80 years ago in October 1936, three months after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the International Brigades were formally constituted. 40,000 volunteers from across the globe volunteered to fight fascism in Spain, and to defend the democratically elected Republican Government. 2,500 went from the UK, and 500 never returned.
The Marx Memorial Library's joint festival to mark this anniversary - with the International Brigade Memorial Trust, Townsend Productions and Unite the Union - reached a grand finale on Sunday 30 October. Highlights from Townsend Production's new ‘Dare Devil Rides to Jarama’ about the International Brigades commissioned by the IBMT were performed against the backdrop of original Spanish Civil War banners on display in the Marx Memorial Library's main hall.
This was followed by a drinks reception and the unveiling by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry MP of a plaque naming the 90 men of the British Battalion who were killed in the Battle of the Ebro in the summer of 1938. The plaque was first unveiled on the Ebro battlefield in 2005 by International Brigade veterans Bob Doyle, Jack Jones, Sam Lesser and Alan Menai Williams. It was smashed to pieces two years later by Spanish neo-fascists. A replacement was soon re-installed, but this original plaque, though damaged, now has pride of place in our memorial garden in Clerkenwell.
Meirian Jump, Archivist & Library Manager, explained that there could be no better place to host the festival. Not only was the MML founded in response to the rise of fascism in Europe, the same set of political circumstances that motivated the Brigaders to leave for Spain, but it is also home to the Spanish Collection which includes original banners, correspondence, battalion rolls and the memoirs of volunteers.
This was not only an occasion for commemoration, but also of celebration. Meirian Jump, Archivist & Library Manager, announced that the MML has just received news that it has been awarded a grant of £27,841 from the National Archives to employ a full-time professional archivist to work cataloguing the collection. This will enable access to important parts of the collection which have not yet been made available to the public for the first time, and will make the archive searchable online. Meirian explained 'the MML will soon become the research centre on the International Brigades and Aid Spain Movement in Britain'.
Tour dates and further information on Townsend Productions new play can be found here http://www.townsendproductions.org.uk/
Further information on the Spanish Collection is available here http://www.marx-memorial-library.org/collections/spain-collection