Posts Tagged ‘Michael Sheen’

Dave Green and Michael Sheen at the Blast Furnace Sept 2014

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dave green_funeral

I have to be brutally honest that this report by Walesonline in no way does justice to our shared experience.
The funeral was a fantastic and very memorable funeral with hymns, “JAZZED UP” hymn, poetry, solo acapella from Seanna Reader, and gales of laughter and tales of of things that Dave had got up to… the story about the phone call to a Pontlottyn chapel from the British embassy in Cairo had me crying with laughter. As did Dave having blagged his way (while working as an unpaid parking attendant) to the top table of a VIP American telly-evangelist at a gathering in Dorset.

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Wreaths and view East from Rhaslas Pond

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Wreaths delivered on behalf of Michael Sheen

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The speech by UVAG chairman Terry was heartfelt, funny and moving.
It was a cracking send off to the little man who was a larger than life character.
Walesonline report link.
It will also feature on Radio Wales between now and 6pm, ITV Wales from 6pm, BBC Wales News from 6.30pm plus other news outlets online.

I’m sad to record so much fly tipping of builder’s waste at Rhaslas pond this evening after just a short walk after placing Dave’s flowers (everything we left was organic matter, all pins, plastic, ribbon and wire removed).
People blame the Council policy of charging for vans, but it’s not the council that dumps this shit almost half a mile from the nearest proper road.

I’d like to thank you all very much for visiting my blog, Over Two Thousand Views in less than one week!
My recent photographs of the St David’s Day, People’s March For the NHS in Bedwellty Park , Tredegar, Wales have received over one thousand five hundred views, as well as the Michael Sheen fantastic address and Patrick Jones’ Healing House poem and Michael Sheen’s Valleys Rebellion documentary about the 175th anniversary of The Chartist’s Rebellion.


 

Hey there V@g1n@… a musical tribute celebrating International Women’s Day… Um…?

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p42pSs-Oi

Here’s a bit of musical fun as an appreciation… Definitely not safe for work… unless you’re singing in your van?

Full credit to Chris UCA for filming this

March 1, 2015, Tredegar, Bedwellty House & Park. The People’s March for the NHS.
A fantastic reading of his poem “The Healing House” by Patrick Jones.

This is an essay that has to be read, especially in connection with Michael Sheen’s Valleys Rebellion.

http://www.walesartsreview.org/port-in-a-storm-a-history-of-one-citys-radicalism/

PORT IN A STORM: A HISTORY OF ONE CITY’S RADICALISM

by Ben Glover published in Wales Arts Review Issue 20

Newport has always had a compelling allure for me. Growing up in the steel town of Ebbw Vale, it was hard to avoid the fact that Newport was the de facto capital of the South East Wales’ Valleys. The town, as it was then, teemed with life and opportunities that were sadly lacking in a semi-post-industrial, post-Miner’s Strike Ebbw Vale. Newport thrived on individuality, free-thinking and a self confidence that was utterly remarkable in my experience – if Newport was a character in John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club, it would almost certainly be Judd Nelson’s edgy and rebellious John Bender, as opposed to Cardiff’s corporate and socially conservative Emilio Estevez. Far from the description of the city in Adam Walton’s radio documentary of The Legendary TJ’s owner John Sicolo, as a ‘cultural desert’, Newport has a vibrancy that can be both compelling and life affirming. Also, there is a radical political legacy in Newport that has shaped not only Wales, but has impacted upon Britain and possibly the world, which is not just confined to tales of Chartism and John Frost (even though these are hugely important and vital in the retelling of Newport’s political past). It is because of this unique cocktail of culture, vibrancy and heritage that I made Newport my home.

My first introduction to political radicalism in Newport came, like most people, in the history lessons of state education – seemingly endless passages of text describing with intricate detail the events of November 4th 1839 and what became known as the Newport Rising. The ideals of Chartism and Newport’s pivotal role were hardly discussed; instead we focused on the suffocatingly narrow narrative of the GSCE curriculum of events and dates. By adhering to a strictly linear approach to the teaching of history, no-one understood the significance and uniqueness of Newport in the shaping our present society. Through the struggles of Chartism, the Suffragette and Trade Union movements, Newport continually produced individuals and institutions that challenged the norms and conventions of society. However, is it possible that these individuals that have shaped the world around us, such as John Frost and Margaret Haig Mackworth, could have come from another town or another city and it was just happenstance that Newport became their base? Or was it the conditions, culture and geography unique to Newport that allowed them to develop into the historical figures they have undoubtedly become?

