Not quite the insurrection promised at the Saturday demo. I made my view clear in this tweet on Friday. 'Horrified by maladroit brutal destruction of Chartist Mural-inconceivable to create a worst PR blunder. MPs had no role in this decision'.
There was sadness and anger expressed at the incredible decision to bulldoze the main Chartist mural in Newport. The 300 people (BBC estimate 200) who turned up to have a 'wake' were a mixed crowd. There were about a third Newport people saddened by the sudden secret decision in rip the mural down. I spoke to many of them. The mood was sad resignation and dismay. There is a deeply felt sense of loss and hurt. A handful of councillors turned up. They are all of one mind. The council's action is indefensible and incomprehensible. However, few of them related to the tone of the 'wake.' Others travelled from other places and many were not aware of Newport's long devotion to the Chartist cause or the many other local memorials.
I stayed for about an hour and a half. In that time there had only one speaker who was mostly inaudible where I was sitting. Was it too much for someone to organise a public address system?
Some left wing groups were in evidence. One knows his Chartist history very well. He displayed some battle cries from the past Rebecca and Merthyr Riots with some splendid historic memories of past insurrections. Although the significance of 'Bara neu waed" 'Bread or blood' is not immediately apparent.
It's a shame that the 'wake' organisers had not recruited a wider spectrum of views. I would have been happy to speak and provide a more balanced view. I ask Pippa Bartalonni of the Green Party why she hadn't spoken. She did not seem bothered. The Argus report that she spoke later.
Inevitably some transferred their objection to one regrettable incident to attack all things Newport. A video of a French architect was used on the Internet by the protest group to patronisingly lecture Newportonians on the value of preserving 20th century artifacts. I would love to ask him what happened to French Transporter Bridges in Rouen or Nantes. All were pulled down. Here in Newport our Tranposter Bridge has been lovingly preserved. Voila! Regardez M Architect! Le Pont Transbordeur de Newport. Il marche.
I was told that there will be be some swift action from the Council - perhaps as soon as Monday. In spite of many misunderstanding to the contrary I have no influence over these decisions. But the message from all quarters is clear. The Council must answer fully the questions posed by the South Wales Argus - especially on cost. A basic claim was cost of removal because it was claimed that mural was fixed to wall. Clearly it was not and the claimed costs of removal are not credible. Frank answers are essential and urgently needed.
A serious job has to be done to rebuild trust between the people of Newport and its Council. There are many other symbols of Chartism in Gwent and in Newport that commemorated the sacrifices of the Chartists of 1839. Shame the Council did not publish details of the planned replacement for the destroyed mural. ThJohn Frost Square mural was the most popular, but Chartism is more than a mural. Looking forward to the great Chartism week starting on November 2nd, I hope some of those present today will be fired with enthusiasm to attend. The Independent quoted a protest leader saying that without the mural, Newport would have nothing left, that's apart from Tredegar House and grounds, Victoria Place and some best Roman remains in Europe which is Wales 4th biggest tourist attraction. He and others would benefit from knowledge of other greatly loved representations of the Chartists that have been created by the people of Gwent. We look forward to hearing what else is planned. The anger is understood and justified but remedies will not be found with slogans and vituperation. There are more constructive ways forward for cool heads and creative minds. Reassurance of the Council's intent to commission a new Chartist memorial must be swift and specific.
26ft high Chartist statue at Blackwood.
One of three groups of Chartist statues at Newport