People’s March for Jobs, 1981

People's March for Jobs, 1981

People's March for Jobs, 1981

With unemployment now rising fast once again, this is a badge which will stir some rather pointed memories of the recession of the early 1980s.

The People’s March for Jobs set off from Liverpool on 1 May 1981 to draw attention to the plight of the unemployed. Every day, thousands of supporters joined the core 500 marchers, culminating in a rally at Brockwell Park in south London on 30 May. 

The march was organised by the North West, West Midlands and South East regions of the TUC, and consciously drew on the hunger marches of the 1930s.

During the march, Labour MP David Winnick drew attention to the plight of those who were without work, pointing out that 6,000 people were joining the dole queues every day while 400,000 had been out of work for more than 12 months.

Unemployment continued to be a major economic problem, blighting people’s lives for years to come. A second People’s March for Jobs took place in 1983. On their arrival in London, the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher refused to meet a deputation.

61 Responses

  1. I am dropping a line to say I remeber the peoples march well as I was one of the first marchers out of Liverpool and one to step into Trafalgar sq it was one of my proudest moments of my life even though I am disabled now my life changed altogether from the onwards I moved down south found work and never looked back until now it seems like time has gone back and my heart goes out to all those people who have lost there jobs Ionly hope times change soon because its not a happy feeling god bless

    • hello i am replying to your comment to say my uncle was on the peoples march for jobs in 1981 and he was also one of the people at the very front. that was also one of his proudest moments his name was anthony cope aka dobbin 🙂 he sadly is alive anymore, he passed away before i was born but i heard alot about him!

      • Hi jade, don’t know if you will ever see this reply but was your uncle from the West Midlands, I was on the march and I seem to remember someone called Tony Cope but it could just be a coincidence

    • Hi Robin i was there with you mate i remember putting my boots on the first day , my dad was in the army for 28 years and gave me loads of tips , befor the march i soaked my feet everyday in some purplestuff put clean socks on every day he said , only cotten and it woked but still very hard and so so proud when i finished just wish the higher arkys did not soak up all the glory and where there for the marchers at the end like they was at the begining, when i got of the train at lime street that the raielway union put on for us there was not one union afficial there to greet us i was so disappointed, just wish there was a book full of photos or a full dvd or someone made a film of the march,[like the one made of the trapped minners, oh well just a thought he he, anyway good to see people talking about it on this page ,,,,, ps going for a job mon first chance of one for months should i mention the march, keep smileing every one ,,a rimmer

  2. i remember the peoples march going through wembley i was still at school but i was working part time in a shop, i didnt appreciate back then but i do now, i can see it happening again and i will probabley join the march if they have another one, the country is f—-d

  3. hi i was on the peoples march for job’s in the mid 70’s
    from wolverhampton.
    im fed up with the curent rate of pay we are going to try get £10.00 per hour and march for better and more job’s.

  4. Hello there, I can remember the peoples march for jobs too,i was also still at school with a weekend job.I travelled to london with my dad and his workmates,what a fantastic experience and cause,i too still have the badge and the t-shirt too and i can still remember the ridiculous price of an ice-cream down there!.

  5. My husband Harry Wilkinson was also a proud marcher in the Chesterfield contingent, marching EVERY step of the way. He wore out his knee joints on that march, but never complained! I remember that his sweat shirts had shrunk up his arms through getting drenched in the terrible weather they marched through. He treasured all his momentos, unfortunately the organisers got his name wrong on his mug! I am his very proud widow.

  6. I was ont he peoples march in 1981 with my brother Raymond,and unemloyed and also from Liverpool.

    I remember walking into trafalgar square with my comrades and being very proud knowing that we marched from Liverpool to London in a fight against unemloyment.

    the reception and support we got on that day in may will always stay with me,and Ive still got my mug with my name on it and I cherish it. I was also proud when we held aloft the Jarrow crusade banner,what a honour.

    Gary Rogers

    R.I.P Tony Boyle.

  7. my brother was on the people’s right to work march9 (john mills), and i now find that my children twenty nine years on are discusing with this hung parliament. that they are thinking of forming a website and getting enough people together and walking again.

    to show that the younger generation can do. may be we should once again get with them and all walk again.

    have we really not come learned any thing, from twenty yrs.

  8. Those who do not learn from history’s mistakes are doomed to repeat them.
    I was on the march in 1983 (Westmidlands marchers)
    Here we go again with the same same only different.
    I live abroad now but feel for the people that have to endure the tyranny again. Anarchy is the only way to achieve any sort of order out of this chaos and allow humanity to move forward.