Before the beginning of the nineteenth century and the birth of the Industrial Revolution, Newport was a small town that had little impact on the events of the State, and was only notable for the Welsh King Gwynllyw and the petty squabbles between the Morgan and Herbert families. Then as the mineral wealth of South East Wales was discovered and exploited, Newport began to develop into the city we know today. The birth of any major conurbation is often a fraught affair, and Newport was no different; workers arrived in the town from all four corners of the British Isles with hopes of a better life, only to be presented with a level of squalor and degradation that would be familiar to anyone who had a merest understanding of Dante’s Inferno. According to Colonel James Considine in 1840, Newport was a ‘vile town… in which the lower classes are of the very worst description.’

For decades the factory owners, landlords and shopkeepers exploited the working class across South Wales, from unsafe working conditions to the truck system, employees had few luxuries and even fewer rights – the utopian model of Robert Owen’s New Lanark, a town planned with allowances for social and economic welfare for its workers, must have seemed a distant dream for the South Wales’ miners and ironworkers. Given these appalling living conditions, the people of Newport and the surrounding valleys began to demand greater representation in the structures of government, better working practices and a restructuring of the Poor Law (1834). Chartism, and the subsequent publication of the People’s Charter in 1838, was a unifying movement that gained momentum throughout the newly industrialised towns and cities of Britain – the extending of the democratic franchise to all men over the age of twenty-one and the demand for the opening up of Parliament to the working and middle classes must have seemed an intoxicating notion to a society that had been stifled by patronage, elitism and de facto feudalism.

Then at the Westgate Hotel in Newport this clarion call of Chartism reached its zenith as ironworkers, miners, artisans, skilled and unskilled labourers, led by a former mayor of Newport, John Frost, attempted to liberate fellow Chartists and potentially begin a guerrilla war that they hoped would spread across the nation. This became the largest insurrection against authority in mainland Britain since the Civil War, with potentially seven thousand men taking up arms – though a number between one and five thousand is more realistic. The result of the Newport Rising was far from inevitable; with the Prime Minister Lord Melbourne commenting that rebellion could have succeeded and the result would have been disastrous for the comfortable status quo enjoyed by Britain’s ruling elite. Instead the Newport Rising failed, but it is interesting that, because of the unique conditions in Newport at the time, it was the only area in Britain, with the possible exception of the West Riding of Yorkshire, that a Chartist rebellion could have been conceived. Why Newport?

For centuries Newport, not Cardiff, was the main social, political, cultural and economic centre of the South East Wales Valleys. These valleys’ roads, canals, rivers and railways acted as the blackened arteries for Newport’s beating heart of commerce – in the space of forty years, from 1800 to 1840, the population of these areas boomed. As David JV Jones notes in his insightful work The Last Rising: The Newport Chartist Insurrection of 1839 when describing the results of a government inquiry, led by Seymour Tremenheere, into the Chartist movement, he comments:

They discovered a geography, an economy, and a society which had few parallels and fewer precedents. ‘The localities in which the vast populations of the hills are congregated are remote and peculiar,’
Tremenheere reflected a few years later.
‘From the central chain of moorland, separating the counties of Monmouth, Brecon and Glamorgan, numerous valleys run off at right angles towards [Newport].’

These valleys … produced a substantial share of Britain’s wealth.
–  David JV Jones

This network of transportation links, primarily designed for the flow of coal, tin and iron, allowed also for a free movement of ideas, radical thought and a revolutionary spirit. With Newport acting as the terminus of these trade and philosophical arteries it was inevitable that the largest town in the area would also become the focal point for any uprising.

The Newport Rising, like the French Revolution that preceded it and the October Revolution that followed, were born out of distress and oppression – the roots of these events lay deep in the unimaginably horrific working and living conditions that people constantly endured.

Though this experience was hardly unique to Newport, these conditions certainly contributed towards the air of desperation; the cotton mills in Manchester, the iron and steelworks in Sheffield and the mines of the East Midlands could equally claim their working conditions were just as appalling. Illness, deprivation and death haunted these newly formed industrial towns. Diseases, such as cholera and typhus, claimed numerous lives and serious injury or death at work were just occupational hazards.

Each man that participated in the Newport Rising had their own reasons for rebelling against the ruling classes, but it is an accurate assumption that these working and living conditions were the basis for most Chartists’ grievances – for few men would attempt to protest against the government, where most knew that their lives could be lost, without a significant reason to do so.

When searching for the reason why the Chartist rebellion could only have started in Newport, it is important to review how the Welsh language, the Nonconformist tradition and a history of radical political institutions created an extraordinary environment in which blueprints for revolution were allowed to be conceived. Most social commentators after the showdown at the Westgate Hotel repeated the mantra, as David JV Jones confirms, that the Chartist movement ‘had been planned in the chapels, and a great deal was made of the radical sympathies of some Nonconformists, especially of the Unitarians… and Primitive Methodists’. Since the Welsh Methodist Revival in the eighteenth century, there became a clear and distinct separation of English and Welsh religious practices; the church was viewed as Anglican and the spokesperson of the owners and capitalism, whilst the chapel was Nonconformist and spoke to the working classes. This division between the two sides of society was further exacerbated by the use of the English and Welsh language, in which Welsh, rarely spoken by the management of the mines and the ironworks, became the language of radicalism and sedition. Furthermore, it is also necessary to understand the upheaval that many workers undertook to relocate to these recently industrialised towns – in these newly constructed communities it takes time, maybe generations, to manufacture traditions, conventions and intuitive conservatism; the structures of society are malleable and radical ideas can easily become the norm. The Nonconformist Chapels offered a continuity and comfort for many working class men and their families, but it also became a place that it was possible to converse freely.

