Art is an important tool in shaping ideas, organizing and communicating to world. The life and songs of Woody Guthrie are famous in this regard. Bertolt Brecht the German dramatist summed it up this way: “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it”.
The Winnipeg MayWorks Festival began in 1994 at the time of the 75th Anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike. It was an initiative of union and other activists with the aim of exploring the lives of working people, their struggles both past and present and their future aspirations.
Other MayWorks festivals occur in Canada and labour arts festivals exist in many countries. All serve the important role of preserving and developing working class culture. We are proud to say that our MayWorks Festival is part of this effort.
The Winnipeg General Strike was about working people uniting against the conditions imposed on them by a social and economic elite, backed by the authority of government and the rule of law.
It is a history that is fresh and relevant to the present day because the same struggle and social divisions are still with us: unions cannot determine how they will bargain with the employers, new immigrants face the same prejudices and hostilities, the gap between rich and poor has grown and social inequality remains.
There are some new twists to the old struggle. Social protections such as pensions and social programs long considered milestone achievements of a “caring” society are now described as “entitlements” and “legacies” to make it easier to cut and slash them in the name of fiscal responsibility. The environment, sustainability and food security are at the mercy of the bottom line.
The Winnipeg General Strike is a part of our history that should be remembered because of what those brave workers to fight injustice. It should be remembered because history has lessons for the present. The wealth of events marking the 100th anniversary of the General Strike is testimony to its legacy and importance.
We owe a lot to the many who have kept this history alive, added new stories and understandings to our collective consciousness about the strike.
We also ask you to consider supporting the Festival by following us on Facebook, volunteering for MayWorks events and contributing financially to help us build the Festival.
You can view the full program of MayWorks 2019 events here!