    Mick Doyle

  9. Hi, I was too young to take part in the march but I remember it being on TV and when I left school a few years latter how the situation had not got any better.

    I would like one of the origional tee shirts. Does anyone have one for sale or know the whereabouts of one?



    • Hi Nigel just read that you would like one of the original teashirts?I marched from Bradford and was very proud to do so. Ithink I still have acouple of teashirts, as I am noe entering my 78t year I do not think Iwill be using them again, anyway I have put on meight since then, so would have a struggle to get into them.
      Brian Sunderland West Yorks

  10. My Dad, Robbie Keegan went on the peoples march for jobs from liverpool. I recently spottedhim on Alan Davis teenage revolution on channel 4. My Dad died in1990 and it was brilliant to see him on telly unexpectantly. I am trying to find more footage of the march, so I can have more to show my kids.

    • Hi John I was on the peoples march with your Dad, I have quite a few pictures of your dad I used to work with him on the council in Green Lane I’ve been trying to get in touch with you so how can I get in touch with you so I can give you some of the copies.
      Danny from Norris Green.

  11. When I was a third year student nurse my dad Bill Jones (UCATT) told me that the organisers were looking for a volunteer to look after basic first aid. I took the job. It remains one of the truly magnificent experiences of my life. Every day brought something extraordinary. Every day I saw something I have never forgotten. And I walked all the way to London from Liverpool. I still feel grateful to the people who looked after us everywhere we went, opening up their homes and their hearts to us. An incredible incredible experience. When will BBC4 make the documentary?

  12. howdi!

  13. I was on the 1981 march from Sheffield to London, joining the Liverpool leg at Bedford if I remember rightly. Nothing much seems to have changed, the rich just keep getting richer and the workers pay for the mess capitalism creates.

  14. Hi Chris I was on the march and started out at Bradford i remember walking into Sheffield and the magnificent response we got from the people there . Can you remember at the meeting there when the audience was asked to give money for us, £5 and £10 notes were falling like confetti from the balconys. I will never forget that. Getting a bit long in the tooth now for further marches (78 next) The March for Jobs is something I will never forget and am very proud to have taken part

    Sincerly Brian Sunderland Silsden BD20 0NS

  15. I was in Trafalgar Square when the march arrived and it was a very moving sight for me as an 18-year-old. I left with one of the pin badges shown on this site and still have it as a reminder of how strong the unemployed were at that time. As I am now signing on, it has even more resonance.

  16. If the BBC ever wanted to make a documentary about the march, I seem to remember that it was featured quite heavily on the Nationwide programme on BBC1 at the time.

  17. I remember being on the Mach from Liverpool to London. I was a delegate from the EETPU at the Barbican in London and working as an Electrician. My colleagues paid for me to get the train to Liverpool and covered my rent whilst I spent the month on the road. They even managed to get my job back for me when I got back into London. It was one of the most memorable times of my life. We slept in Council offices, people’s houses and were fed and watered all the way down. We were given money to spend by the miners and clean pants to wear, sleeping bags and T-shirts by the TUC people. It was a hard slog, but great fun. I carried the Jarrow Banner and met so many wonderful people. It was fantastic coming into Trafalgar Square and a real party atmosphere. I even had a ghetto blaster with me and played Jazz-Funk on it as we walked through the streets of London. I hope there’s a documentary made of it. I often see clips on TV of the march. Shame that we may have to do it all again….

    • Ha ha ha! I remember you! You turned me on to a band called the Jeff Lorber Fusion! “Think Back and Remember”. I still love it!

  18. Blimey… so I did! How are you? You on Facebook? Connect to me there if you want, i’d love to hear from you! Jeff’s playing in London this month – I think! Glad I did something right in converting you to Jazz-Funk…. To be honest, I think I drove most people mad during the March….

    • Which Keith Aldis are you? There are a few. Look me up on FB. Chris Jones, with a profile picture of Yuri Gagarin

  19. I’m the keith Aldis, as pictured as Catweazle in the bath! Looks like we share a sense of humour! LOL

  20. hi i was the only person from Southport on the peoples march for jobs i was in ucatt been trying to find some photos when we took off from hq liverpool it was a hard walk but it was worth every bit of pain because walking into london the reseption was amazzing just as it was all the way from liverpool god bless all the martchers from a rimmer/southport

  21. Hi, I too was on the peoples march for jobs 1981, We actually brought the Jarrow Banner down with us from the North East to the Pier Head Liverpool, I was 17 at the time.

