Friday, 21 October 2016

Cofiwch Aberfan/ Remember Aberfan

Wales fell silent today as it remembered the Aberfan tragedy 50 years ago. At 9.15am on Friday, October 21'st a coal tip slid down a mountain slide into the mining village of Aberfan in the South Wales valleys. It would engulf a farm, around twenty houses and the local junior school. The disaster claimed the lives of 144 people, 116 of whom were school children This horror was felt around the world and was made even more poignant as news emerged of previous warnings and previous slides that had been brushed aside. The National Coal Board (NCB)  had been repeatedly been warned to move the slag heaps to a safer location, because they were also close to natural underwater springs. Did they have the decency to acknowledge their blame, to bow their head in shame, like hell no. A organisation more concerned with profit than lives.
A report by the government at the time said " Blame for the disaster rests upon the National Coal Board. The legal liabilities of the National Coal Board to pay  compensation for the personal injury ( fatal or otherwise) and damage to property is icontestable and uncontested. " The Government of the day was also extremely insensitive to the victims families, and people would have to wait for years for compensation.
So today we remember the people of Aberfan, their collective loss, a community that is still profoundly affected by this disaster, one in three survivors still suffering from Post traumatic stress. People left feeling guilty that they were left alive, they did not feel like survivors. The sores and wounds of this gross injustice forever stored in the collective feelings of the people of Wales. Lest we forget.

Cofiwch Aberfan/ Remember Aberfan

50 years ago today

a ticking timebomb of slurry

left a community scarred

angels laughter forever lost

buried deep in the wounds of history

my nation mourns with anger 

bitterness and shame

after the spoils of injustice

drowned a community in coal

left generations in ruin

our tears keep on flowing

never ever  forgiving.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Changes to the Human Rights Act

A quick plug for the following event, todayOn Wednesday 19th October Clynfyw Care Farm is holding an event at Small World Theatre, Cardigan, relating to changes that the Government is planning to make to The Human Rights Act.
Since the Second World War, The Human Rights Act has been a vital tool that supports and protects us all. The proposed changes will have an impact on our whole society.
In 2015, the Daily Telegraph published an open letter signed by 163 organisations, which called on “those with power to respect human rights laws”. The organisations represented people from across the UK including carers, disabled people and children, professional bodies like the British Medical Association and Royal College of Nursing, and local councils. The letter called on “those with power to reflect on the meaningful, often quiet, ways human rights make a difference for people in their everyday lives.”
‘There are pros and cons to every argument,’ said Clynfyw’s Jim Bowen. ‘In this event we present both sides, with speakers explaining what the Act is, how it has helped to protect us as a society and how it might evolve in the future.’
The new measures will erode the right, to privacy. to a fair trial, to protest an to freedom from torture and discrimination. It will enable the government to deport more people and defy the European Convention on Human Rights. The current law gives us the right to get justice from British courts without having to go to the European court. It requires all public bodies, including central and local government, the police, the National Health Service, prisons and other services to abide by these human rights, and extend to outsourced public services such as care homes.
The legislation also includes the right to life, not be tortured or subjected to inhuman treatment, not be held as a slave, to liberty and security of the person, to a fair trial, not to be retrospectively convicted for a crime, to a private and family life, to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, to freedom of expression, to freedom of assembly and association, to marriage, not to be discriminated against, to the peaceful enjoyment  of one's property and the right to education.
Speakers have been invited from the Welsh Conservatives and also the British Institute of Human Rights. Each will explain how they believe the Human Rights Act should be used to protect and develop our country as a whole, and whether changes are needed at all.
The Human Rights Act is of great relevance to us all. It is especially important to everyone in Social Care as there are significant rights and duties that everyone should know about. Everyone is welcome. There will also be a free soup and rolls for lunch for all attendees. Please come and join me please let us know if you can.I have a load of free badges from my local amnesty International in support of saving the Human Rights Act that I will be distributing.g

More information: 01239 841236

 I believe public opinion is against scrapping this act, and that people are prepared to fight for it.Please sign the following petition it would mean a lot to me. Thanks.

