I am indebted to my old confrère André Jacob for drawing my attention to an upcoming musical event entitled ‘Beyond the Marches’, information for which is reproduced below. You’ll see that I have highlighted a passage that reads, “Six of the finest young folk musicians from Wales and England come together to explore and celebrate the shared history and culture of the two nations”. As you might imagine, this got me thinking about our “shared history and culture” and so, now infused with the spirit of sharing, I feel compelled to share my thoughts with you.
Let’s look at our ‘shared history’, and where better to begin than with our first contact with the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians who invaded Romano-Welsh Britain following the collapse of the empire. What this episode tells us is that the ancestors of the modern English introduced themselves as invaders. In the centuries that followed these Germanic peoples pushed west and north, taking more of our territory, killing, expelling or enslaving our people, until we were left with little more than what we today call Wales.
The aggression and conquest continued, until the death of Llywelyn in 1282 and that of his brother Dafydd the following year, their children either killed or imprisoned to ensure no succession. This was followed by a period in which we were treated as second-class citizens in our own country, a colonialist system that an African-American or a Tibetan would understand. This discriminatory system was one of the causes of Glyndŵr’s great war for national liberation that began in 1400 and explains why so many rallied to his cause.
Glyndŵr was unsuccessful but victory at Bosworth in 1485 put a Welshman (of sorts) on the throne of England and things began to look up . . . if only for the Welsh aristocracy and gentry. Harri Tudur and his son Henry VIII decreed that Welshmen would in future be treated exactly the same as Englishmen . . . because there would be no recognition of any distinct Welsh identity.
The next great stage in the ‘shared history’ came with the Industrial Revolution, which saw our people and our natural resources exploited for the glory of imperial England. And so it has continued to the present day when we can now add colonisation to the list.
As for the ‘shared culture’ referred to, where in England can you hear penillion sung? Where are the great English practitioners of cynghanedd to be found? Just as with history’s march, the cultural influences are all one way, as they must always be between a colony and the country that exploits and dominates that colony. So who’s responsible for this insulting nonsense, this pretence that Wales and England are equal, each having influenced the other?
The body organising ‘Beyond the Marches’ is Trac (Traddodiadau Cerdd Cymru / Music Traditions Wales), Charity Commission number 1085422. Trac is also a company limited by guarantee, No 4106014, with the charity’s trustees also acting as directors of the company. Among these director-trustees are “performer, author and TV producer” Eiry Palfrey, Cardiff folk singer Frank Hennessy, radio celeb Huw Stephens, Dafydd Iwan, and the man currently campaigning to be re-elected Labour MP for Cardiff West, Kevin Brennan. Trac is funded by the Arts Council of Wales, the ‘Welsh’ Government and the National Lottery.
Trac appears to be run by director Danny Kilbride, manager Blanche Rowen, with Angharad Jenkins serving as project officer. It might help if I knew a bit more about Danny Kilbride and Blanche Rowen. Kilbride lives in the Mount Pleasant area of Swansea, and the charity is registered at the same address. Though the company is registered at an address in the neighbouring Uplands area. I know little about Blanche Rowen beyond that she performs with a Mike Gulston.
It would be easy to think of Trac as something like the cultural organisations one encounters in totalitarian states – funded by the government and designed to keep artists and ‘creatives’ in order to ensure that nothing subversive emerges. Or am I being unkind? Even if I am, and at the very least, Trac carries the hallmarks of a Welsh Third Sector body funded by the Labour Party to serve Labour Party interests and promote the Unionist message. Which makes it look like yet more squalid politicking using public funding.
How else could anyone interpret ‘Beyond the Marches’, a musical event clearly promoting the idea that there is little or no difference between Wales and England? Such a perfect way to push the Unionist, Better Together message. And this being done just days before the general election, with concerts in Aberystwyth on May 2nd, Cardiff on May 3rd, and London on May 4th. Will these concerts end with Rule Britannia and God Save the Queen?
Perhaps next year, before the Assembly elections, Trac can balance things out by organising a few concerts promoting the message that Wales is most definitely a different country to England, and one that has always been abused and exploited by England, so remember this when you go to vote . . . but it ain’t gonna happen.