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Morning Star



Those of you who fancy a visit to London this week might like to see the country's democracy at work, in a historic building which resonates to the sound of politicians, campaigners and activists, writes NUJ activist and Morning Star supporter, Lynne Walsh.

You could try the Houses of Parliament, now open on Saturdays. There'll be no MPs nor peers, of course, so you wouldn't be able to question or challenge them. And a tour costs £15 for 75 minutes.

I hear you do get to see the Queen's robing room, so it may be tempting...

Or, on Saturday March 31, you could visit a Grade II listed building on the edge of the City - the Bishopsgate Institute has been home to the history of protest and the labour movement since 1895.

It's the venue chosen by Morning Star Readers' and Supporters' Groups who wanted a one-day conference, with a strong programme of speakers, some skills and planning sessions, and, quite simply, the chance to get together and build even stronger links.

It's been only about eight weeks in the planning, though some groups started on the idea shortly after the November 30 march last year.

The momentum seemed to stall for a period afterwards, and activists, as we know, get restless.

The group I chair, for Richmond and Kingston, could be as typical as any other in Britain.

We're a mix of Labour Party members (two), ex-Labour (many more), CP (a handful), SWP (two or three), plus some humanists, many trade union activists and - to my delight - a strong red streak of feminists.

When we meet, it's the Morning Star which unites us - we represent nothing but ourselves, and we find common ground.

I hope the March 31 event will continue our discussions about how Readers and Supporters Groups can make progress, not only in our support for the paper but in getting stronger and more effective as people who are more alike than we are unalike.

So I reckon the Bishopsgate is the place to be this Saturday - and more than 100 of you already think so.

We kick off at 11am, so come from 10.30am to register and sign up for workshops. You'll have a choice of four in each of four time slots, so allow a few minutes.

Morning speakers include Morning Star political editor John Haylett and Owen Jones, the author of Chavs: The Demonisation Of The Working Class.

During the short lunch break, there'll be time to stroll around the stalls. We have 14 in total now, including the Socialist History Group, Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Marx Memorial Library - and, of course, the Morning Star (I'm already building a bigger mug cupboard to house my purchases).

You'll also have a chance to look at our exhibition of photographs and other images - many of them capture powerful moments of protest.

The workshop programme is packed with punchy sessions on topics which readers put to the top of their agenda - blacklisting, the arms trade, the role of the media, health and safety, disability, pensioners' rights and mass unemployment.

We've included some activists from campaigns which have managed to grab media attention recently, from Boycott Workfare to UK Uncut, as well as Campaign Against the Arms Trade, whose outreach co-ordinator Anne-Marie O'Reilly tells us about an action planned for July, during the Farnborough Airshow, when arms dealers want to gather for a jolly at London's top art gallery.

"This year, we plan to stop the National Gallery's support for the arms trade, showing that public institutions have no business legitimising a corrupt and destructive trade."

Our afternoon plenary session includes general secretaries Bob Crow (RMT), Len McCluskey (Unite) and Michelle Stanistreet (NUJ).

In a week which has seen investigative journalism's fresh hacking allegations at the heart of News Corporation's pay-TV empire, Stanistreet says this key part of democracy can still be funded - by cutting newspaper executives' big pay packets.

As we draw to a close, there'll be time for an action which readers and supporters do regularly - digging deep into our pockets.

The big Fighting Fund collection is to be followed by some wine and song.

We're being joined by some members of the Strawberry Thieves Choir, who sing at demos, Stop the War events, labour movement meetings and at the biennial Raise Your Banners Festival of political song.

The wine reception is sponsored by Thompsons Solicitors, and while you take another chance to browse around stalls and photographs, you can wet your whistles for the finale - we'll sing the Internationale together.

Now that, my friends, is surely a better day out in London than paying 15 quid to see the Queen's robing room...

A small fee will be charged to attend - individuals £5 (waged)/£2 (unwaged). To register please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Saturday March 31, 10.30am-4.45pm, Bishopsgate Institute, London EC2M 4QH