|Saturday 5th May, 11 am
Meet at the main gates Stoke Newington High St, 10.45 am
Melissa Benn, writer and campaigner, will give this year’s Bronterre O’Brien address at radical Victorian politician O’Brien’s grave, in the evocative surroundings of Abney Park cemetery.
James ‘Bronterre’ O’Brien fought, as a Chartist, for a free, untaxed press, universal suffrage and parliamentary reform in the 19th century. His radical politics brought him to the attention of the authorities and in 1840 he was charged with sedition and jailed for 18 months.
A life of poverty and ill health followed and, though friends raised money to help a man who’d sacrificed so much for the causes they shared, he spent the last years of his life bedridden. He eventually died in 1864 and was buried in a modest ceremony – as he would have wanted – in Abney Park Cemetery.
O’Brien’s campaign for banks of credit accessible to all classes and his efforts to bring education to all through his Eclectic Institute, in Denmark Street, Soho, reveal a man with enormous foresight, energy and ideas, worthy of celebration in our difficult times.
In recognition of his lasting legacy, an annual graveside address organised by the Connolly Association had been given for many years, by speakers such as Tony Benn (Melissa’s father), Arthur Scargill, and A J P Taylor interpreting O’Brien’s views on politics, radical action and journalism. After a break when the tradition had lapsed, it was revived in 2015 when the address was given by Jeremy Corbyn before he became Leader of the Labour Party.