Joe Scurfield was a delegate to the Trades Council for many years, first from the Musicians’ Union, then from Equity. He stepped down as delegate on leaving Equity to rejoin the MU, and at the time of his tragic death on 9 June 2005 was seeking to get the MU to reaffiliate. He played an outstanding role in leading the May Day Committee in the 1980s, and for that received the Tom Aisbit Award from the Trades Council. The 1991 AGM Minutes record that “In reply, Bro Joe Scurfield said that this was the first trophy since winning an under 14s football competition, but he accepted the Award on the basis that a lot of hidden work had been done by others.”
When the Trades Council could not find a Secretary in 1998, Joe stepped into the breach. He was not able to give the role 100% commitment, due to his busy performing schedule, but nonetheless did what he could, and helped to keep the Trades Council alive both in 1998 and when re-elected in 1999. His Secretary’s Report to the 1999 is in many ways his own credo:
“For well over a hundred years this Trades Council has supported workers’ struggle on Tyneside, in Britain and throughout the world. While fashionable pundits now tell us that class struggle is outdated, our own eyes and the state of the planet tell us otherwise. Different epochs present different challenges, our strength waxes and wanes, but we still have a vital role to play in the fight for workers’ rights, peace, full employment, for education and a decent health service. The tides of history are forever turning: the resistance of today will bear fruit tomorrow.”
Everyone who met Joe warmed to him. His legacy is enormous. To cherish his memory the Trades Council has agreed to establish an annual Joe Scurfield Award, to be given to an individual or group of people who have made a meritorious contribution to linking cultural activity - particularly music - to trade unionism or community politics.