Monday, 17 October 2016

So long Dario Fo (24/4/26 -13/10/16)

(accidentally deleted this post earlier, so had to come up with something new)

It was with sadness, that I discovered from n Italian friend the death of Dario Fo. A writer and performer whose onstage antics offended popes and presidents, bureaucrats and  and conservatives of every stripe, died today at home in Milan. His death was confirmed by his Italian publisher, Chiaralette, he succumbed to complications arising from a lung condition he had suffered for years,he was 90.
In 1997, the Swedish Academy awarded him the Nobel Prize in Literature,the Nobel jury honoured him for work which emulated "the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden, with a blend of laughter and gravity he opens our eyes to abuses and injustices in society and also the wider historical perspective in which they can be placed" ". It is kind of ironic that he died on the same day that Bob Dylan was awarded his.
Probably best known abroad for the series of plays he wrote in the immediate aftermath of the upheavals of 1968, such as the Accidental Death Of An Anarchist, inspired by the mysterious death of Giuseppe Pinelli an Italian Anarchist in a police station after a bomb attack in Milan a year earlier who fell or was pushed to his death from a balcony window,Mistero Buffo a retelling of the Christian gospels in an improvised format, which let him comment on everything from corruption in the Catholic Church to contemporary social and political issues. The play outraged the Vatican and was condemned by the Pope as blasphemous and We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay.In this play, based on actual events, prices were spiralling so high that ordinary people could not afford them and decided that they would only pay the original price before the price hikes. Like Accidental Death of an Anarchist, this play continues to be performed, in England as recently as 2012 and in France in 2014. The play Mother’s Marijuana Is the Best confronted Italy’s growing drug problem. “Rich people consume and use drugs, while poor people are used and consumed by drugs," he famously said at the time. Fo wrote more than 80 plays, which have been translated into 30 languages.
In addition to being a playwright, he was also a director,actor stage and costume designer,satirical anarchist,political provocateur, clown, jester and singer songwriter .Alongside his wife and muse Franca Rame he was an unapologetic anti-capitalist and remained one to the end.A fiercely leftist activist throughout his life, Fo’s work attacked institutions of organized crime, racism, corruption, religious theology and war.Unafraid of controversy, Fo was banned from Italian state broadcasting for 14 years and his support for left-wing causes led to U.S. visas being denied in the 1980s.
 Dario Fo was born in San Gario, a small town on Lago Maggiore in the province of Varese, Italy. His  father Felice,was a socialist, station master and actor in an amateur theatre company; his mother Pina Rota, was a woman of great imagination.As a student, he was called up to the army of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, but escaped and hid in an attic for the last few months of the war before Italy was liberated.F
rom the beginning of their careers at Milan’s famed Piccolo Teatro, Fo and Rame, who died in 2013, used their platform to champion the rights of workers, poor people and the disenfranchised, and to protest establishments political, social and religious, often drawing stern rebukes being jailed on numerous occassions ,facing violence, censorship, disruption and intimidation from both fascists, the police, the government and the vatican.After performing an anti-police show in Milan in 1973, Rame was kidnapped, tortured and raped by fascist thugs.Receiving his Nobel prize, Fo said that he shared the credit with Rame, as she had been his muse. Even as they subsequently suffered from failing health, they always rediscovered the vigour and inspiration to continue creative work.The inspiration for his style came from the strolling medieval players, the giullari, who travelled from town to town, setting up in market places and playing to the crowd, the ordinary people they belonged to.
Fo continued to enjoy writing plays that drew from Italian political scandals. In the late 1990s, Il Diavolo con le Zinne (The Devil With Boobs) transposed the Tangentopoli, or Bribesville, scandal to 16th-century Florence. The corrupt magistrate was played by the Italian stage’s leading traditional actor, Giorgio Albertazzi, who had never hidden his right-wing sympathies.Their collaboration surprised many, but they declared they were both anarchists in their own ways.His 2003 play The Two-Headed Anomaly,  took aim at Italy's then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Russian president Vladimir Putin,  and  was censored on television.
 After Rame’s death  Fo decided the best way to commemorate her was to continue the work they had done together.  Fo gave public support to the comedian turned politician Beppe Grillo, and later found a new kindred anarchistic spirit in Pope Francis whom he celebrated with a mock-medieval play about St Francis of Assisi..Fo ran for mayor of Milan in 2006 and remained a committed activist right to the end, committed to the working-class, and anti-war, anti-Fascist and climate change activity skewering Italian authorities with his sharp wit and appearing at a rally in support of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement last month
 Accepting the Nobel, Fo remarked   “A theater, a literature, an artistic expression that does not speak for its own time,” he said, “has no relevance.”"With Dario Fo's death, Italy has lost one of the great characters of its theatre, culture and civilian life," said Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi..
They say we should be moderate
Not stirring up class war
But we're bent on being obdurate
We'll take it all, we don't ask more
We'll defeat their aims for starters
We'll foil their dastardly plan
Can we have their guts for garters?
We say fucking right we can!
-Can't Pay, Won't Pay 1970

