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New Chartists arise !

1st June 2007

There is a strong wave of resentment and anger at the possibility of the destruction of Newport's greatly loved Chartist murals. Historian Les James(pictured left)has supplied the names of three of the prominent Newport people portrayed. Are there more ?

Les writes:-

"In the 1970s, I was working at Newport Museum and remember the meticulous research of the artist, Kenneth Budd to make sure that he portrayed the true spirit of the Chartist cause - sacrifice of life in a bid to move power from tyrannous government to the people. Yes Bill Kershaw, borough engineer, is depicted in the mural, so is the late Cefni Barnett, Curator at the Museum and his colleague the late Walter Lucas, Keeper of Social History - both of whom advised Ken on details for the mural. Heartened to hear that the people of Newport still recognise the importance of our Chartist past as much today as they did in the 1970s when the mural was commissioned as a memorial to those who died in 1839. Its important that, whether we get a replacement or preferably a restoration of the mural, it is located in a prime location, not hidden away in the depths of the new bus station as the developers have previously suggested"

A fund?

Expressing the views of many in the city another contributor to my blog writes:-

"Of all the sites and sights in Newport, the Chartist's mural is the one which merits both pride and preservation. It may be in a dark alley, but may be that's fitting, they were dark times, but the purpose and struggle for freedom which the mural portrays is as clear as the purity of action involved in those dreadful days. The technology does exist to save and relocate the mural, and the money to do so must be found.

I will contribute and I suspect many others would as well. Can I suggest that the fund be established by the City Council paying into it an amount equal to that which would be saved by not inviting any royals to visit any part of the city regeneration! If they did that we'd have enough money to move the mural and have another one and you could be in it!

I have always taken great pride in being able to show visitors a dramatic representation of the chartists. My two young children already hold socialist (and republican) beliefs as a result (in part) of the chartist story. Long may it be seen by all who live and visit Newport!

Damon Lord writes:-

If the mural is to be preserved, let it be moved to a location where the darkness will not obscure an important artefact of Newport's culture. For many years I passed the mural, but was only able to appreciate it on the rare sunny days when the sun was bright enough to penetrate that dark brooding corner of the town.

As far as I remember the design of John Frost Square created this dark canyon and the mural was an attempt to brighten it up. It's remarkable how well it's appreciated. At the time it was reliably forecast that it would be vandalised. It did not happen.

There is a real problem in finding a new site because of the scale of the mural. The groundswell of opposition to its destruction is strong. It could save the mural and will also concentrate attention on the history of the Chartists. It's great to know how well the city's schoolchildren are learning the lessons of history. One from Lliswerry is running a campaign to save the mural.

The meeting is on Monday 11th June at St Mary's Institute Stow Hill at 6.30.