  22. Hi everyone
    I was on the peoples march for jobs May 81, i walked from Liverpool to london, iv just done this search to see if i could find some pic’s, lots of love to you fellow marchers out there, iv even still got my mug.
    Paul Smart

    • hi paul
      it so sad seeing so many people out of work, and getting a job is so hard even when there is some to get, everyone wants c.v this and check that and nvqs i think you need to go to collage to get a cleaning job now days, and to get a job back in the building tread again is nill with so many things you need,(so stop all this red tape) people just want to work and earn a wage not
      go to collage or at 55 years old

    • hi paul
      it so sad seeing so many people out of work, and getting a job is so hard even when there is some to get, everyone wants c.v this and check that and nvqs i think you need to go to collage to get a cleaning job now days, and to get a job back in the building ind again is nill with so many things you need,(so stop all this red tape) people just want to work and earn a wage not
      go to collage or at 55 years old

    • I’ve still got my jacket and my T shirts. They must have shrunk, because they dont go near me now!

      • ive still got my jacket but you can hardly see the logo on the back, the funny thing is i was walking around Newcastle last week going for a job itw that was a waist of time ,anyway there was someone selling the big issue so i asked where some street was and they were polish and couldent understand me . bless em

  23. kev i remember that banner i had my turn walking with it , i so much respect everyone that did the march . not that it did much good . no one has the balls any more because if you have a job your lucky and shit scared to say anything . the world has gone to the dogs no one has a right now , i loved to talk about what.s right and what.s wrong but now your not allowed to stick up for your self….

  24. Hi Kev,

    Thanks for the link to the photographs they bring back great memories.I can remember you only from looks on the picture Im from liverpool and on the far right of the picture is a guy called Tony Boyle he is the one with the pa speaker attached to his waste he was one of the stewards also from Liverpool,sadly Tony is no longer with us anymore.

    Im on a couple of the pictures myself number 76 where Im stood on the side applauding the yorshire contingent after we have finished and Im on the picture 99 just before embarking in to Trafalgar square. It was a big chapter in my life and a great experience and I also went to see the plaque and was also disappointed with its removal. I remember the unvailing of the plaque with Ken Livingston.

    Gary Rogers,


  25. Sorry picture 74 not 76 but great images again,

    Gary Rogers.

  26. Hi kev great photo i remember you mate and as Gary said tony boyel , i wish we could all meet up fo a beer someday, i was the only one from southport, i was in ucatt then ,with chris lee , ive been in spain for 9 years but back now and not worked for months its all changed poeple dont seem to give a toss for anyone anymore , that thatch woman really did her job and split people up, anyway im glad to know people are still looking in , alan

  27. i joined the peoples march in leicester with my sister and 10 other marchers. i was only 20 and one of the few women on the march. i look back on the march and wonder how I did it ? walking to London the long way! like so many other pmarchers, while you were walking it was a hard slog , but the friendships, the experiences and the warmth of working people in every town you went through was over whelming.

    i’m still proud of myself and no one believes i did it because i have no photos or any thing. it was a great event to be part of.


  28. Hi gagarin,

    I do remember you with the vasaline and plasters,but giving us new boots by the organisers to walk in didn’t help over the treck.

    I remember that band who walked with us called the Quads who done the odd supportive roll, when we would get the odd free concert from the Beat and the kind heatred UB40 to go to.

    One of the funiest moments was when we went to see Paul Young with the Q-tips and we all jumped on the stage and the bloody thing collapsed.

    Great memories and great people, especially from the labour run councils, who offered their homes when putting marchers up for the night. Another lad who was with me and my brother, from Liverpool, was Keith Mullin, who made a sucessful career for himself with the band called the Farm.

    It’s a pity keith wasn’t as friendly as he was when we bunked together on the March after I met him at the M.T.V awards in Liverpool Echo Arena,but that’s a different story.

    Gary Rogers,

  29. Martin Jenkinson Obit was in the Morning star last week ,A great photograph and good red

  30. i was on the marchh liverpool to london i was 17 and from ellesmere port i was rooting in the loft and came across a box with my jacket t shirt sighned by loads of people even venessa redgrave id like to know how a lad called spike is he was a punk rocker and how he managed to walk because his jacket weighed about 100 pounds full of studs etc i met the best people on that march inperticular auther from birmingham who is no longer alive but i kept in toutch for years after the march it changed my life ienjoyed every step felt so proud and met my wife of 26 years what a brilliant month and even went on the train versionof march for jobs later on

  31. hi peoples i was on the march in 1981 the only person from scunthorpe i am looking for the photo of us arriving in london. with big ben at 12 o clock i was hoidng the banner rope can any one help? it was an amazing experience for a 16 year old and i will never forget. can any one remember the name of the magazine that had the colour picture of me on the back cover? cheers . paul.