So long Dario Fo, a giant of Italian culture has left us R.I.P

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Beyond the chains of humanity

Chains of fear
from Gaza to Aleppo,
the borders of Mexico
to Calais where tears run dry,
people crying out for help
abandoned seeking dignity,
waiting for tomorrow to call
the imprints of fellow man
to release them from pain.

As the politicians daily call
planting seeds of chaos,
with unblinking eyes
spreading darkness,
sadness falls and trust rushes by
hope keeps missing its targets ,
bitter taste is the daily harvest.

Far away tears of compassion flow
the winds of humanity blows,
trying to sprinkle some kindness
refusing to ignore or lose faith,
with freedoms banner speaks out
goodwill peaks out beyond the clouds,
delivering streams of conscience.

( this poem can also now be found here too :-   )

Friday, 14 October 2016

Senghenydd Mining disaster: lest we forget

One hundred and three years ago at 6.00 a.m this morning 14 October 1913, a series of terrible explosions ripped through the Universal Coal Pit in the village of Senghenydd,  a town in the Aber Valley, four miles north west of the town of Caerphilly, in South Wales ( U.K).
The cause of the disaster was thought to have been a 'firedamp', when a spark ignites methane gas, and then explodes, this explosion sucks coal dust on the floor into the air and causes a huge explosion. In Senghenyd this spread even further underground of the mines, and was followed by 'afterdamp', where deadly poisonous gases  replaced the missing air and oxygen.
The result was 439 miners and 1 rescuer  being killed and it is now considered to be the worst mining accident in the U.K  and  the most serious in the terms of loss of life.It followed an earlier disaster in May 1901, three underground explosions at the colliery killed 81 miners. The rescue operation in 1913 lasted for 3 weeks, although by then the chance of finding anyone left alive had long faded.Fires in the workings hampered rescue efforts, and it took several days before they were under control. It took six weeks for most of the bodies to be recovered and the fire to be extinguished. The subsequent enquiry pointed to errors made by the company and its management leading to charges of negligence against Edward Shaw, the colliery manager, and the owners.The report was critical of many aspects of the management's practices, and considered it had breached the mining regulations in respect of measuring and maintaining the air quality in the workings, and in the removal of coal dust from the tracks and walkways.The report pointed out that because the management had not implemented the changes needed to the ventilation fans as demanded by the Coal Mines Act 1911, the fans were unable to reverse the direction of the airflow, which would have blown the smoke out through the Lancaster shaft, although Redmayne and his colleagues held differing opinions on the advisability of reversing or stopping the airflow.Further criticism was directed toward the emergency procedures. The lack of respirators at the mine was deemed to have cost lives.The lack of an adequate water supply for fire fighting was also criticised, as it would have been thought that the fact the colliery was such a gassy one, and it had already been devastated by an explosion previously, that the management would have made arrangements for a supply of water adequate to meet an emergency of the kind that actually occurred Shaw was fined £24 while the company was fined £10; newspapers calculated the cost of each miner lost was just 51 pence.
It would send shockwaves throughout the world, reminding people of the terrible cost of coal,the deaths of of 440 men on a small community had a devastating effect; 60 victims were younger than 20, of whom 8 were 14 years old; 542 children had lost their fathers and 205 women were widowed. The impact on individual households was great: 12 homes lost both a father and son, 10 homes lost two sons each, while the death of one father and son left an 18-year-old daughter to raise her 6 siblings alone; another woman lost her husband, 2 sons, a brother and her lodger
According the Carwyn Jones the Welsh first minister at the time of the 100th anniversary ' The Senghenydd tragedy has come to symbolise the dangers and sacrifices made by those who went underground in search of coal but never returned home. It is fitting that this should be the location for a memorial dedicated to all the miners that have died in mining disasters across our nations.'
In 1981 a memorial to the men who died in the disaster was unveiled by the National Coal Board  followed by a second in 2006, to honor the dead of both the 1901 and 1913 explosions. In October 2013, on the centenary of the tragedy, a Welsh national memorial to those killed in all Wales's mining disasters was unveiled at the former pithead, depicting a rescue worker coming to the aid of one of the survivors of the explosion.The memorial and gardens will not only provide a priceless and fitting tribute to all the colliery workers who lost their lives in the mines, but will act as a suitable and prominent reminder of the rich mining heritage that is ingrained into our communities.
I have written about this disaster previously because since I started this blog about 7 years ago I have always made it a point to remember my peoples history.On a personal note I can never forget the tales my own grandad told me, who himself was a miner's boy  in the valleys in the 1930's assisting  his father , many of his relatives were too, he taught me never to forget the long list of tragedy, human grief and loss in our history, and the sorrow of communities like Senghenyd who have lost their loved ones.I never forget too, how some peoples lives are  expendable in the pursuit of profit.

