Free concerts in strike centenary spotlight

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The centennial of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike will be celebrated with free concerts featuring performers such as Bruce Cockburn, Ani DiFranco and Heather Bishop, local unions announced Tuesday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/04/2019 (1330 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The centennial of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike will be celebrated with free concerts featuring performers such as Bruce Cockburn, Ani DiFranco and Heather Bishop, local unions announced Tuesday.

“We all know how labour activism and music go hand in hand,” Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour, said at a news conference to unveil the lineups for the May 25 and June 8 events. “Music has always powered our movement.”

The May 25 concert at Memorial Park, which follows a parade, is called “Solidarity Forever,” which is also the title of a 1915 union song later covered by American folk singer Pete Seeger.

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Folk Fest veteran Bruce Cockburn performs on the Main Stage Friday evening.

“Labour and the arts have a very special relationship because artists also reflect working-class values,” said Glenn Michalchuk, president of the labour arts festival MayWorks, adding the acts were chosen in part because of their ties to activism and social justice.

American artist David Rovics, for instance, whose bio calls him an “anarchist”, sings about anti-globalization and critiques foreign policy he says “represents U.S. corporate interests.”

The concert (12:30 p.m.-6 p.m.) also features Winnipeg artist Sierra Noble, James Keelaghan, and others.

On June 8, streets around Old Market Square will be closed to traffic for a free concert on the Cube Stage. The 2 p.m.-11 p.m. show will feature Canadian singer-songwriter Cockburn and U.S. musician/activist DiFranco, along with Winnipeg’s John K. Samson, Anishinaabe artist Leonard Sumner, and others.

Other commemorative events planned include a social May 11, a gala dinner May 15, and a centenary conference May 8-11 at the University of Winnipeg. The conference will involve more than 200 activists, scholars, social and labour advocates exploring the events of the 1919 strike.

Several books relating to the strike will be released, including City on Strike, a novel by Harriet Zaidman; 1919: a Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike; and a 100th-anniversary walking tour guide.

About 30,000 Winnipeg workers walked off the job during the 1919 strike, paralyzing the city. The strike, which stretched from May 15 to the end of June, “can be considered among Canada’s first steps towards entrenching a democratic government and capitalist economic base,” according to the Manitoba Historical Society.

geralyn.wichers@freepress.mb.ca

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