    • I have only just got a laptop, so I have only just seen your message regarding the People’s March for jobs, the name of the magazine you wanted is the ‘News Line’, from the date May 1st to May 30th 1981. I’m just looking at the picture of you holding the rope of the banner which is at the back of the magazine. You can go onto Martin Jenkinson’s website to see around 200 pictures of the March. Do you know of any other sites that are about the people’s march? If you want to send me your email address I can scan and send you a copy of the picture.

    • Hi I believe the paper was called News Line, and of course the other was the Morning Star. That march was one of the proudest moments in my life. I was on the Eastern leg Huddersfield to London and marched every inch of the way
      Brian Sunderland

  32. Hi I was no the people’s march for jobs in 1981 from Barnsley , it was a great experience. I can remember seeing ub40 madness the beat and joe Jackson but the best band I so were a called general saint and Clint Eastwood wonder if they are still going

  33. hi i was on that march back then also, along with my friend and my father the only 3 black people on the march it was such an experience one that i will never forget, i appreciated how people came together to fight for a cause, quite a few pictures were taken of my friend and myself, but only found one of her and not of myself, would love to see some more pictures to see if i can find any of me also so that i can show not only my children but also my grand children, if u can help please send me a link or attachments to my email address, would be much appreciated thank you.

  34. Hi
    I was on a peoples march for jobs from Seacombe Ferry to Manchester sponsored by the Spillers workers tgwu.I remember Frank Filed turning up to have his photo taken at the beginning and then getting a taxi to Liverpool whilst we marched. We stayed in some quaker halls in St Helens. I rememeber the organiser was pete clee, other marchers where John Best and his dad. I remember staying in a house in Salford and then going onto a anti bnp march in Manchester.

  35. Hi to everyone who was on the march in May 1981, I was 23 when I joined the march as it crossed from Walsall into Wednesbury under the M6 at junction 9. I’ve still got the original t-shirt and coat we were given towards the end of the march so we could look smart as we walked into London. I got the t-shirt signed by Tony Benn, Vanessa Redgrave, and a few other celebs, met Michael Foot and some nice girls from up north, hi to Rebecca Lacey, Pam Jaquett and friends. I have quite a few photos that bring back many memories and of course the Marchers Mug we were presented with some time after the march. Fond memories.

  36. Has anyone seen the new Tony Benn film, there is a part in which he is leading the marchers through London with some marchers clearly visible in the picture walking along side Tony and a great shot of the Peoples March for Jobs banner in the background

  37. Hi guys just a short reply I was also on the Peoples March For Jobs and set of from liverpool I was 21 years old but was just trying to find any information about the presentation mugs each marcher recieved at the end I still have mine it has a map of the two routes my name and my marcher number just wondering if any one else still had thiers

    • Hi just read your remarks. I was on the Huddersfield leg and also walked every inch of the way. I was 48 years old at the time, 82 next week. A bit long in the tooth for any more marches, but enjoyed every bit of it. And was very proud to have taken part. It is time there was another one with this lot in government now. Unfortunately my mug got broken many years ago, but still remain many memories of the time, spent with a load of good lads and lasses
      Sincerly Brian Sunderland

    • Hi Neil, still got my mug too, a very proud reminder of comradeship amongst the marchers. Met some great people in those days pity they never did make that documentary about the march.

  38. Hi Brian, I don’t know if we ever met on the march but I’d like to think we may have somewhere along the way. Happy 82nd Birthday for next week. Keep those memories alive Best Wishes Terry

    • Hi Terry just seen your comment, and possibly we did meet up at some stage of the march. I hope so. past marching these days but would support anyone who did. I wrote an article only recently about the march (but only for our local history group) If you are interested in reading it I would willingly send you copy if I had your address.
      My email is
      Best wishes

  39. I also started the walk in Liverpool. I was in group 2. The best thing I’ve ever done in my life.

  40. Hi
    My mum made a cake in the shape of Britain with the route outlined with angelica (green)! I THINK a photo was taken of it.
    (Hemel Hempstead).
    Clare Deering

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