Merthyr’s radical history celebrated

31 May 2016

Merthyr Rising 2016

The University is playing a major role in a community event which features Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and celebrates the proud culture and history of Merthyr Tydfil.

The three-day Merthyr Rising Festival 2016 aims to draw on the creativity, heritage and radicalism of a town synonymous with the industrial revolution and working class politics.

The University’s Strong Communities, Healthier People engagement project is sponsoring a series of public debates, known as the Waun Common debates, as part of the festival addressing contemporary political, economic and cultural issues.

Mr McDonnell will speak about the economy and alternatives to austerity, while other contributors taking part in separate debates include writer, activist and novelist Tariq Ali, miners’ leader Tyrone O’Sullivan and the University’s Dr John Jewell.

Dr Martin O’Neill, from the School of Social Sciences and part of Strong Communities, Healthier People, said: “From the Risings of 1831 through the Rebecca and Llanelli riots, Scotch Cattle, Chartism and the legacy of the likes of Keir Hardie, Aneurin Bevan and SO Davies, south Wales has a long and proud tradition of social and political radicalism.

“The aim of these debates is to build on this heritage in order to stimulate informed and robust discussion of the most salient social and political issues of our time.

“Through sponsoring the Waun Common debates, we aim to support and maintain that long tradition of Merthyr Tydfil as a crucible of radical political ideas.”

The debates commemorate the spirit of discussions held near Dowlais during the Merthyr Rising, one of the earliest organised actions of industrial workers in 19th century Britain.

More than 2,000 workers from Merthyr and Monmouthshire gathered at Waun Common in May 1831 to petition the King for reform following anger over low pay, debt and poor working conditions.

The contemporary Waun Common debates will seek to explore radical ideas while discussing current economic and political issues as part of the wider festival, now in its third year and running from 3-5 June.

One of the debates featuresDr John Jewell, from the University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, who will talk about propaganda, recruitment and reporting in World War One.

Dr Jewell will analyse the role of government, media and the wider cultural elites in presenting a vision of conflict far removed from the realities of the Western front.

Strong Communities, Healthier People is a University project to create a sustainable model of collaborative research, education, engagement and knowledge exchange between the University and local communities in north Merthyr and Butetown, Riverside and Grangetown in Cardiff.

It is one of the University's five flagship engagement projects, otherwise known as its Transforming Communities programme.

The University is working with Welsh Government and communities in Cardiff, Wales and beyond in areas including health, education and wellbeing.