Brigade Memorial Trust’s national annual general meeting in Manchester. Guests travelled from across England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Spain for the weekend, which had events across a number of locations.
The trust looks after memorials of International Brigade volunteers and supporters, and raises awareness of the Spanish Civil War, which is often seen as the ‘first battle of the Second World War’ because of the issues and forces involved. Contemporary legacy issues are also highlighted, such as issues of democracy, monarchies and republics, and truth in dealing with difficult, polarised histories and impacts on Spain, Catalonia and the Basque country today.
Trade union Unison hosted a reception on Friday night where speakers included Vicky Knight on Unison in the north-west. She highlighted the links between trade unionists and those who supported the fight for democracy in the Spanish Civil War and beyond.
Saturday’s first talk featured guest speaker Begona del Castillo from the Confederacion Sindical de CCOO in Spain. She discussed historic memory surrounding civil war and its legacy today, and the current social and political situation in Spain, hosted by Tracy Delaney of Unison.
Another talk by Mike Wild, Michael Crowley and Tony Fox highlighted the Cheetham Hill area of Manchester’s radical history. This included radical Jewish groups, street talks, the ILP, the Communist Party and Young Communist League, activity against Oswald Moseley’s fascists, the Kinder Scout mass trespass and, later, providing key volunteers and supporters of the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War.
The Lord Mayor of Manchester, Coun Donna Ludford, formally opened the main AGM session and was presented with a book about Manchester nurse Madge Addy. The nurse was active in the Spanish Civil War then later became a spy for the Allies against fascism in the Second World War.
Rochdale MP Tony Lloyd also made an impromptu speech,
Saturday also featured music, social events, food and drink.
Sunday saw a tour of the People’s History Museum in Manchester. It has key collections of Spanish Civil War-related artefacts along with the Working Class Movement Library at Salford University.