Today myself and 9 comrades met a UN Special Rapporteur on Hazardous Substances and Waste and impacts of pollution and also a lady who is UN Special Rapporteur to the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights.
It was an excellent meeting that lasted for two and a half hours and could’ve gone on longer. We really can talk for hours about our 10 year fight against Miller Argent Ffos Y Fran opencast and the proposed and failed application to remove the mountaintop and quarry Nant Llesg.
I think we overwhelmed them with information and they were very shocked.
Which is both good and bad isn’t it?
The lady who answers to the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights said:
“What we are hearing from you is more like what we are familiar with in “developing countries” apart from an absence of violence against the protesters.
WE HAVE JUST 7 DAYS left to OBJECT. Help #SAVENANTLLESG!
Twyn y Waun and the Waun Fair (credit: Peter Keohane Dic Penderyn Society – Cymdeithas Dic Penderyn)
To the north of Fochriw and above the hamlet of Pant-y-Waun, on the western side of Rhas Las pond, was situated the historic Waun Fair, or Marchard -y-Waun and constituted one of the largest and most active marketing centres in south Wales.. The location is called Twyn-y-Waun.
the westerners view is entirely blocked by massive overburden mounds of earth removed by opencast and destroying the area forever.
This photo was taken yesterday. I am looking eastward toward Rhas Las pond across the Nant Llesg Common. Ebbw Vale mountain is in the misty distance
For some time prior to A.D. 1140 there had been a market situated at Twyn y Waun and it was granted its charter in 1140 by Iestyn ap Grwgant, King of Glamorgan, and it quickly developed into a marketing hive of activity serving the three counties of Glamorganshire, Brecknockshire and Monmouthshire, within who’s borders it was situated.
Merthyr Tudful had been in discontent for a long time, particularly since the depression of 1829 with subsequent reform agitation following, not least in the early months of 1831. Merthyr Tudful was in a ferment of discontent and disturbance culminating in a great Reform Rally at Twyn y Waun on 30 May 1831.
The now famous Parliamentary Reform and Trade Union rights rally was held on the same day as the fair on 30 May 1831.
The ‘Reformists’ had left Hirwaun Common, the radicals killed a calf and dipped in its blood the white cloth of a reform flag, which they raised on a pole as possibly the first ever Red Flag of Popular Rebellion along with another banner that stated ‘Bara neu Waed’ (Bread or Blood).
I have put out an “Urgent Appeal” to all that use Twitter to join a twitterstorm prior the “Iolo’s Beacons” airing on BBC 1 Wales tomorrow.
As discussed during UNITED VALLEYS ACTION GROUP EGM monday meeting;
A PR company “WYG” (offices in Newport Rd, Cardiff) hired by Miller-Argent are trying to get Brecon Beacons National Park, BBNP, to withdraw their objection to the Nant Llesg opencast at the Planning Inspectorate Wales appeal, effectively holding a gun to the CCBC planning committee who rejected Miller Argent last August.
We want to start a Twitterstorm as follows before the TV programme:
Recently actor Michael Sheen visited Tredegar and in an impassioned speech and from the bandstand of Bedwellty House and Park, said:
“You must stand up for what you believe, but first of all, by God, believe in something!”
Please Share – from United Valleys Action Group
RE: Nant Llesg Opencast Mine Proposal Planning Decision, Weds June 24th, from 1pm.
We cannot stress how important it is to have large numbers o our communities at the planning meeting in Ty Penallta Ystrad Mynach on Weds 24th of June.
The council have set aside 3 rooms including the canteen to accomodate the public. With video links to the meeting.
If only 20 people turn up we will have very little impact on the meeting and the mountain and moorland west of Rhymney will be lost forever and we will face Fifteen to Twenty years of devastation from the UK’s biggest opencast mine, possibly with a scenario of it being turned into the UK’s biggest rubbish dump? Who knows?
