Category: Guest Blogs

The Soldier’s Own Diary – a painting with a secret

Artists Scarlett Raven and Marc Marot are among the world’s first ‘augmentists’, mixing fine art and technology to tell poignant stories of the Great War through poems, animation and music.

Painting by Scarlett Raven and Marc Marot: A Soldier's Own Diary
Painting by Scarlett Raven and Marc Marot: A Soldier’s Own Diary

Scarlett is passionate about colour, her dynamic approach often sees her use her hands rather than a brush to apply oil paint. Her sweeping arm gestures create movement and direction, with the artist being likened to Anselm Kiefer and Jackson Pollock. Scarlett says:

“The paint is thrown on, splattered and flicked. When it lands, it captures the flowers blowing in the wind. The movement must be in every layer, so when you step back you feel like the landscape is alive. It creates a whole world of magic.”

Marc Marot, who enjoyed a successful career as a record executive before joining forces with oil painter Scarlett, says:

“Our work is highly emotionally-charged, and its power lies in allowing our audience to immerse themselves in very powerful feelings. It takes them out of the here and now. We don’t hold an exhibition, we hold a visual experience.”

Their latest collaboration is ‘The Soldier’s Own Diary’, a unique oil painting which, when viewed through the Blippar app, tells the remarkable story of a Cwmbran prisoner of war named Robert Phillips.

How? Watch artist Scarlett Raven’s video to find out:

Robert Phillips was born in New Tredegar in 1893. He joined The Welsh Regiment in 1914, but following a gas attack he was captured at Ypres and sent to work at a camp 200 miles away in Homburg, Western Germany.

In 1916, after 15 months in German captivity, he managed to escape and began making his way home to Wales on foot. A fellow prisoner was an astrologer, and Phillips was able to navigate his way north to Holland using the stars as a guide. It took him months of walking at night, stealing chickens and eggs to survive the journey, before he finally made it back to Wales during the winter of 1916.

Artists Marc and Scarlett would like to thank Robert’s granddaughter Lynda Osbourne for allowing them into her home to both learn about him and photograph his original artefacts. These included his diary, which he kept in 1917 after returning to Wales and inspired the naming of the painting.

Prior to her death in 2015 Marc’s Wrexham-born mother made him promise to create a painting for Wales, so ‘The soldier’s own diary’ is dedicated to both her and the brave men of Wales who sacrificed so much.

Castle Fine Art Cardiff, which represent the artists, have kindly loaned us the painting in time for Remembrance so that it can be experienced by the people of Wales, many of whom can relate to the story of Private Phillips.

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‘The Soldier’s Own Diary’ forms part of our 2018 Remembrance programme, alongside ‘The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Wales’.

An organised women’s suffrage movement operated continuously in Britain for more than sixty years, with partial enfranchisement won in 1918 and equal voting rights with men finally achieved ten years later.  This exhibition aims to provide a snapshot of Wales’s part in this lengthy and multifaceted campaign, the photographs, images and artefacts seeking to illustrate some of its principal elements.

Exhibitions: ‘The Soldier’s Own Diary’ by Scarlett Raven and Marc Marot / ‘The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Wales’

Date: 1-25 November 2018

Location: Senedd, Cardiff Bay

L-R: Women's Freedom League, Cardiff branch; Suffragette Grand March, London 1918
L-R: Women’s Freedom League, Cardiff branch; Suffragette Grand March, London 1918. Copyright: MediaWales

 

The Senedd is currently open:

Monday – Friday 9:30 – 16:30

Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays (all year) 10:30 – 16:30

Further information for visitors, including information for those with an Autistic Spectrum Condition can be found on our website.

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Kyffin Williams at the Senedd

 

Image of Llanddwyn Beach by Kyffin Williams from the private collection of Eryl Nikopoulos

Our blog post comes from David Meredith, Chair of the Kyffin Williams Trust ahead of the launch of the Kyffin Williams Exhibition at the Senedd. 

The Kyffin exhibition at the Senedd, through paintings and prints, represents Kyffin’s vast artistic output, is a fitting tribute to the genius of Sir John Kyffin Williams.

Painting for over 60 years, Kyffin became an expert in the use of the palette knife for his powerful creations, his landscapes, seascapes and portraits in oil. He was also a glorious and sensitive painter in watercolour as exemplified by his painting of flowers. Kyffin was also a keen exponent of prints.