This ability to talk and openly associate using the Welsh language significantly contributed to the potential for a rebellion, since it reduced the need for more clandestine forms of communication. A fact which was not lost on the educational reformers sent to Wales after the Newport Rising, who identified both the Welsh language and Nonconformity as major contributors towards a general rebellious spirit associated with the Welsh nation. The fear in London was that the Welsh were becoming as ungovernable as the Irish. Incidents such as the Merthyr Insurrection of 1831, the Rebecca Riots and the activities of the Scotch Cattle (a miners’ organisation that primarily committed acts of terrorism against perceived unfair working practices) fuelled wild speculation across Britain that the working class of South Wales were just outlaws intent on causing the destruction of the means of production and it was through Nonconformity, the Welsh language and geography that this was allowed to prosper. Consequently, the educational system in the region and the Welsh language were attacked by the Government and ruling elite; both were viewed as un-Anglican and therefore deviant. The attempts to eradicate the Welsh language, through strict educational reform, were a direct result of the Newport Rising and the other working class movements in South Wales of the second quarter of the nineteenth century. All the Government inquiries into this civil unrest wilfully ignored the actual reasons for the direction action by the Chartists; instead they spent more effort in discrediting and stereotyping them as simple thugs who, because of their Celtic temperament, needed coercion to be forced to work rather than understanding what they really wanted was an equitable society.

It is this fight for a more democratic society, which has typified much of the political radicalism of Newport, the role of individual activism has been at the centre of this struggle. Chartism in South Wales needed the leadership of individuals such as John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones to help inspire the massed ranks of confused and angry men. Furthermore, Newport has produced other prominent radicals who have taken a lead role in their confrontations against the established orthodoxy, such as Margaret Haig Mackworth and John Batchelor. Indeed, the tale of Margaret Haig Mackworth (née Thomas), and her role in the Suffragette movement, is a fascinating one.

Born into privilege during the latter part of the nineteenth century, Mackworth was radicalised from a young age. Her father was David Alfred Thomas, a social reformer and Liberal Member of Parliament for Merthyr Tydfil, holding the seat for over twenty years. Her mother, Sybil Margaret Haig, cousin of the infamous Field Marshall Douglas Haig, was a noted campaigner for female suffrage and a prominent member of the moderate National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.

Throughout her childhood Margaret witnessed her parents constantly battling for the rights and ethical freedoms of the working class and disenfranchised. Having witnessed her mother’s moderate approach to female suffrage was having little impact upon the political machinations of Westminster, Mackworth decide to join the more militant organisation Women’s Social and Political Union, whose motto ‘Deeds, Not Words’ hinted at a more aggressive campaigning approach, in 1908. She quickly became the Union’s Newport Branch Secretary and during the subsequent six year period she campaigned tirelessly for the cause of female suffrage. She notably destroyed a post box on the Risca Road in an attempt to sabotage the contents by posting explosive substances, for which she served a prison sentence only to be released after undertaking a hunger strike. She also took direct action during the 1910 General Election attacking the car of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith in St Andrews. Mackworth also spoke at many meetings across Newport (probably a more dangerous pastime than handling explosives) espousing the importance of her movement in which she would regularly get personally abused and assaulted.

After surviving World War I and the torpedoing of the RMS Lusitania, on which she was returning from America; Mackworth became one of the most prominent proponents of feminism in Britain. She undertook many campaigns related to universal suffrage, including an unsuccessful fight to take her father’s seat in the House of Lords, along with her battle for the extension of the female voting franchise. Not satisfied with gaining just a partial victory in the Representation of the People Act 1918, allowing women over thirty the vote, Mackworth continued to shape the language of political discourse with the founding of the Six Point Group. This was campaigning organisation that attempted, through extensive legislation, to improve the lives of women and children throughout society by creating equality in many spheres of public office and life. Furthermore, Mackworth established, and later edited, a political and literary magazine entitled Tide and Time – initially it was devised as a feminist publication to support the work of the Six Point Group, but later it evolved into a more traditional left wing journal. A brilliant campaigner, writer, and political force, Margaret Haig Mackworth (Viscountess Rhondda as she later became known) was one of the most remarkable products of Newport’s radical past that it seems an immense shame that the only monument to her legacy in Newport is a battered old post box on the Risca Road.

