The Cancer of Colonialism

I have consistently argued that colonialism takes many forms. It’s not just England ripping off our natural resources, or using our homeland as a playground, there are a thousand and one less obvious ways in which Wales is exploited. Some of them are curious, even bizarre, while others are in ‘sensitive’ areas where we timid Welsh are often reluctant to raise our voices.Cancer Research complete

Last Thursday, I was sauntering along Tywyn High Street, nosing here and there, when a sign in the newsagent’s window caught my eye. I reproduce it here for you. I agree it’s not easy to read, due to the reflective qualities of glass combined with the professionalism of our local window cleaners. Even so, you should be able to read that a fund-raising event was organised locally by North West Cancer Research . . . north west England, that is.

I got home and tweeted Cancer Research Wales. Today, after the Bank Holiday, I received a reply, and a short exchange of tweets followed. (Just work your way down, and click to enlarge.) The final, unanswered tweet, was me asking Cancer Research Wales if they will be asking for the money collected last Saturday in Tywyn.

This fund-raiser was not a one-off, I have seen similar posters before, and as this one tells us, North West Cancer Research has a Tywyn & District Committee, which suggests regular fund-raising events.

Now a Britlander reading what I have written thus far would perhaps say, ‘Oh, do come on, don’t be so petty. Does it really matter where it goes – it’s all for the same cause!’. A response that would doubtless silence many Welsh people, while deliberately missing a number of points.

First, Tywyn is on the Cardigan Bay coastline, some 86 miles from Liverpool, so it’s reasonable to assume that if there is a fund-raising group for North West Cancer Research in Tywyn then there will be others as we get closer to Liverpool, especially along the north coast.

Unsurprisingly, there is a committee in Mold, covering Flintshire. There is also a Llanfairfechan, Aber and Bangor Committee for Gwynedd and Conwy, and even a Machynlleth Committee to cover Powys. Though, remarkably, for an organisation serving north west England, there seems to be no fund-raising group in Liverpool, where it’s based, or Manchester!

In fact, North West (England) Cancer Research has more fund-raising groups in Wales than in England! Which makes me wonder just how viable North West Cancer Research would be without the money it gets from northern and central Wales.

North West Cancer Research group

The North West Cancer Research website tells us that it funds cancer research “at the University of Liverpool, Bangor University and Lancaster University”. So that explains it – the money collected in Tywyn, and Machynlleth, Mold and Llanfairfechan, goes to Bangor university! Well, no, it actually goes to Liverpool, where it is doled out to those three universities.

But wait, Bangor University (despite what many involved with that institution may believe) is in Wales, and we have our own Cancer Research Wales, so why is Bangor University tied up with the Cancer Research group in Liverpool?

North West Cancer Research About Us

You may be thinking the answer is that people from the Machynlleth and Tywyn areas go to Bangor or Liverpool hospitals for cancer treatment. They don’t, everyone I’ve known in the Tywyn area who has needed treatment for cancer has gone to a hospital in the south . . . yet their donations go to Liverpool!

So the question remains: Why is money being collected in Tywyn and elsewhere in Wales for North West Cancer Research when people from those areas go to hospitals in southern Wales for cancer treatment?

But even if people from Machynlleth and Tywyn were going to Liverpool or Bangor for cancer treatment that still wouldn’t justify collections in Wales for North West Cancer Research. Bangor is in Wales and cancer research at the local university should be funded by money collected in every part of Wales by Cancer Research Wales. Any treatment received by Welsh patients in Liverpool could be handled by the usual cross-border arrangements.

Let’s be blunt about this. The Tywyn and District Committee of North West Cancer Research is a hangover from the pre-devolution days of ‘Merseyside and North Wales’. So we can’t criticise old dears in Tywyn or Machynlleth raising money for a good cause, the fault lies with a system that, seventeen years into devolution, still carves Wales up and attaches our dismembered parts to nearby regions of England.

The blame for the persistence of this colonialist hangover lies with our politicians and our civil servants, with those who run our higher education and our health authorities, many of whom are alien and most of whom operate within an Englandandwales mindset.

But then there’s Cancer Research Wales, why does it pretend it’s a national body when it only operates in the south? Has it surrendered all the territory north of Aberystwyth?

Cancer Research Wales

While writing this piece connected questions kept arising. For example, I’ve given money to Cancer Research at local funerals (I’m sure you have), now I’m wondering where that money ended up. And if this situation persists in one charity, how many other charities are there collecting money in Wales and sending it to England? But this problem is not restricted to charities.

There are countless other ways in which money leaves Wales. One I was told about last week will never appear in any economic survey or report, it’s just too off the wall. In the Tywyn area, and along this stretch of coast, are many caravan ‘parks’, ugly, depressing places that should be phased out. Anyway, many of the seasonal denizens of these places are now having their groceries and other supplies delivered from ASDA’s Shrewsbury store, 70 miles away!

In fact, ASDA vans from Shrewsbury are now a daily sight in the Tywyn area. It makes you wonder how much money the thousands of people who stay in local caravans really put into the local economy. I bet it’s a fraction of what we are told tourists contribute, but that’s a story for another day.

Like I say, colonialism – i.e. Wales subsidising England – comes in many forms. But you aren’t supposed to know about them. As a loyal little Britlander you are expected to hitch up your union jack underpants and swallow the ‘Wales couldn’t manage on her own’ line.

Thankfully, as Brexit and other recent examples of the expressed popular will have shown, fewer and fewer people believe what they’re told by politicians, mainstream media and ‘experts’. Wales needs more of such cynicism, more questioning of things as they are, if we are to bring about the changes this country needs.

Among those changes is a full range of national institutions serving the whole country; institutions that reflect our nationhood and respect the border. Cancer Research Wales reclaiming the ‘lost lands’, funding research at Bangor University, and becoming a genuinely national body, would be one place to start.

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