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Jeremy Corbyn MP speaking at Rally in Merthyr Tydfil

August 6, 2016

JC Merthyr-web

Yesterday, Friday 5 August 2016, I took a trip up the A470 road from Cardiff to Merthyr Tydfil. I made the trip to listen to Jeremy Corbyn MP who was due to make a speech as part of the Labour Party leadership campaign which is currently underway in the UK. The Labour Party are the main opposition party in the UK at the moment. The leadership contest is happening, partly, because after the European Referendum result, where the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU). Jeremy Corbyn had campaigned to stay in the EU. Labour Party MPs took a vote of no confidence in their Leader, Corbyn. There appears to be a undertone of identity crisis within the party as Jeremy Corbyn was overwhelmingly elected as leader by the membership only a year ago on a broadly left wing mandate whereas the majority of MPs currently appear to lean more to the right. The vote of no confidence and the whole contest has been described as somewhat of a coup but ultimately has lead to this campaign and another vote to see whether Corbyn will remain leader of the party or the Parliamentary Party (serving MPs) will get their preferred choice, Owen Smith MP, who stands against him. If you are really interested there is plenty of information written by far cleverer and more knowledgable people than I available online.

From an Urban Sketcher perspective it was chance to draw an important historical area of Merthyr Tydfil, and South Wales, while an important, and potentially historic, moment was taking place there. The area which has recently (2014) been regenerated as an open space within the town. The space has been named Penderyn Square. It is named after a man called Dic Penderyn. A plaque on the front of the Carnegie Library, the large grey building in the centre left of the drawing, reads “Dic Penderyn, Born Richard Lewis in 1808 in Aberdravon and hanged at Cardiff Gaol on August 13th 1831. Following  the Merthyr Insurrection of that year. A martyr of the Welsh working class.”

The Methyr Rising took place in 1831 when coal miners and other workers took to the streets to protest against poor working conditions, low wages and unemployment. During the riot it was alleged that Dic Penderyn and his cousin Lewis Lewis has stabbed Private Donald Black, a soldier of 93rd (Sutherland Highlanders) Regiment of Foot, who had been called in to quash the uprising. Private Black was not fatally injured, and despite many protests against the sentence, Dic Penderyn was eventually hung for the crime. There was later a deathbed confession to the crime by another man and there is currently a campaign to clear his name. The stabbing was said to have occurred outside the Castle Inn, the site of the new square.

The large red brick building, to the left of the drawing, is an Arts and Creative Industries Centre known as The Redhouse. It is a late Victorian Grade II listed building which was originally built as the Town Hall to house the Public Offices, Courts and holding cells. It was re-opened in March 2014 after an £8.2 million redevelopment programme. It’s a stunning building both inside and out and well worth a visit.

I sat on a big grey box under a mobile phone pylon on one side of the square about an hour before Jeremy Corbyn arrived to draw the buildings. I then drew the crowd as it grew before and during his speech adding the colour afterwards. It was interesting listening to the speeches (there were a number of speakers) while drawing and watching the crowds reactions. As well as workers rights, women’s rights and tax avoidance Corbyn spoke of Kier Hardie who, it is worth noting here, was MP for Merthyr Tydfil from 1900-1915. A Scotsman, born in 1856, who started the Labour Party in 1900. The whole drawing was rather ambitious and took far too long, the square being clear of supporters by the time I got down with a stiff back and very much in need of a good cup of coffee form the café in the Redhouse.

It is the first time I have seen a political rally in this country where there were a lot of coloured flags, along with the banners and placards, on this occasion red ones, handed out and waved during the event. It reminded me of a rally I drew whilst in Barcelona in 2010. It was a quick sketch in my small moleskine notebook but I’ve included it here as it shows a similar event in a different country.


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