Another testament to Newport’s distinctive political heritage can be witnessed in the occasions when the city becomes the focal point for national news. As indicated by the struggles of the Chartist campaign, Newport has often been associated with the traditions of the working class and the Trade Union movement. There have been some notable incidents such as the Newport Dock Strike of 1910 and the commandeering of the gondola on the Newport Transporter Bridge during the Miners’ Strike, in which miners marched on Newport from the surrounding valleys, echoing the Chartists’ efforts in 1839. This adherence to the socialist principles of borderless comradeship also saw many people from Newport join the International Brigade to fight Franco’s fascists in the Spanish Civil War and the housing of many of the parentless refugee children, from the conflict, in return. This heritage of social conscience is not just confined to the political activism and campaigns that are associated with Newport; it also permeates through every aspect of the city’s literature, music and arts. It is a theme that connects the writings of WH Davies, the music of Dub War, Jon Langford and the Manic Street Preachers (though not initially from Newport, they have been heavily influenced by the city).

Newport is a city that is rightly proud to wear its history on its sleeve. It has witnessed many conflicts and suffered some of the worst living conditions mankind has ever endured in peacetime, but it has never forgotten the struggles of previous generations that fought for the rights and freedoms that we all currently enjoy.

The people of Newport have influenced and shaped world events; from the affect that possibly the first ever worker led insurrection had on Karl Marx to the impact Viscountess Rhondda had upon the international feminism movement – Newport has continually challenged the orthodoxy in a country that cherishes tradition, intuitive conservatism and convention over the rights of the individual. It may be a city that has charms that are not immediately forthcoming, but it is a city that has a vibrancy and independence unlike any other I have visited.

About this author

Ben Glover

Michael Sheen speaks on protecting the NHS – Bedwellty Park

I was filled with pride at the emotion of this man’s speech.

The speech was impressive passionate and rousing, the best speech of the day by far. He said it all.

It is such a pity we do not have a politician with this much conviction that we the people can get behind. He took all of the political parties to task, including Labour! Our NHS is above politics!

We have to take this fight to Westminster and throw the freeloading carpet-baggers out, with solidarity we can show the buggers the will of the people is not diminished!

Please share this video with everyone you know!

Michael Sheen’s disapproval of NHS privatisation at a St David’s Day march in Tredegar echoed around Bedwellty Park.

Speaking against the Tory Party’s austerity cuts Sheen bellowed that it was a far cry from the original passion that underpinned the NHS at its birth and praised it’s architect, Nye Bevan.

“In 1945 Aneurin Bevan said:

‘We have been the dreamers, we have been the sufferers, and now, we are the builders.’

And my God, how they built. And what they built. Every bit as much a wonder of the world as any architectural marvel, or any natural miracle …

The National Health Service. A truly monumental vision. The result of true representation. Of real advocacy. A symbol of equality, of fairness, and of compassion.

The nation that swept the postwar Labour government into power was made up of people who had faced the horrors and the hardships of the second world war. And had bound together as one community to overcome them. They had been sustained and inspired by their feeling of comradeship, and their sense of responsibility for their fellow man and woman. Compelled to help those in need and those struggling in the face of hardship.

These were the experiences that shaped them, and this was the vision of life that the welfare state was born out of. Faced with an enemy that sought only to divide, the National Health Service strove for unity.

Where they traded in fear-mongering, and blame, and exploitation of the vulnerable, the NHS represented compassion, and generosity, and acceptance. Where they slavered with voracious self-interest, the NHS symbolised courageous self-sacrifice for the good of all.

In his book In Place of Fear, Bevan said:

‘The collective principle asserts that no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.’

‘No society can legitimately call itself civilised’: now that begs the question, what sort of society do we want to be?

What is our vision for ourselves?

What are the qualities and the principles that we aspire towards, and choose to defend?

Because it is a choice.

Do we want to be a society that is fractured, divided, disconnected?

Do we want to be a society that is suspicious and mistrustful of its own people? A society that is exploitative, that sees people as commodities, as numbers. Mere instruments of profit, to be used while they have use, drained of whatever they can offer, and when they are seen as no longer useful, just abandoned, cut adrift. Preferably unseen and never again heard from.

Or … or … do we want to be a society where each person is recognised? Where all are equal in worth and value. And where that value is not purely a monetary one.

A society that is supportive, that is inclusive and compassionate. Where it is acknowledged that not all can prosper. Where those who are most vulnerable, most in need of help, are not seen as lazy, or scrounging, or robbing the rest of us for whatever they can get. Where we … we do not turn our backs on those facing hard times. We do not abandon them or exploit their weakness. Because they are us. If not now, then at some point, and inevitably, they are us.