An artist, a teacher and an influencer 

To Kyffin, the preparation and printing of black and white and colour prints of his oil paintings  – along with his masterly ink wash drawings, remarkably pleasing to the eye – meant that as many people as possible had access to art: the teacher in Kyffin was always to the fore. Before moving home to Anglesey in Wales in 1974 Kyffin had been the senior art master at Highgate School in London for 30 years. As an artist, Kyffin realised early in his career that painting was not just putting images down on paper or canvas, but that love and mood was involved in the act of painting.

Such was Kyffin’s artistic influence, status and appeal that the paintings exhibited at the Senedd are not only from galleries and museums but also from Government offices, from individual homes in different parts of Wales, from broadcasting centres (ITV Cymru Wales and BBC Cymru Wales) and from University Collections (Aberystwyth University). The glory of this exhibition is that most of the paintings featured here are a part of people’s everyday lives, paintings that surround people in the workplace and in the house as well as in academia and art galleries.

Kyffin Williams painting of Dr Huw T Edwards

A national treasure 

Sir Kyffin was truly a national treasure and a great benefactor to Wales, an artist by his own admission who painted in Welsh!

In a television interview in 2004. Sir Kyffin said that he ‘had painted thousands of paintings’. A few years previously, he had been criticised for painting too many paintings, only to reply to his critics with a remarkable limerick:

‘They said that enough was enough,
The output of work by old Kyff,
So they finally put strictures
On his output of pictures
So the output of Kyffin was nothing!’

Kyffin had a wonderful sense of humour!

Luckily for us he continued to paint. As Professor Tony Jones, a fellow Anglesey man and Director of the Kansas City Art Institute said:

‘Kyffin’s way of painting, the look and the style of his work, is distinctive, personal, unique – but is also immediately accessible to a wide audience … he captures the hanfod, the essence perhaps even the DNA of the Welsh landscape and he put it all in the paint.’

Kyffin’s friend and fellow artist Gareth Parry once said of Kyffin’s liberal use of paint that it was good enough to eat! Gareth always encouraged people to practically put their nose in it and revel in Kyffin’s palette knife markings.

You can visit the Kyffin Williams Exhibition at the Senedd from 4 – 31 October 2018.

Find out more about visiting the Senedd here.  

David Meredith

Kyffin Williams painting "Cymglas"

 

Strengthening the quality of our Welsh democracy

Guest blog from Dr Elin Royles, Aberystwyth University.

The Senedd building in Cardiff Bay, Wales

The ‘Creating a Parliament for Wales’ consultation sets the direction for the next stage of Wales’ devolution journey.

It presents an important contrast to the real threat that the UK Government will centralise rather than transfer devolved powers back to the National Assembly for Wales in the EU Withdrawal Bill. Indeed, rising above the lack of respect and undermining of devolution, the consultation builds upon the 2011 referendum result.

It prepares the way for understanding how the people of Wales wish to see powers included in the Wales Act 2017 utilised. And there’s an opportunity for us all to contribute to the discussions.

A strong basis for the consultation was established by the Expert Panel on Electoral Reform established by the Assembly Commission. They took evidence and evaluated a range of matters in order to develop informed and robust recommendations regarding electoral reforms for Wales.

Personally, what’s extremely important about this consultation is that it provides an opportunity for the people of Wales to voice their opinions on proposed to enable the Assembly to work in a more effective way.

It tackles some key issues that have challenged the devolved body since its early years, such as the number of Assembly Members, and also influence how to strengthen the quality of democracy in Wales into the future.

View into the debating chamber in the Senedd

Even back in 1999 when the Assembly was a newly-established body with limited powers, the implications of the limited number of 60 Assembly Members soon became apparent.

From the Richard Commission, to the All-Wales Convention to the Silk Commission, independent reviews have called for increasing the number of elected members. In each case, they knew all too well that proposing more elected politicians is far from popular.

Nevertheless, they recommended increasing the number of members in order to strengthen the Assembly’s capacity to scrutinise the government’s work and legislation. Indeed, the Silk Commission suggested that there were real threats to how Wales is governed without increasing the number of AMs owing to high-level pressures and the constraints on their ability to scrutinise and fulfil their legislative duties effectively.

Given the increasing pressures, it’s no surprise that the Expert Panel has also recommended increasing the Assembly’s size to at least 80 members. A decrease in parallel in the number of elected members at other levels of government would also be a welcome step.

