Thursday, 24 November 2022

 

The Forgotten Decade - political and industrial upheaval in 1980s Wales


With the publication of The Forgotten Decade, videos that were made in 2016, and have remained 'private' on my YouTube channel will now be made 'public'.

The video in this post is about events leading up to the 1983 General Election.



This is a powerful and relevant reminder of the pain and turmoil of a decade that changed many of our communities forever, of the roots of still current inequalities, and of the obstacles that our political system places in the way of progressive change. It also benefits from being the account of an engaged and passionate witness. 

Geraint Talfan Davies.  Chairman Institute of Welsh Affairs 1992-2014.





Whilst the book covers a wide range of events in Wales, the UK and internationally that happened throughout the decade, there is also a sizeable portion which is centred on the SDP in Wales and its Alliance with the Welsh Liberals.

The videos are the story of the SDP in Wales.

There are some eight in all. All of them were recorded live in 2016 and are uncut or edited. No pre recording preparation took place for any of them it was just my on the spot recollections of events. Because of that, inevitably there will be some errors of fact regarding personalities, events, dates and timelines.

The authentic record is chronicled in the book. Until some months back, minutes, policy papers, press cuttings, conference material and many more (some 15 boxes ) followed me as I moved house some three/four times over 40 years. Now however they are at the Wales Political Archive. 

The book took Alun Gibbard and I some two years to complete.


Book available on

 Amazon - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Forgotten-Decade-Political-Upheaval-Industrial-ebook/dp/B0BG99JWMY

Also Welsh Books Council site  - gwales.com

Thursday, 20 October 2022

The Forgotten Decade - political and industrial upheaval in 1980s Wales


With the publication of The Forgotten Decade videos that were made in 2016, and have remained 'private' on my YouTube channel will now be made 'public'.

The video in this post is about 1982 and part of 1983.



This is a powerful and relevant reminder of the pain and turmoil of a decade that changed many of our communities forever, of the roots of still current inequalities, and of the obstacles that our political system places in the way of progressive change. It also benefits from being the account of an engaged and passionate witness. 

Geraint Talfan Davies.  Chairman Institute of Welsh Affairs 1992-2014.





Whilst the book covers a wide range of events in Wales, the UK and internationally that happened throughout the decade, there is also a sizeable portion which is centred on the SDP in Wales and its Alliance with the Welsh Liberals.

The videos are the story of the SDP in Wales.

There are some eight in all. All of them were recorded live and uncut. No pre recording preparation took place for any of them it was just my on the spot recollections of events. Because of that, inevitably there will be some errors of fact regarding dates and timelines.

The authentic record is chronicled in the book. Until some months back, minutes, policy papers, press cuttings, conference material and many more (some 15 boxes ) followed me as I moved house some three/four times over 40 years. Now however they are at the Wales Political Archive. 

The book took Alun Gibbard and I some two years to complete.



This video is essentially about the run up to the Gower by-election 1982, events during the by election and then onwards to the 1983 General Election in Gower.

Monday, 10 October 2022

The Forgotten Decade - political and industrial upheaval in 1980s Wales

With the publication of The Forgotten Decade videos that were made in 2016, and have remained 'private' on my YouTube channel will now be made 'public'.

 Whilst the book covers a wide range of events that happened throughout the decade in Wales. UK and internationally, there is also a sizeable portion which is centred on the SDP and Alliance with the Welsh Liberals.




This book provides us with an informative and eyewitness account of unfolding events of The Forgotten Decade of Welsh political evolution. Written in a semi diary style the book is ideal as a memory jogger for those that lived through this period themselves or for historians or the general readers who wish to learn exactly what was happening at the heart of Welsh politics in the 1980s.

Professor Russell Deacon




The videos are therefore the story of the SDP in Wales.

There are some eight in all. All of them were recorded live and uncut. No pre recording preparation took place for any of them it was just my on the spot recollections of events. Because of that, inevitably there will be some errors of fact regarding dates and timelines.

The authentic record is chronicled in the book. Until some months back, minutes, policy papers, press cuttings, conference material and many more (some 15 boxes ) followed me as I moved house some three/four times over 40 years. Now however they are at the Wales Political Archive. 

The book took Alun Gibbard and I some two years to complete.



This video covers events in 1981. The setting up of the SDP in Wales, its organisation, the creation of a constitution, efforts to ensure that the party in Wales would have a voice and policy making powers. Refers to the impact of the Falkland War on the SDP's progress and how Labour, under Neil Kinnock's leadership eventually had to change from being anti Europe and anti NATO.

My contention always has been that it wasn't Mrs Thatcher that made Labour change but the presence and impact of the SDP.




Sunday, 25 September 2022

New book - The Forgotten Decade : 1980s Wales


 The Forgotten Decade: Political Upheaval and Industrial Strife in 1980’s Wales.   Gwynoro Jones. Alun Gibbard.