We are not afraid to acknowledge that we can be ailing, that we can find ourselves weak, that we can be infirm, and that we all at some point need help. We don’t shy away from this hard truth, we embrace it. Because in that way, together, we are always strong. We leave no one behind. We only say we’ve crossed the finish line when the last of us does. Because no one is alone. And there is such a thing as society.

This is what I believe to be Aneurin Bevan’s vision of a living tapestry of a mixed community, as he said.

At a time now, when people mistrust politicians as being too professional, too disconnected, no longer representing the voice of the people they have been elected to serve but more likely to represent the voice of wherever the money is. No longer standing for anything meaningful, or inspired by strongly held beliefs.

At a time like this a man like Aneurin Bevan seems like a mythical creature. Like a unicorn perhaps. Or perhaps more fittingly, a DRAGON!

He didn’t care what the polls were saying.

He didn’t worry about his PR, or what the current popular trends might be.

His vision was long term. It was far-reaching, visionary in its scope and revolutionary in its effects.

He had cast-iron integrity and a raging passion.

This was a man who had no fear in standing up for what he believed in. And he made no bones about how he felt.

This was a man who publicly stated: ‘No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical, or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep, burning hatred for the Tory party.’

In today’s political climate, where politicians are careful, tentative, scared of saying what they feel for fear of alienating a part of the electorate; where under the excuse of trying to appear electable, all parties drift into a morass of bland neutrality; and the real deals, the real values we suspect, are kept behind closed doors – is it any wonder that people feel there is very little to choose between?

Bevan said: ‘We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run down.’

So when people are too scared to say what they really mean, when they’re too careful to speak from their hearts, when integrity is too much of a risk, it’s no surprise that people feel disengaged with politics.

There is never an excuse to not speak up for what you think is right. You must stand up for what you believe. But first of all – by God, BELIEVE IN SOMETHING!

Because there are plenty out there who believe in grabbing as much as they can for themselves. Constantly sniffing around for markets to exploit, for weakness to expose. They won’t say it, of course – they’re too smart for that.

No one says they want to get rid of the NHS. Everyone praises it, across all parties. It is about as powerful a symbol of goodness that we have, so it would be too dangerous not to. But for decades now, there has nevertheless been a systematic undermining of its core values.

This is beyond party politics.

The Labour government arguably did as much damage to the NHS as any Tory or coalition-led one.

This is about who we want to be as a nation, and what we believe is worth fighting for.

Too many people have given too much, and fought too hard, for us to give away what they achieved and to be left with so very little.

To those across the whole party political spectrum, and to anyone in any position of power or authority, I ask you to search your heart, and look at who and what you serve.

To those who have discarded all principles, save that of profit before all else; to those who have turned their backs on the very idea of a truly democratic society, and aligned themselves to nothing but self-interest; to those who have betrayed the vision of equality, and justice, and compassion for all – that vision that provided the crucible from which came forth the National Health Service – I say to you, as Aneurin Bevan said in Trafalgar Square in 1956: you have besmirched the name of Britain; you have made us ashamed of the things of which formerly we were proud; you have offended against every principle of decency and there is only way in which you can even begin to restore your tarnished reputation.

GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!”

* Update from twitter and the march organisers

FULL UNEDITED Michael Sheen speech, watch it here : Credit:


 

 

“Only yesterday it was the fight for a free health service. The day before it was the struggle to win education for all … In any civilised community the arts and associated amenities, serious or comic, light or demanding, must occupy a central place.

Their enjoyment should not be regarded as something remote from everyday life.”
– The words above were published 50 years ago 25th February, in 1965 when the UK Government’s first, and only White Paper on the Arts, led by then Minister for the Arts, Jennie Lee, wife of Aneurin Bevan.

Adam Johannes ‘ Lee’s appointment came four years after the death of her husband, Aneurin Bevan.

Their combined impact on the nation we know now was considerable: between the two of them, they gave us not only the first ever Arts Policy, but also the National Health Service and the Open University.

 What Have We Learned?

 

What a truly fantastic occasion to be a part of. I’m so glad I took my little boy so that he will remember it in years to come. We all have such a hard fight ahead but the energy is there in the spirit of the people.
here’s the local newspaper headlines “Hollywood star Michael Sheen and West End singer Katy Treharne will be at The People’s March/Vote for the NHS event”
My god what a fantastic speech Michael Sheen just made in the 999nhs Tredegar birthplace of the NHS rally this afternoon! Fantastic! So inspirational. Such fire and passion.

* Update!

here’s the footage which show the segment of our United Valleys Action Group meeting; it’s my voice asking “Is this being shown to GCHQ” that gets everyone laughing! (Luckily I was off camera as the stage fright is terrifying!)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0547tsj the episode will be shown again on iPlayer.

