Village set to host 11th Jim Connell Festival

The annual Jim Connell Festival, commemorating the man who wrote the song 'The Red Flag", the anthem of the international labour movement, will take place this year in Crossakiel on 2nd and 3rd May. The festival will include a parade of trade unionists from all over the country and abroad, children"s entertainment and a music festival, featuring folk artist, John Spillane and the Weapons Inspectors. On Saturday 2nd May, The Weapons Inspectors will headline a gig in McCabe"s bar at 10pm, while Sunday will be the busiest day of the festival with street entertainment for children at 2pm, the Jim Connell Parade at 3pm and the music festival, beginning at 4pm. The parade will feature trade unionists from all over Ireland and overseas and members of the Rail, Marine and Transport Workers Union of London will travel to Crossakiel to take part in the parade, along with the union"s band. Two times Meteor Award winner, John Spillane, will headline Sunday"s music festival at McCabe"s, which will also feature supporting acts Fiona Melady, Joy Booth, Peadar Farrelly and Jimmy Kelly. Spillane has toured the country and the world and has been described as 'one of the truest Irish voices of his generation'. Festival chairman, Cllr Brian Collins, urged people to support the festival, which is now in its 11th year. A monument to Jim Connell was unveiled in Crossakiel in April 1998 on the spot where he addressed a crowd of 600 in 1918. He was born in nearby Kilskyre in 1852 and is famous for writing the song 'The Red Flag" in 1889, which quickly became an anthem of the international labour movement. As a teenager, Connell became involved in land agitation and, at 18, he moved to Dublin, where he worked as a casual docker, but was blacklisted for his attempts to unionise the docks. Failing to find any other work, he left for London in 1875, where he spent most of the rest of his life. He worked at a variety of jobs and was a staff journalist on Keir Hardie"s newspaper, 'The Labour Leader", and was secretary of the Workingmen"s Legal Aid Society during the last 20 years of his life. He wrote 'The Red Flag" on the train from Charing Cross to New Cross after attending a lecture on socialism at a meeting of the Social Democratic Federation. It was inspired by the London dock strike happening at that time, as well as activities of the Irish Land League, the Paris Commune, the Russian nihilists and Chicago anarchists. The song quickly became an anthem of the international labour movement. Although he wrote it to the tune of 'The White Cockade", it has come more often to be sung to the tune of 'Tannenbaum." Although a competition was held in 1925 to replace it as the Labour Party anthem in Britain and over 300 entries were received, it has not been displaced. Newly elected Labour MPs entered the House of Commons in 1945 singing it and the Rand Miners of South Africa went to the gallows singing it. It has appeared in virtually every collection of international labour songs published. Jim Connell died in 1929 in London. At his funeral in Golders Green, 'The Red Flag" was sung to both airs.

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