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An afternoon with Tony Benn

Every July, the late Tony Benn attended the annual Tolpuddle Martyrs’ festival to mark the place where the modern trade union movement was born. I had to photograph him for a magazine and found him at the start of the colourful, noisy procession which passes through Tolpuddle to the Methodist Chapel and back. ‘Walk with me, my dear’ he said when I asked where we could meet for our pictures . So I walked alongside Tony Benn at the head of the procession, feeling rather self conscious in front of the crowds cheering and clapping the great man next to me. He was so popular - such an iconic figure- and so humble, courteous with his time, stopping to greet and chat with people. Finally I sat him down on a camping chair under the famous tree where the martyrs met for the first time to protest about poor wages. Out came the pipe and suddenly he was pensive - no doubt thinking about those farmworkers from hundreds of years ago. Tony Benn touched profoundly everyone he came into contact with. Me included.

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