In seeking to strengthen Welsh democracy in the future, the Panel’s recommendations to reduce the minimum voting age in Assembly elections to 16 years old is an important step in order to raise political awareness and participation amongst young people.


Creating a Parliament for Wales

This is the start of a new phase of devolution and now is your chance to tell us how you want your National Assembly to be.

Get started >


In our research into Language, Education and Identity as part of the WISERD ESRC Civil Society Research Centre we have interviewed 16+ year-old students in schools and FE colleges across Wales, including asking them on their views on politics and voting.

A number of them expressed a strong desire to have the right to vote from 16 years old. The extension of the vote to 16 year olds during the Scottish Independence Referendum raised expectations amongst young people.

In our research, a number expressed disappointment (and stronger feelings at times) that they did not have the opportunity to vote in the Referendum on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

At the same time, the research confirms that there are higher levels of interest in politics amongst some young people than would be expected, and that they tend to be unsure and lack confidence regarding their levels of understanding of the political process.

Consequently, alongside establishing 16 as the voting age for Assembly elections, we need to increase and formalise the political and citizenship education that our young people receive.

Whilst there are distinctively Welsh arrangements in place in terms of personal and social education and the Welsh Baccalaureate, the research suggests that reforms are needed to better equip young people.

We need citizenship and democracy education that not only provides young people with more information but is high quality by extending opportunities to discuss and debate political topics.

These are essential steps in order to improve the quality of democracy in Wales in the future.

Do join in the discussions.


Information about the Centre for Welsh Politics and Society – WISERD@Aberystwyth

The Centre for Welsh Politics and Society – WISERD@Aberystwyth is an interdisciplinary research centre at Aberystwyth University, which aims to develop our understanding of politics and modern society in the context of a connected world, supporting and undertaking world-class research in the social sciences and contributing to public understanding and policy development in Wales.

We at the Centre for Welsh Politics and Society are delighted to be collaborating with the Assembly Commission on an event in Aberystwyth on 15 March as part of the ‘Creating a Parliament for Wales’ consultation.

The event is being held at 18.00 on Thursday 15 at the Arad Goch Centre, Bath Street, Aberystwyth.

 

Future Senedd Consultation

Strengthening our democracy: your chance to have your say

Guest post from Helen Mary Jones, Morgan Academy Deputy Director

The Senedd, Cardiff Bay

At a personal level I should declare an interest.

I served as a member of the National Assembly for 12 years between 1999 and 2011, so I have some strong views about how our Assembly works, and how it could be made more effective.

But this is not about my views. March 12 is just one of many opportunities for everyone in Wales to look at the changes proposed and put their views forward.

There has been quite a lot of coverage in the media about some of the Expert Panel’s proposals, including increasing the number of AMs, changing how we elect them and constituency boundaries to improve representation, and reducing the age at which people can vote to 16.

These are really important issues but I would like to draw attention to two other issues the Consultation addresses.

For the first National Assembly election in 1999 the two largest parties elected, Labour and Plaid Cymru, used different affirmative-action procedures to ensure women were selected in winnable seats.

This wasn’t straightforward for either party to achieve.

The result was a large proportion of women elected, then the Western world’s first gender balanced parliament in 2003.

The resulting balanced Parliaments – which were subject to numerous academic studies – went on both to create a different political atmosphere, with more attempt to work by consensus, and to pay due attention to issues that often fall off the radar, such as the promotion of equality and children’s rights.

Since then we have seen the percentage of women elected to the Assembly decline. The Expert Panel suggests measures to halt this decline, including legislating for gender equality quotas and enabling people to stand for election as a job share. I think this is well worth considering. What do you think?

Then there is the question of who should be eligible to vote.

There has been considerable discussion of the proposal to reduce the voting age to 16. Another interesting proposal has received less attention. At present UK citizens, Commonwealth citizens and citizens of other EU member states who live in Wales are able to vote in Assembly elections. We don’t know of course what the status of EU citizens currently living in Wales will be after Brexit.

One simple way to resolve all the complexities that may arise is just to allow everyone who is legally resident in Wales to vote, in line with the Welsh Government’s proposals for local council elections. This seems fair to me. Everyone who lives here, regardless of their technical citizenship status, has a stake in what happens to Wales. So surely they should have a say in who runs Wales? What do you think?

I’d urge everyone to think about the issues this consultation raises.