* p.p.s another Update

Here is the Grahame Davies poem quoted at the end of Michael Sheen’s Valleys Rebellion programme (it’s still on iPlayer until end of this month)
http://www.grahamedavies.com/newbridge.shtml

“We do not ask you to remember us:
you have your lives to live as we had ours,
and ours we spent on life, not memory.
We only ask you this – that you live well,
here, in the places that our labour built,
here, beneath the sky we seldom saw,
here, on the green earth whose black vein we mined,
and feel the freedom that we could not find.”

– Grahame Davies


 

Thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking programme about the history of The Chartist movement from 175 year ago to contemporary times and the disillusionment with politics and lack of democratic representation.

More importantly,  none of the old stereotypical tropes of “thu Vaaaalleees” that usually grip my sh*t!

As UNITED VALLEYS ACTION GROUP and our previous incarnation of COVANTA INCINERATOR ACTION GROUP has taught us. We are on our own and what we do we have to do for ourselves.

poster-design-stop-nant-llesg-opencast

Politics and dealing with these politicians and greedy, exploitative capitalists requires subjective invention, imagination and endurance, not to mention tenacity and cunning.
The disappointments are crushing. It’s really bloody challenging.

10996651_10206237357435864_490946084016394316_nCampaigning needs the will of the people around you to grab their chances and make change.
Because no bugger else will!

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Please support our meetings and our cause!

This is dirty, detailed, local, practical and largely unthrilling work.
It is time we all made a start to change this situation – And Get The Representation We Absolutely Deserve!

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This political discussion program What’s Wrong with Democracy?  was shown directly after Michael Sheen’s Valleys Rebellion programme.

The United Valleys Action Group, which I am a part of, is featured in this Walesonline newspaper article. We are all very pleased with the write up and how our group’s activities have been presented.

Michael’s television programme will be on at 9pm Tuesday 24th Feb BBC2 Wales.

Michael Sheen’s Valley Rebellion BBC TWO WALES 9pm 24th February

Hollywood star Michael Sheen gets really, REALLY serious

Better known for blockbusters than soapboxes, Michael Sheen’s new BBC Two Wales programme is a study of the hard-won democracy of Wales. He tells Kirstie McCrum why voting is imperative, why he treasures the NHS – and why we should all listen to a wealthy Hollywood actor

 

 

(l-r) James Dean Bradfield and Michael Sheen in BBC Two Wales’ Valley Rebellion

Michael Sheen is angry.

He’s not spitting and swearing, no – not angry in a Roy Keane kind of angry, or with me. But angry nonetheless.

It’s happened as we’re discussing the NHS.

Sheen, dialing in from New York city, is chatting to me about a BBC Two Wales programme which airs this week, Michael Sheen’s Valleys Rebellion.

As measured as the actor’s comments are, delivered in his recognisable and melodious Port Talbot rumble, there’s an intensity which comes through as we talk about the state that our National Health Service currently finds itself in, alluding to political parties left versus right.

“The struggle between certain political ideologies is one between trying to break down the organisation of the labour force, to get rid of unions, to break apart the welfare state and the NHS.

“I think it’s important to realise that there is very much on the one hand an attempt to dismantle, and has been for a long time, things that have been fought for so long, that have had such huge impacts on our culture and society and the way we think.”

What the Chartists did

The Chartist Mural in Newport before demolition
The Chartist Mural in Newport before demolition

Sheen, perhaps better known for appearing in Hollywood blockbusters such as Underworld, the Twilight films and The Queen, got on board to make the programme to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the Newport Rising, but although the actions of the Chartists who marched on the Westgate Hotel to demand parliamentary and social change may seem a world away, he insists that what they fought for – and 22 of them died – is not unrelated to our own modern drive for a democracy that engages with its people.

“The Chartists were something I didn’t know too much about until I heard about the mural [contractors working for Newport Council demolished a commemorative Chartists mural on October 3, 2013].

“I’d seen it in Newport – it’s something that I had grown up having an awareness of without really knowing the whole story, and then once I started to hear about it with the mural, I got drawn into the whole thing more and more, and that was it.”

In fact, he became so involved that, on October 18 that year, he published a full-page open letter in a local newspaper in which he described how the “irony of something that was created to celebrate those who risked much for the good of all, being wiped out without consulting the people themselves, and under the auspices of a Labour-led City Council serving the needs of profit above all else, is both absurd as well as tragic”.

Strong words indeed from a man who’s made his living acting, but he insists that he’s just as politicised as anyone else who has been brought up in Wales at the same time as he was.

“Growing up you just accept that things are the way they are and you don’t really question it – and then at a certain point I guess you do start to question it.

“As I talked to a lot of people on the programme, it became clear that the Miners’ Strike was a pivotal moment for a lot of people of a certain age growing up and developing a sense of a political conscience, because it was such a powerful thing for so many people, certainly in Wales.

“I think that was probably something that I shared with a lot of people, that started to politicise a whole generation.”

