Gdansk – 8

The next room moves on to 1980. An economic crisis led to the Communist government authorizing an increase in food prices for the summer of 1980. Once again a revival of labor disturbances erupted throughout the nation. Workers of the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk went on strike in mid-August, sparked by the firing of Anna Walentynowicz a crane operator, who was regarded as a trouble-maker by the management at the shipyard. Led by electrician Lech Wałęsa, the workers took control of the shipyard and demanded labour reform and greater civil rights including the freedom of expression and religion, and the release of political prisoners. The original 21 demands of the Inter-Factory Strike Committee written on plywood were hung on Gate 2 of the Gdansk Shipyard (this gate appears further along in the museum as it was destroyed by a T55 tank during a period of Martial Law). In 2003, these items were placed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Demand number 1 was the authorities should accept that Trade Unions such as Solidarity be independent. Number 2 was the guarantee of the right to strike. On the third day of the strike, on August 16, 1980, management granted Lenin Shipyard workers their working and pay demands. Lech Wałęsa and others announced the end of the strike. Two women at the shipyard, Anna Waletynowicz and Alina Pienkowska, managed to close the gates of the shipyard and keep some workers inside. Wałęsa was stopped near the Gate No° 1 as he was leaving, and was persuaded to change his plans and return to the shipyard. Over the next few days, he led the negotiations on the worker’s side and Mieczysław Jagielski was the main negotiator for the government. The Gdańsk Agreement was signed on 31 August 1980, recognizing the right to organize free trade unions independent of the Party for the first time in the Communist bloc. When the Solidarity trade union was registered shortly after the Gdańsk Agreement, it had nearly ten million members, the world’s largest union to date.

British 70s protest-music chronicle wins music book of the year

Daniel Rachel’s Walls Come Tumbling Down, an exhaustive account of the Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge movements, takes the Penderyn music book prize

Weimar memories: walking Berlin … in a flâneur’s footsteps

Armed with Franz Hessel’s cult guidebook, Walking in Berlin, published in 1929, Vanessa Thorpe is transported back to the city’s decadent period

Travels through History: France

The south-eastern part of France has an abundance of historical interest. From the Roman theatres of Arles and Orange to the Cathar castles in the foothills of The Pyrenees there is much to see and remember.

There are mysteries too.

Why would the Roman Catholic Church create a crusade against the Cathar ‘heretics’ when these people were following such a devout life? How did the Romans build the Pont du Gard so quickly as part of a 40-mile water channel to provide water to Nimes? What did Bérenger Saunière discover in Rennes-le-Chateau that made him so wealthy?

Added to the history and the mystery are a host of natural wonders, beautiful scenery, and familiar names appearing in unfamiliar places.

Sports the Olympics Forgot – The Anti-Pope Games from Avignon

This is an excerpt from the Anti-pope Games story in my book, Sports the Olympics Forgot

The next oldest race is the Greyhound Race that dates from 1621. Here the artificial hare is chased around three laps of the track by greyhounds dressed in monk’s costumes. The hare wears a Papal Crown and carries a Papal Staff. Again this is a toned-down version of the original where a real hare, wearing a mitre, was hunted to death by greyhounds. Nowadays, the winning greyhound and owner receive a kennel for the dog that is modelled on the Pope’s Palace at Avignon. A greyhound named Luther has won the race the most times with seven wins in the period 1898 – 1905.

Dating from 1645 the oldest athletics event is the Papal shot-put where contestants have to land their throws in a Papal mitre that is placed 15 meters and 17 centimeters from the rim of the shot-put circle. Each contestant is allowed six attempts at this accuracy contest and the winner is the person who lands their put in the hat the most times. Hugo Benjamin Draxler won the event thirteen times between 1794 and 1831. Draxler has been an important figure in the Games as he also lobbied the organizers to introduce a spear throwing contest where the aim and the rules were literally the same as those of the shot-put contest. After the success of the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris both a discus and a hammer contest were introduced in 1925 with the Papal Mitre situated 60 meters and 68 centimeters from the throwing circle. No one has ever won the Discus event and the Hammer event has been won just once in 1958 by the Soviet Anatoli Timofftichuk.