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The Free Wales Army & other rebels

Managing to avoid the Queen successfully 3 times over the decades, you can imagine my I looked to past & present Welsh dissenters for inspiration for a few rapid portraits. Their stark emblem is a stylised, White Eagle of Snowdonia. This is seen commonly on a black background but then would have been on red:

I remember learning as an 8 year old scouser that a Welsh village -Capel Celyn in the Tryweryn Valley- was to be flooded to make a reservoir for Liverpool industry (and water sports) and searched again for photos of the swashbuckling gang of saboteurs who were famed for taking pains to avoid hurting anyone when they blew up bridges and equipment purposed for building the reservoir…… The Free Wales Army -headed by Dennis Coslett and Julian Cayo Evans -would later merge with the more mysterious Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (MAC). As well as the reservoir, these boys were furious at how the English Coal Board were not held accountable for Aberfan.

Mono-print of Coslett & Cayo-Evans (PMcJ 2022)

Whilst the media turned to sycophantic mush I turned to other dissenters for inspiration and a few rapid portraits (see above and below).

Thankfully, Michael Sheen (another reassuringly royal-critical artist) had the guts to point out how insulting it was for Charles to announce the new (English) Prince of Wales on Owain Glyndwr day.

Rapid collage of Michael Sheen -PMJ 2020

He is generally critical of how Wales has been dumped. Have a look at this interview with him -from a few Xmas’s ago -with the excellent Owen Jones:

Hilary Mantel was also on my mind -even before her recent death -because after reading her eviscerating piece on royal women a few years ago I always feared she’d be bumped off anyway: https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v35/n04/hilary-mantel/royal-bodies

Profile ink portrait of Hilary Mantel PMJ 2022

Lets face it, its pretty odious watching the parade of riches for weeks on end when the rest of us can hardly afford food or heating.

It’s time to protest again, and my banner definitely won’t be blank.

Festy on (part 1)

‘Just on my break dear, you go on past’, said Terena the security-guard as she munched on a custard cream (and dried her underwear on the barrier) at Kendal Calling Festival recently as I jumped over her legs to work at the kids tent:

Increasingly I find the unseen & unknown people at festivals the most interesting…. Yes I did see The Vaccines, Supergrass & The Stereophonics but actually enjoyed Brassworst ( a German- style brass band) more, sketching them as they played ‘Don’t you Want me Baby?’:

I was unimpressed by the horrific amount of litter left by the campers though, at odds with the festival message urging all to ‘Leave nothing behind but memories’.

Hot Botany

“I’m melting!” exclaimed one of the participants at a plein aire session I was working at -organised by The Glyn Vivian Gallery at the Botanical Gardens recently. Luckily, there was plenty of shade from the palms and exotic plants (brought from all over the world by the Vivians via explorers during the 19th Century). We all enjoyed a talk on the history of the gardens before doing some intense sketching & painting behind the Begonias…

A personal favourite is the Indian Shot Plant ( shown below shooting out of a bed of geraniums):

This would have been brought back by one of the ‘Plant Explorers’ Joseph Dalton Hooker during his trip to India & the Himalayas in 1847/48 (he brought the first specimens of Rhododendron to the UK at the same time). 

Unfortunately I don’t know the name of this amazing shrub that I sketched whilst I recovered in it’s shade:

Proud in Powys

‘Whoops I woke up gay again!’ declared one of the rainbow banners emblazing the first Powys Pride march & event on Saturday:

This first -ever Pride in Powys mixed Welsh and Gay seamlessly as families, smallholders and LGBT activists got together for an eccentric day of pleasure. We had sessions on everything from ‘Queering the Wye Valley’ to performances from Polly Amorous in the beautiful village of Llandrindod Wells.

The dance company  Querin were my favourite act. Starting slow, demure & mysterious, they built to a whirling crescendo reminiscent of Sufi dancing:

Ivy- one of the organisers- says next year will be bigger & prouder…

Heated pebbles, debates & lost teeth: Unison Delegates Conference in Brighton

Delegates protest against deportation threats outside Brighton Centre

The Unison Delegate conference took place recently during one of the hottest UK heat waves since ’76. Brighton’s lovely pebble beach was so hot & crowded that you had to dash for the water and have multiple swims:

I dashed so hard against the sink in my hotel on the second night that I knocked my front tooth out!