A long way from Hollywood

Michael Sheen as Aro in Twilight (2011)
Michael Sheen as Aro in Twilight (2011)

Sheen’s on-screen journey takes him from the Heads of the Valleys, through Blaina and Tredegar and Rhymney, meeting with Manic Street Preachers singer James Dean Bradfield from Blackwood and socialist campaigner and journalist Owen Jones, trying to work out why the voting turnouts in these areas have dropped while social issues like poverty and unemployment are still such a large factor in daily lives.

It’s a subject he feels very strongly about, even though, as he acknowledges, his life and career have taken him far away from these streets.

“My background – where I come from, where my family comes from – is not a million miles away from the towns and villages that I was going through in the programme, so there are certainly points of connection.

“Obviously the circumstances of my life now are very different to the circumstances of a lot of people who I met making the programme, but I don’t think that means that you can’t have an interest in what’s going on, and a desire to try and do whatever you can to help in whatever way you can – even if it’s just to create a platform for people to air their opinions and concerns.

The film and television roles of Michael Sheen

“You can still have an interest in the same values and a shared desire to create change for the better.”

The beliefs which were instilled in him by growing up in Wales, I suggest.

“I think the tradition of a rebellious political conscience is probably one that’s shared between Wales, Ireland and Scotland, because of historically what happened with their relationship to England, so there’d always been a sense of rebellion there.

“But I think it’s more to do with the labour movement, the rise of that from the Chartists up to Nye Bevan and the creation of the Labour party and then onto what Nye Bevan spearheaded with the NHS and the welfare states.

“The labour movement and the Chartist movement were national, if not international, so I don’t think it was peculiar to Wales.”

Communities working together for change

Michael Sheen at a meeting of the United Valleys Action Group
Michael Sheen at a meeting of the United Valleys Action Group

The programme introduces Sheen to many people who feel powerless and frustrated with the political system, including the United Valleys Action Group in the Rhymney Valley.

He says groups like theirs fill him with hope about the system.

“The group members represent a larger group of people, and it’s an organisation that they have created. They have definite issues that they’re trying to address that have a direct impact on their community and they organise themselves and come up with direct strategies as to what they can do.

“That seems like a very healthy and vibrant reaction. They’re not going against the law, they’re not doing anything illegal, but they’re also not aligned to a political group, so it’s not strictly speaking a conventional political way of doing things, it’s more a community-based one.”

The organisation of groups like this one are what will help drive social change forward, Sheen believes.

“The Chartists were a huge amount of people all over the country with a lot of different agendas, but through organising, through having an open channel of communication, they were able to do something.

“The whole history of the labour movement is also one of organising people – the people in power who owned the industry were very organised, and they rely on the workers to not be organised in order to do whatever they want to exploit them.

“So it’s when the labour movement is organised, and the workers are organised, that they have some power.”

Protecting the NHS

Michael Sheen is concerned that the NHS is being dismantled
Michael Sheen is concerned that the NHS is being dismantled

This is when he becomes more agitated about the NHS, but it seems to be more of a passion than a rage, a desire to help everyone see what they might be missing – that these precious parts of our country are at risk.

“I’ve been spending a lot of my time in America where they haven’t had a national health system or welfare state like ours and you realise that the way people think over here is very different because of that.

“There’s a kind of mistrust of that sort of system, the whole Obamacare [a US reform package to provide affordable healthcare for all Americans] thing. They think it’s extraordinary and a betrayal of the American people.

“It makes me realise that our way of perceiving our culture and communities has been very affected by having something like that. That doesn’t mean to say that things have to stay the same all the time – obviously things have to change and adapt.

“But we have to be very careful not to lose something that is of immense value to us, not just in terms of the service it provides, but also in the kind of culture we want to be, the way we want to relate to ourselves and other people.

“I think any culture is judged on how it regards its most vulnerable, and the NHS has always been a symbol of that.

“A healthy NHS is what we should work towards rather than getting rid of it. That’s my own personal opinion.”

With the countdown to the general election underway, and voter turnout at a low, Sheen was keen to investigate whether there is something wrong with democracy.

“What I heard a lot was people talking about how they feel politicians have become professional politicians and they tend to feel like they’re not being represented.

“I think there’s a general suspicion that a lot of politicians are looking out for corporate interests rather than the people’s interest and therefore people start to feel disengaged.

“But just before we did the programme was the Scottish referendum where there was such huge engagement, so clearly it’s not about apathy, it’s that the means of engagement seem to be not working for people. And something needs to change.”

Despite all the intensity of the arguments for the UK experiencing current times with relationships between the people and our elected representatives seemingly at an all-time low, Sheen insists there is hope.

“We can always pull things back because it’s always in our hands. The democratic system is based upon the fact that if the people want something then they are able to affect change.

“The difficulty is when our political system becomes obfuscated and difficult to engage with, and also when people aren’t aware of what it is that’s going on – then it becomes problematic. But there is always the possibility of changing it, because we just have to say what we want.

