THE ART OF QUIET RESISTANCE
In 1910 the Tonypandy Riots saw striking miners & their families (who were seeking better pay and conditions) facing police and army troops who were essentially ‘protecting’ the colliery owners’ interests. The sending in of troops by Churchill (although the extent of his involvement is disputed by some) was considered heavy handed & against the interests and well-being of the people of Wales. Recently these Riots were cited by shadow chancellor John McDonnell as the reason for calling Churchill a ‘villain’ rather than a ‘hero’. Great dispute across the media and social media ensued and the welsh valleys were being discussed on a national level.
I live and work near to Tonypandy and near to where my coal-miner grandfather once lived and worked. This is a place with disputes, riots, protests and acts of defiance written into its history, carried forward by memorials, literature and historical societies into today’s community.
Today the challenges that these same communities and places face feel as important and as significant as those in 1910, but there are no riots.
There are protests and acts of defiance but they always seem quieter than an history that has always been shouted.
It isn’t that the marches to try and save our public services and spaces are silent protests. It isn’t that the letters that we write to protest against austerity-driven policy are unread. It isn’t that the political cartoons we draw or the protest art we make is never seen. It is just that the ‘present’ of the welsh valleys always feels quieter than a history that has always had its voice heard above all else.
We were bestowed an original Banksy in near by Port Talbot recently. It is probably the most high profile political artwork ever seen in the region. Maybe things are not so quiet after all? Maybe collective whispers will become as loud as the shouting and a new history will be heard?
Gayle Rogers PhD is resident artist at the Workers Gallery, Ynyshir, South Wales.