This sort of constitutional debate can seem as dry as dust. But in fact this is all about how we get the right people in place to make and scrutinise the right decisions about issues that affect us all; our health service, what our children study in schools, our environment.

This is our chance to contribute to the debate around building a Welsh Parliament that really represents us all and will really work for us all.

Come along on March 12, attend one of the other meetings, go online and respond to the consultation there.

Make your voice heard.


The Morgan Academy is a new public affairs unit established by Swansea University.

Our aim is to take world-class research and use it to inform the development of policy to address the most challenging issues facing Wales and the world today.

We are very proud of our developing partnership with the National Assembly for Wales and we are pleased to be hosting this important event on March 12 to enable citizens of Swansea and the region to have their say on the exciting proposals being put forward by the National Assembly’s Expert Panel to grow and strengthen our democracy here in Wales.

 

Future Senedd Consultation

“A milestone on the road to gender equality, not the finish line” – Joyce Watson AM

Guest Post by Joyce Watson AM

This year we celebrate the centenary of women getting the vote. But not all women: those with property and older than 30. By setting that bar, the 1918 Representation of the People Act deliberately excluded working-class women from voting and put women’s rights below men’s. So as we celebrate the suffragettes’ historic achievement, we also reflect on how every victory for women has been a milestone on the road to gender equality, not the finish line.

The purpose of the Wales, Women and Politics working group is to keep Wales moving forward on that road. There is much to do. On the fundamental issue of political representation, for example: while the Assembly has a good record on gender balance (though, we have slipped back since 2003), it is a mixed picture elsewhere. Before I was elected to the Assembly in 2007, I was a county councillor in Pembrokeshire. At the time, just over one quarter of councillors in Wales were women. Today, not much has changed: 28 percent of councillors in Wales are women. In fact, progress has pretty much flat-lined for 20 years. That is something we must address.

We need more women making more decisions, not least because representative democracy should be just that: representative. But greater diversity also brings about better decisions. For example, right at the start of devolution, in 1999, women Assembly Members like Swansea East’s Val Feld played a pivotal role in securing important equality provisions in the Government of Wales Act. They ensured that every Welsh Budget – every spending commitment – is subject to an equality impact assessment. Tragically, Val passed away in 2001. Her legacy lives on, however, and on Tuesday (6 March), a plaque commemorating Val’s enormous contribution will be unveiled in the Senedd. It is the first Purple Plaque honouring ‘Remarkable Women in Wales’. Hopefully there will be many more.

As well as honouring the women who blazed the trail, International Women’s Day is about looking to the future. That is why I am excited to be taking part in Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales’ 2018 mentoring scheme. The aim is to get more women into public life and politics. From April to December, 25 aspiring women will shadow a mentor, gaining valuable first-hand experience. I look forward to meeting my mentee later this month.

Political representation is not just an issue in Wales, of course. And as the title explains, International Women’s Day is about feminist concerns around the world. Last year, I was elected vice chair of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians. As female politicians, we work to improve the lives of the more than 1 billion women and girls we represent. Clearly, the barriers and challenges they face vary massively across the Commonwealth. But, alongside political representation, access to health, education and earning power are a prerequisite to equality everywhere.

Joyce Watson AM

As a member of a minority – does your history matter?

 As part of our work to commemorate LGBT History Month, our guest blog comes from Norena Shopland (@NorenaShopland), the author of Forbidden Lives: LGBT Stories from Wales.

When my book Forbidden Lives: LGBT stories from Wales was published at the end of last year, one of the questions I was asked was, why did I write it?

The question wasn’t asked out of prejudice, but a genuine concern about the usefulness of a work that concentrated on a ‘minority within a minority’ with, they believed, a limited audience.

At first glance, they seemed to have a point – Wales is a small country, with just 4.8% of the UK population; and when it comes to history, is it even necessary to define every person or event as specifically English or Welsh? After all, the laws of the UK affect everyone, and everyone has more-or-less the same experiences under those laws.

The same question can be asked of other, larger minorities, who rarely exceed 20% of the population, such as black and Asian, at around 13%. Although we can relate diverse histories in themselves, is it necessary to talk about, for example, Welsh and English black and Asian people as separate entities?