“There are so many access points for getting information about what’s going on that it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, but I think that’s better than having one or two sources which can be easily manipulated.

“The first responsibility is for people to find out exactly what’s going on and then work out what they want. It’s certainly never too late.”

What Michael really thinks of Russell Brand

PA WireRussell Brand, now an activist and campaigner who has encouraged the British electorate not to vote
Russell Brand, now an activist and campaigner who has encouraged the British electorate not to vote

With the countdown to the general election underway, there’s a lot of talk about voter turnout. With comedian and self-styled political activist Russell Brand telling young people not to vote because our political system is flawed, I ask if Sheen feels agitated about that message going out on such a vast platform.

“I think what Russell Brand has been doing is fantastic, because anyone who is getting people to think about what they’re doing and putting forward arguments is great for people who are engaging with it and listening to it, whether they agree with it or not.

“That’s the whole point – we should have discussions about it, rather than sitting watching rubbish on the TV. Let’s have this argument, let’s talk about it, let’s say, ‘Yes, I think he’s amazing, I think he’s absolutely right’, or, ‘No, I think he’s an idiot and what he’s saying is wrong’.

“I’m never concerned about whether someone with a loud voice who is getting heard is going to overly influence people because everyone should have their own opinion. But it does make you think about what you think or feel about what they’re saying as well, and that’s the important thing.”

With the lineage we’ve discussed, from the Chartists and more, can he and will he be expressing his own feelings come May 7?

“I do get a vote in the UK, and I certainly will be using it this election,” he assures me.

Michael Sheen’s Valleys Rebellion is on Tuesday on BBC Two Wales at 9pm

Michael Sheen’s Valley’s Rebellion

Michael Sheen’s Valley’s REBELLION http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0547tsj

Actor Michael Sheen goes on a personal journey to find out why there is so much political disillusionment in Wales today.

Walking in the footsteps of the Chartists, who 175 years ago gave their lives for democracy, he asks why do ordinary people and politicians seem so far apart?

A nice way to celebrate my 400th post | Michael Sheen TV program that featured UNITED VALLEYS ACTION GROUP will be shown on Tuesday 24th Feb.

 

https://discordion.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/actor-michael-sheen-visited-our-united-valleys-action-group-meeting-at-pontlottyn-blast-furnace-inn/

Just had some news in from UVAG’s “beloved Leader” Terry, exciting!!!

“Hi Everyone

The programme that Michael Sheen made last year about
the Chartists, where Michael and the BBC called to Rhymney
and our UVAG meeting to do some recording for the programme,
will on next Tuesday night 24th February 9.00 – 10.00pm BBC 2 Wales.

Cheers
Terry”

I shall be tuning in to see some familiar faces!

10426144_731295250269138_3817533482753736592_n

This my photo of Michael and David that Michael’s PA requested.

 

10375099_731295393602457_2070862344813345496_n

Michael, UVAG Chair Terry, and F.o.E Cymru’s Alyson Austin.

 

Ian Pritchard with Michael Sheen (Large)

UVAG Blast Michael Sheen (Large)

 


 

http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/11798397.Newport_s_Hollywood_star_Michael_Sheen_retraces_Chartists__steps/

Actor Michael Sheen came to our Action Group meeting on 22nd September

Michael Sheen @michaelsheen came to our UVAG meeting last night. We knew we were having a guest speaker but It was a complete surprise, only known about by our Treasurer, his wife and a select few others.

Michael asked some very pithy and poignant questions and really got stuck in.
Why was he there?
He’s doing a documentary about the Chartists and he was interested in our campaign to get our voice heard – and is drawing modern day parallels and all that…
I’m hoping the documentary will screen on the November 4th anniversary of the slaughter at John Frost Sq, Newport in 1839.

We had a good, lively discussion on the subjects of “democracy”, or more correctly, the lack of it!
He was on the money and he could also see where we (United Valleys Action Group) had been let down by the bureaucratic quagmire in the planning appeal process in Wales and also what we are trying to achieve. Michael also asked “what one change would we like to see to the political system”. It’s not every day I get to talk about the philosophical principles of Demarchy/Lotterocracy with a Hollywood superstar! But I take my chances where I get them – Demarchy is the rule by the randomly selected.
I made the point that our curse is the “career politician”, in a demarchy, politicians are randomly selected and limited to one term of 4 or 5 years, then can never stand for the same office again. Ever.

Michael Sheen has most recently been one of the main advocates for ‪#‎TheWalesWeWant‬ the Welsh government’s “conversation”, supposedly feeding into their Future Generations Bill?
There is a call for a mass day of action in Cardiff on October 11th in support of Frack Free Wales and like minded organisations.

We (UVAG) have been asked to join. It will be a great networking opportunity.

 

me with Michael Sheen

Michael Sheen with Me! Lol