The 1980s - a decade of considerable upheaval and change which saw industrial tension during the Miners Strike, social unrest and riots on the streets, seismic political changes and Cold War nuclear tension. This book is a chronological account of political, economic and social events that unfolded in that decade.



This is a powerful and relevant reminder of the pain and turmoil of a decade that changed many of our communities forever, of the roots of still current inequalities, and of the obstacles that our political system places in the way of progressive change. It also benefits from being the account of an engaged and passionate witness. 

Geraint Talfan Davies.  Chairman Institute of Welsh Affairs 1992-2014.




Margaret Thatcher won the General Election on 4 May 1979, the day the Eighties began. The Conservatives were creating their new order. Labour had to respond to the electoral failing and the damage done to them by a series of strikes. From this Labour unrest, the SDP was formed, the first major new party in British politics for decades.

Former MP Gwynoro Jones left the Labour party to join the SDP at its beginning, becoming Chair of the SDP in Wales. Alun Gibbard worked for BBC Wales News throughout the decade, reporting on all the major events covered in this book. He is now a full-time author.

The main section of The Forgotten Decade is a year-by-year account of the 1980’s, from the 1980 of Thatcher’s early days through to the 1989 of the fall of the Berlin wall, political and social changes in Wales are documented, with extensive use of newspaper cuttings from Gwynoro Jones’ personal archive. This section is book-ended by a look at the decade leading up to the 1980’s and an analysis of what has happened in the decades since the ‘80’s.

This is a timely book. The story it tells has a strong resonance with the political and social climate of today.

This book provides us with an informative and eyewitness account of unfolding events of The Forgotten Decade of Welsh political evolution. Written in a semi diary style the book is ideal as a memory jogger for those that lived through this period themselves or for historians or the general readers who wish to learn exactly what was happening at the heart of Welsh politics in the 1980s.

Professor Russell Deacon

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Forgotten-Decade-Political-Upheaval-Industrial/dp/1953109632/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=1980s%20gwynoro%20jones&qid=1663093306&sprefix=%2Caps%2C52&sr=8-2&fbclid=IwAR1xYuAIDqncPq_83U1AXwVnXU9F7pOjhvPJdT1RAmODKvp1icA1HZUR-1M

Both authors are available for interview – gwynoro2@sky.com  alungibbard@gmail.com  or 07710 451845;  07506 928921

 

Saturday, 3 July 2021

Whose Wales? is ‘a work that does Wales a huge favour’


Former broadcaster and politician Wyn Thomas on the book Whose Wales?

The much travelled and winding political path followed by Gwynoro Jones is fascinating, and reflects the agonies that so many in the UK-wide left of centre parties have suffered over the last half century.

After a campaign that reflected the bitter battles scarring the relationship between the Labour Party and Plaid Cymru in the General Election of 1970, Gwynoro defeated Gwynfor Evans who had by then become the first Plaid Cymru MP in a Carmarthen by-election four years previous.

It was one of the most emotionally charged and turbulent periods in Welsh politics – an experience that has not been replicated since. Plaid Cymru accusing Labour in Wales of just being a London dominated and focused party, and Labour painting Plaid as ‘separatists’ which were seeking to create a one-party fascist nation.

When the Labour party swung to the left wing during the 1980s, Gwynoro joined 'the Gang of Four' former prominent Labour MPs in the newly formed Social Democratic Party. The SDP, and later the Liberal Democrats, would welcome his centre-left radical style of politics and his excellent oration skills, but regretfully failed to take him back to Westminster, Brussels or the Senedd. Though my socialism differs from Gwynoro, it is a sad loss that we do not have his reforming zeal, strength of character and patriotism represented in any of these parliaments.

The one constant in his political journey has been a commitment to securing Wales’s political identity as a distinct nation through devolution or some form of independence.

During the late 1960s I joined Gwynoro and a committee of highly regarded young political academics from within the Welsh Labour Party to develop a devolution policy that led to the party’s evidence to the Crowther/Kilbrandon Commission on the Constitution.

After months of discussion and consideration of the benefits and problems presented by various forms of devolution models from the status quo, the final proposal put to the executive of the Labour Party in Wales was to establish a legislative assembly with tax raising powers. When George Thomas, then Secretary of State for Wales, read these recommendations he blew his top!

George attended one of our last committee meetings and promptly denounced us as neo-nationalists stating: ‘Look at you all, university people, the lot of you. What this committee needs are some horny handed sons of toil.’ He then left the meeting to work on the divisive pantomime of the Prince of Wales’s investiture in Caernarfon.

I felt a duty to read Whose Wales? when it was published last month, but believed it might cover some very familiar ground to my own life experience. How wrong was I to be? It takes us through some 150 years of ensuring Wales’s own political identity from the Cymru Fydd movement of the 1880/90s to today’s Senedd and the growing discussion on what form of independence we should aim for as we head into the third decade of the 21st century - a politically or culturally motivated one?