*A BUS WILL BE PICKING UP THROUGHOUT RHYMNEY AND PONTLOTTYN STARTING 1PM ON THE DAY. Please INBOX @United Valleys Action Group Facebook page and we will give you a number to ring to be added to the list.
Would you rather when your kids look up at the mountain and see the opencast, be able to tell them I tried to stop it, or, tell them I sat indoors and let them do it.
Better still when you take your kids and grand kids for a walk on the common.
You can say – “I HELPED SAVE AND PROTECT THIS FOR YOU!!!”
Our Last Chance To Stop Opencast
The Risk to Property Prices and RESALE value is ENORMOUS if Nant Llesg OPENCAST is given go ahead.
Who the hell will want to move to Pontlottyn or RHYMNEY when it is blighted by OPENCAST for fifteen years, then a possible decade of shale mounds and weeds as grass seed tries to grow where there is no soil or clay and where no creature can live?
We found out from two Caerphilly borough councillors at Ty Penallta yesterday that a wind turbine application for Gelligaer Common, 4 miles south from what would be the UK’s largest proposed opencast site at Nant Llesg, was denied due to “Visual Impact”!
One quote was; “You can’t make this shit up!”
THIS IS VISUAL IMPACT!!!
THE view from Gelligaer Common of the multi million tonne spoil heaps of Ffos Y Fran taken last April 2014, the same Gelligaer Common where CCBC planning committee refused a wind turbine yesterday due to “Visual Impact”… If this isn’t “Visual Impact” I don’t know WTF is?!!!
From the stunning views of Pen Y Fan and the Morlais Iron Age fort taken from a site which Arthur Pendragon once rode. To 2014,now looking across a dump of wasteland that stinks of corruption and money leaching out of a deprived community that has not benefitted from the spoils.
This photo wasn’t in the propaganda brochures for the proposed Nant Llesg project next to this that the company had produced by their Bristol based PR company. Funny that?
A question was asked in the open meeting in Rhymney last Wednesday about Huw Lewis our Assembly Minister. Earlier this year we disclosed payments made to Huw Lewis’ election campaign were made by Bernard Llewellyn, the OPENCAST mining magnate…
“An election flyer produced by a Labour community council candidate in Fochriw has been brought to our attention. It states that a community councillor undertook a survey of residents and over 90% were concerned about the prospect of an opencast so close to the community. It goes on to say, “Labour member Robert Chapman added, Talking to local people, I know how much concern there is about Nant Lesg (Llesg). I want to work closely with Cllr Hardacre and Labour Community Councillors to echo these concerns.” Historically in Merthyr, Labour did nothing to help residents attempts to fend off the other Miller Argent opencast Ffos y Fran. The residents against Ffos y Fran website tells their story,http://www.stopffosyfran.co.uk Residents are still having problems with dust, light pollution and vibration – is there any help for these people who are suffering? Definitely not from the Labour Party. In fact Huw Lewis AM received a campaign donation of £10,000 from Bernard Llewellyn of Miller Argent.
So if you think that Labour will protect residents from Nant Llesg, going on past Labour deeds they won’t!
We’ve (UNITED VALLEYS ACTION GROUP) had info yesterday that the whole of Bedwellty Mountain Common, from Markham to Cefn Golau has been sold off to you know who!
The fuckers are getting ready for phase three!
Markham people are up in arms.
I have been warning and warning people what’s coming for the last few years if they don’t act next week at CCBC planning hearing on the 24th.
We’ll all be dead before the opencasts have finished and every mountain will have been destroyed around here.
The mineral rights below Abertysswg were snapped up two month ago, the whole of Rhymney Hill from Pen Bryn Oer to the golf course is also targeted (the 1980s Shepherd Hill site). Mark my words. I we fail next week. These upper valleys villages and towns will be sacrifice zones, unfit to live in or bring up a family… For many decades!
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!)
“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!
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.
Campaigning needs the will of the people around you to grab their chances and make change.
Because no bugger else will!
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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