Momentum to hold festival to celebrate Labour’s ‘extraordinary comeback’ at party conference

'Events like these complement the main conference, open up politics and help develop a strong campaigning movement to elect a Labour government for the many not the few,' said Jeremy Corbyn

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Thursday 10 August 2017 12:42
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a Momentum rally in July 2016
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a Momentum rally in July 2016

Momentum has announced it will launch its second four-day festival alongside Labour’s annual autumn conference in Brighton to celebrate the party’s “extraordinary comeback” at the general election.

The grassroots organisation, set up in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s first victory for the leadership of the party in 2015, now boasts over 27,000 members and expects this year’s festival to be held across nine different venues in the city, including a nightclub and a church turned art gallery.

Welcoming the announcement of the event - to run under the banner of The World Transformed - the Labour leader said Momentum's event had "shown itself to be a powerful new space on the Labour Party conference fringe for people to debate policies, exchange ideas, and expand our political horizon with arts, music and culture".

“Events like these complement the main conference, open up politics and help develop a strong campaigning movement to elect a Labour government for the many not the few," Mr Corbyn added.

During last year’s conference, which attracted more than 5,000 people and hosted 150 hours of workshops, Mr Corbyn made multiple appearances at Momentum’s festival, alongside senior figures in the union movement and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. At one event he thanked Momentum activists for their “significant” contribution to his second leadership contest.

“This event here might be described as some kind of fringe extreme. I see the kind of discussions that are in this programme here absolutely central and mainstream to how people think and what we're trying to do,” Mr Corbyn added at the time.

His comments came after the organisation faced heavy criticism in the build-up to the party’s 2016 conference, with Neil Kinnock, the former Labour leader, describing it as a “parasitic” organisation with its own policies and purposes that was “leeching” on the party he led for nearly a decade. His comments came after a Channel 4 documentary into Momentum, claiming it had been infiltrated by hard-left Trotskyists.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell at Momentum's festival in 2016

But during this year’s general election, Momentum was widely praised for it’s campaigning efforts and ability to reach people in marginal constituencies by employing techniques used in Bernie Sanders’ camp during the Democratic party's presidential primaries in the United States.

The organisation claimed shortly after the inconclusive election result that they played a key role in the Labour victories in Canterbury and Kensington – seats previously considered unwinnable for many within the party. Activists at the left-wing organisation added that over 100,000 people – nearly one fifth of Labour members – used one of their platforms to find their nearest marginal constituency and access canvassing times.

Momentum supporters gather at Liverpool's Black-E building for their fringe festival of politics in Liverpool, 2016

In an attempt to replicate Labour’s “fun”, the Conservative MP George Freeman revealed earlier this month that he planned to establish a “Tory Glastonbury” event for party activists and their families as a way to bolster the Tories’ dwindling grassroots support. He told The Financial Times he had already raised £25,000 for the idea, adding: “Why is it the left who have all the fun in politics?”

Anastasia Palikeras, an organiser of the World Transformed said that unlike Mr Freeman’s Conservative event, “our city wide festival will be open to the public, attract thousands of visitors and span nine venues across Brighton”.

She added: “The World Transformed will be a chance to celebrate Labour’s extraordinary comeback, while also debating the ideas that will shape the future of Britain and seriously considering what a Corbyn led government could achieve.”

The event, next month in Brighton, will host over 200 speakers, including Mr McDonnell, the Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti, award-winning director Ken Loach and veteran and author Harry Leslie Smith. A four-day “hackathon” will also take place, to build “the tools needed to win the next election”, organisers added.

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