Before answering, perhaps it is helpful to contemplate how you might go about finding individuals in the written record, which in itself can be a daunting task, and something I came across when writing Forbidden Lives. One of the reasons I became interested in my country’s history of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender – about 6-10% of the population depending on whose statistics you accept) was because Welsh people were being used in UK history without any reference to their country of origin. This was particularly noticeable when celebrating LGBT History Month in February, when people like Ivor Novello, the Ladies of Llangollen, Leo Abse, and many others, were being included but within a UK, or more often, English concept.

LGBT history books rarely include an individual’s country of origin, or an index references to Wales or the Welsh – something that is also true of other countries. For example, many LGBT histories will include references to, say, work on sexology done in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century, but Germany per se will not appear in an index. If you wanted to construct a German history from general histories it could not be done.

The Welsh LGBT history conundrum

All this means is that to construct a Welsh LGBT history, it was necessary to search far and wide through many mediums. An added difficulty with regard to Wales, unlike other countries such as Germany, is that Welsh people for much of the nineteenth century and beyond, are often referred to as English.

Anyway, having surmounted various hurdles to put together the lives and events which appear in Forbidden Lives, what about the original question of ‘why go to all this trouble’? After all, some of the people I include already appear in UK histories and, whilst a number of my stories either highlight little known accounts, or are completely new, why can’t they simply be added to a UK history?

Well, they can. But there are far more reaching questions. The book has shown people from Wales have been very influential in shaping LGBT history, such as Wolfenden and the Sexual Offences Act – both of which changed society as a whole. What was it about these Welsh people that caused them to be so influential? In fact, the book has raised a whole series of questions that cannot be covered in detail here, but which concerns different types of experiences than that of England.

We also need to engage more museums, archives, schools and people in LGBT history and to do that we need to have local individuals – the more Welsh LGBT people we can identify the more engagement there will be. More engagement means more understanding of diversity and less discrimination.

So, in the end what was my answer?

Because history and politics aside, they’re rattling good stories – and after all, everyone loves a good story!

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The National Assembly for Wales is committed to promoting LGBT equality. We have been named by Stonewall as the Top Employer in the UK for LGBT people, a Top Trans Employer, and our workplace network has been Highly Commended for their work. If you would like to find out more about our work promoting LGBT equality, please contact our Diversity and Inclusion Team.

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Celebrating 100 Years of the Representation of the People Act 1918

To commemorate 100 years since the Representation of the People Act 1918 received Royal Assent, Deputy Presiding Officer Ann Jones AM (@ann_jonesAM), discusses the importance of the  women’s suffrage movement in Wales.

February 6 2018 marks one hundred years since the Representation of the People Act 1918 received Royal Assent. This Act gave women the right to vote, provided that they were over 30 and that either they or their husband met a property qualification. The Act, which increased the electorate by over 8 million people, hardly represented equality, but it was a major step forward in the journey towards full suffrage for women, which was ultimately achieved in 1928. To mark the anniversary, there will be a programme of events, exhibitions and other activity taking place in Wales and across the United Kingdom.

Women, Wales and Politics

Championing the role of women in society is something that I am incredibly passionate about.  I have therefore established a Wales, Women and Politics working group of women Assembly Members. By working with key stakeholders in the sector, we will work towards delivering a programme of events and activities to explore the history of the women’s suffrage movement in Wales, and ensure that the role women play in civic society in Wales is under the spotlight.

The National Assembly for Wales has already achieved international recognition for promoting gender equality. In 2003, it was the first parliament worldwide to achieve gender parity.  Unfortunately, the Assembly has seen a gradual decline in the number of women Assembly Members, with currently only 26 of the chamber’s 60 seats being occupied by women. While the Assembly is still an international leader in gender representation, the decline in the number of women representing the people of Wales is a concern. I was, therefore, interested to hear that Prof Laura McAllister and her colleagues recommended integrating a gender quota into the electoral system in their recent “A Parliament that Works for Wales” report.

Celebrating the achievements of women this International Women’s Day

The focus of our activity in the short term will be around International Women’s Day (8 March), a global day which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. The Senedd will host an exhibition that tells the story of the suffrage movement in Wales and a lecture by Dr Ryland Wallace, the leading authority on the suffrage movement in Wales. We will also be working in partnership with the Welsh National Opera to launch of ‘Rhondda Rips it Up!’, a newly commissioned opera which profiles the life of Margaret Haig Thomas, one of Wales’s most prominent suffragettes.

Ann Jones AM

Deputy Presiding Officer, National Assembly for Wales