 The statue, designed by sculptor Les Johnson, depicting a rescue worker coming to the aid of a survivor after a mining disaster, situated at Senghenydd..

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Uniliver, I guess I'm not a fan

Across the globe Uniliver is still viewed as a ruthless exploiter of  resources and people on a global scale.Unilever is huge. It's the largest consumer products company in the world. It's the world's third-largest advertiser. And it's the most multinational of all the multinational corporations. More than five hundred companies belong to the Unilever Group, and they operate in seventy-eight countries, manufacturing in most of them. A unadmiring writer once lamented that "something approaching two thirds of mankind buy from or sell to Unilever, and most people use its products every single day of their lives." The company's own literature says rather matter-of-factly: "Unilever does business in or with nearly every country in the world." No other company can claim that ubiquity. The British and Dutch empires remains in place. I am not a fan.Who despite spending billions on advertising and promotion trying to present themselves as an ethical company that has cleaned up its act has a long history of behaving in an unethical way built on exploitation and misconduct across the globe. A 100-year history of relying on cheap land and labor to make mass products at huge profits but at high social and environmental costs combined with an insensitivity towards its own workers ..
I am not a fan of Tescos either,not a place I choose to shop  a supermarket that Uniliver is attempting to bully at the moment.Uniliver has recently demanded an extra 10% from Tescos trying to exploit the post Brexit economic situation,after the pound has plunged, in what amounts to many as daylight robbery.Not just to Tesco but to poor people who already have not enough change in their pockets for food to sustain them. Tesco have at least had the tenacity to say no.But it meant the withdrawal of lots of well known brnds from its websites and stores
Uniliver's  attempt at hijacking the prices is blackmail exploitive and self serving casting themselves as the saviours of the moment but avoiding mentioning their own roles in causing many problems of the global arena (such as financial crisis, land-grabbing, tax loss, obesity, malnutrition, climate change, habitat destruction, poverty, insecurity) they claim to address. Most of their proposed solutions either require passivity from governments (poverty will be solved by wealth trickling down through a growing economy) or the creation of a more friendly environment for business. At a time when we should be concentrating on more important issues like fascists,racists, the Tory's toxic policies, the refugee crisis etc etc..Uniliver's headlining stunt is rather low.
The consumer must be reminded that there are always alternatives,we still have plenty of choices,much better ones too, far more ethical too and that nones of us should  be pressurised or dictated to by capitalist bully's. Uniliver should be reminded of this fact, at the end of the day the people of Britain don't respond well to consumer bullying. Uniliver should also be reminded that many of the products that they are trying to manipulate the price rises, like PG Tips and Marmite are actually made here in Britain and in the case of Pot Noodles here in Wales. But actually owned in some way by Uniliver. Who knows, maybe people will notice how many companies are owned by Unilever, and perhaps  they'll rethink their shopping.Search for something better. But the fall in the pound cannot  not justify Unilever’s reported demand for a 10% price increase for an entirely UK sourced product. Uniliver are just using Brexit as a premise for profiteering.
Hopefully other supermarkets will try and resist price increases as most of them are trying to cut prices to attract consumer and maintain their market share against ‘low-cost’ rivals.Uniliver like other global corporations are trying to manipulate things to serve their own pockets, our interests are a very low priority. We must keep questioning them and continue to hold them into account.
On that note I could murder a Pot Noodle.I know,perhaps not. Laters.