Other than that it was sensational. Amongst other things, we questioned why there were still no black members on the executive committee and listened to the testimonial of people ranging from international activists such as Turkish public service worker Mehmet Borgeyik to footballer Shaka Hislop:

Shaka explains how he became a campaigner for Show Racism The Red Card

We found out how the workplace is still unequal for disabled colleagues -a few extra sickness absences can result in a job being lost due to ‘capability procedures’- we would defend LGBT+ rights and ensure misogyny be made a hate crime (see below for some of the speakers & comments).

Kim McGuiness (Police Commissioner, Northumbria) discusses the problem with delegates

I went to as many debates and activities as possible (doing over 100 speed-portraits), it was clear that many of us lacked wage-stability and suffered fuel poverty after decades of Tory social-erosion.

Uplifting moments included a seminar on the importance of Soul music to the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s and 70’s (obviously followed by a disco).

It really felt like democracy in action as we pushed invisible boundaries and planned for a better future – one without this con-trick government!

Women without statues

On International Women’s Day I’m thinking of outstanding women who have been forgotten by all but their families. Like Myfanwy who I met at The Swarthmore in Leeds during the Women of The Second World War Exhibition/event back in March 2020:

She described going into Bergen -Belsen with the allied troops to try to help the survivors in 1945.

Others were ‘Land Girls’ like Anne below (seen during the same Swarthmore event with members from ‘Blood Dance’ in the background):

And then to my own mum who lived and worked through the horrific Liverpool Blitz of 1942 (seen sketched by me below as she would have looked in 1940):

She would have been appalled at the invasion of Ukraine as she hoped WW2 was the last of such horrors.

‘Sleepwalking into a police state’

Camilla Cavendish (from the Financial Times) just said this about Priti Patel’s outrageous bill on Radio 4’s Today. Your right to peaceful protest- even if you are a solo-protester- is just about to be sneakily taken away. If this goes through, being annoying (an essential element of protest) will become an offence.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill -which goes to the House of Lords today for a final reading with pages of  amendments added late on. This means the usual challenge from the House of Commons will not be possible. 

Instead of concentrating on safeguarding women on the streets, the Cons are trying to hurry in ‘asbo style’ conditions which stop: named protestors participation in actions, stopping protestors locking themselves to anything and introducing ‘stop and search’ police powers (a 52 week prison sentence can be instantly given for many protest actions). Roma and traveller rights will also be smashed:

An emergency blocking of this draconian law will be attempted by M.P. ‘s from Labour, The Greens & Lib Dems tonight, many of whom are taking sleeping bags just in case….

A mysterious blue lake…

Is this somewhere in Canada or the USA? Actually Brombil Reservoir is a rabbit’s hop from Neath Port Talbot steelworks and a stunning beauty -spot -I was so glad I took my sketchbook when I walked their with a friend back in 2010:

Unfortunately it is closed to the public at the moment due to cars blocking the roads and the disgusting pile of picnic-litter….

 Brombil reservoir was originally a colliery which supplied coal to the nearby copper works at Taibach.  After the colliery was closed in 1880 the mine was then flooded to supply water to the docks at Port Talbot. The reservoir is over 100ft deep and was once a colliery essential to the local copperworks. The mine was shut in 1880 and flooded to service Port Talbot Docks.

The amazing blue colour of the water derives from the prevalence of blue -green algae (don’t swim in it if you value your eyes). 

Jabs well aimed

I sketched these whilst waiting at the Bay Field Hospital waiting to be jabbed recently:

I was struck by the efficiency and speed of the whole procedure and I can honestly say I hardly had time to put pen to paper before I was seen.

Great though this is, Instead of rolling out another booster vaccine in the UK, we should start distributing the 870 million doses we promised to the developing world in 2021. This would be a small cost to us and could start to address the shocking disparity of equality between developed countries and the third world.

Climate & Refugee March

‘Proud to be a place of safetySwansea, City of Sanctuary!’ We sang on Monday night at the start of the March for Climate & Refugees which went between The Guildhall & The National Waterfront Museum (which were both temporarily bathed in saffron- light):

We need to fight for the rights of displaced people simultaneously with climate justice as we anticipate COP 26-the 5th COP since the Paris Accord of 2015 during COP 21 (see below for one of my illustrations from the ‘Day of Action’ that we organised outside).

Back then it was thought to be our ‘last best chance’ to save the world. However, fossil fuels are still over-used & Brazil, China and India aren’t even going to COP 26.

Another lyric sung was: ‘ People gonna rise like water

                                        Gonna turn this system round

                                        In the name of our sons and daughters

                                        Climate Justice Now!’

It is left to us to make the change…..