Got back a moment ago, 10.15 p.m to discover that Uniliver has now resolved tts dispute with Tesco and that well known brands will now be back on the shelves..
After both companies’ share prices fell on Thursday and Unilever was criticised for blaming the attempt to increase prices on the fall in the value of the pound, a deal was reached late in the afternoon.Watch out for further price hikes in the future. As for Tesco being called the peoples champion by the tabloids, don't believe the hype.In a general emerging anti corporate culture, people are seing through them too.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Aberfan Young Wives Club

50 years ago next week on Friday October 21, 1966 , approx 9.16 a.m shortly after school assembly many tons of collier rubbish (slag heaps) swept down the sides of a  Merthyr Mountain  above the town of Aberfan after several days of heavy rain, Liquified and pouring down  this black tidal wave would engulf everything in its path in this catastrophic tragedy.A tragic memory from Wales's turbulent living history.
A new documentary will be examining how Aberfan has carried on in the 50 years since the horrifying events that took place on that day.The Aberfan Young Wives Club, to be broadcast on ITV tonight at 9pm on Wednesday, features the young women of the town who banded together to support each other and their community in the face of tragedy.
It follows the women who came together just weeks after so many mothers involved had buried their children to form a support group, which they dubbed the “Aberfan Young Wives Club”.The programme will focus on these women's vital role in keeping their community alive.
The group steadily grew in size and organised events, talks and trips, as well as helping each other in their bereavement. Some of the women will be speaking about their experience for the very first time.The film utilises remarkable archive footage as well as the moving testimony of the mothers who have met every week since the tragedy.
Aberfan was to many a result of a conflict of financial interests, which would see the death of 144 people, including a 115 innocent  children, many of whom were between the age of seven and ten along with, five of their teachers, in what is now known  today as one  of one of Wales worst mining disasters in it's history, not forgetting Senghennydd which I've written about previously when in 1913 over 400 were killed.
By the time the landslide stopped, it had demolished Pantglyn Junior School and 20 houses, severely damaging the Secondary School.

The sores and wounds of this disaster are now forever  stored in the memories  and feelings of the people of Wales because of the whole collective loss of a generation that was wiped out. We should try never to  forget  the children and adults who died, this human tragedy, that  many say could easily have been  prevented. The National Coal Board  (NCB) were repeatedly warned to move the slag heaps to a safer location, because they were also  close to natural underwater springs. Did the NCB have the decency to acknowledge their blame, to bow their head in shame, like hell no, but we were to  learn sadly far too late that the NCB was ostensibly a capitalist organisation more concerned with profit than lives.  A report by the government at the time said " Blame  for the disaster rests upon  the National Coal Board. The legal liabilities of the National Coal Board to pay compensation for the  personal injury ( fatal or otherwise) and  damage to property is incontestable and uncontested." The Government of the day was also extremely insensitive to the victims families, and people whould have to wait for years, for compensation.
So tonight I hope you can catch the programme scheduled,  remember  the people of Aberfan, a community  that is still profoundly affected by this disaster, one in three survivors still  suffering from Post traumatic stress,  nearly 50 years after this tragic event took place. People felt guilty that they were  left alive, they did not feel like survivors,there were cases of children not being allowed to play in the street, in case it upset other parents.
Let us  hope that lessons learnt from this incident can be learnt for tomorrow, and  remember that this bitter legacy still continues, what with continuing social and economic problems in the South Wales valleys still  being wrought  because of successive governments who have made lives a  continuing source of discomfort.  Combined with the failure of responsibility by the relevant authorities and the appalling behaviour of  some parties in the aftermath of the disaster.
Today, however there is very  little to remind visitors of  this tragedy, just an abstract memorial garden in the village and the childrens section in the graveyard.I hope that those too young to remember this injustice will continue to be reminded of this awful event that the people of Aberfan remember every single day.
In addition to the programme mentioned , Sir Karl Jenkins has composed a major new choral work, entitled ; Cantala Memoria - For the Children which was commissioned  by S4C, the Welsh language channel in commemoration and mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster.
Lest we forget, people before profit.

 Karl Jenkins - lament for the valley

R.I.P the little angels that were lost forever.