In an engaging and readable book, the authors provide a profile of Wales during various periods of its political story - from the people that fought for a Welsh Parliament and against separatism; the long campaigns over decades to establish a Secretary of State for Wales; two devolution referendums, and the Commissions and reports that gradually advanced the cause of Welsh self-determination. Gwynoro and Alun give us a fascinating and enjoyable read full of interest and facts essential to understanding how the Wales we now live in came about.

At present, there is much talk of breaking-up the UK Union, where the concept of corralling the various nations of these islands into a single unitary state - as happened some three centuries ago - can no longer be justified without question. Brexit and the coronavirus have highlighted the weaknesses of Westminster’s centralised approach. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have shown that they need and are able to act independently and with nuance in response to their specific contexts.

Be you a pupil, student, historian, politician or anyone interested in the Wales we have inherited and the Wales of tomorrow this is an essential read. It is both an informative and timely volume considering current constitutional debates.

Indeed, Whose Wales? The Battle for Welsh Devolution and Nationhood: 1880 to 2020 is a work that does Wales a huge favour.


Dyma ddywedodd  Wyn yn Gymraeg

Mae'n rhaid l longyfarch, Gwynoro Jones ac Alun Gibbard , am glamp o lyfr pwysig iawn ar holl agweddau datganoli ac anibynniaeth yng Nghymru. Fe ddylai hwn fod yn lyfr ar gyfer bob disgybl a myfyriwr sydd yn astudio hanes Cymru. Fe ddyliau bob un sydd yn cynreichioli Cymru mewn unrhyw ffordd ei ddarllen..

Nid tasg fyddai ei ddarllen, mae'r arddull yn ddiddorol, Yn gymwys, ac yn cydio ym mhob agwedd, personoliaethau, pleidiau, dulliau gweithredu, mesurau, mudiadau ac eraill. Testunau sydd yn swnio'n sych braidd, ond mae Gwynoro a Alun wedi gwneud pob un yn ddifyr ac yn hawdd i'w ddarllen.

I wir adnabod gwleidyddiaeth Cymru a'I hunaniaeth o gannol y 19eg ymlaen, mae'n orfodol darllen y llyfr yma. Mae’r awduron wedi llwyddo i ddod a nifer o ffynhonnellau ynghyd ac i ychwanegu at ein gwybodaeth o'r hanes, gan gyflwyno i ni'r Cymry lyfr mor bwysig yn hanes y DU a Chymru'n arbennig.


Saturday, 26 June 2021

Book review of Whose Wales? on The Constitution Society’s website

The following are extracts from an article which appeared on the website of The Constitution Society on 16th June 2021.


‘Jones and Gibbard investigate the extensive history of calls for self-government, from the Cymru Fydd initiative of 1880/90s through to the Parliament for Wales movement of the 1950s, in order to provide a context for the intricate devolution campaigns of the 1970s.’

‘Jones’s experience in preparing Labour’s evidence to the Crowther/Kilbrandon Commission on the UK constitution, quite apart from his long engagement with Welsh and European politics, provides a unique insight into the intriguing twists and turns of the era and the fractious relationships between many key protagonists, including himself and Plaid Cymru’s then President, the notable Gwynfor Evans. Indeed, Whose Wales? is compelling for its original analysis of the subject matter.’

‘The authors suggest that devolution as introduced by the Tony Blair government of the late-1990s, a generation after the failed 1979 referendum for a Welsh Assembly, marked a return to concepts and trends which were largely put on hold by the demands of fighting two world wars in the first half of the 20th century and the economic challenges faced in their aftermath.’

Martin Shipton, in his preface to the book, affirms.’

‘Gwynoro Jones and Alun Gibbard provide irrefutable evidence that people from all four political parties in Wales played a role in promoting the cause of Home Rule… However, after nearly a quarter of a century of devolution, the future of the UK is uncertain. Within a few years, both Scotland and Northern Ireland may have left the UK. At that point, the people of Wales would have to decide on their future. Would they be content to face permanent domination by their much bigger neighbour to the east? Or would they take the plunge and decide on independence?’

‘Appendices titled A Federal Model for the UK and A Sovereign Wales in an Isle-wide Confederation articulate alternative constitutional futures for the UK.’

‘The book comes endorsed by former First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, whose recommendation indicates the text’s historical breadth and the perhaps surprising nature of the story which it tells…

 

Whose Wales? The battle for Welsh devolution and nationhood is available here.


Friday, 25 June 2021

Review by Publishing Push: Whose Wales? Compelling new book dissects long-running Welsh devolution debate...

The highly-anticipated Whose Wales? The battle for Welsh devolution and nationhood, 1880-2020 has been released to wide acclaim. At the heart of this comprehensive and unique overview of the devolution battles in Wales lies one question:

So whose Wales is it? 


The track record of all four main players, Liberal, Labour, Conservative, and Plaid Cymru, is looked at, from the time of Queen Victoria to these days of devolution and Yes Cymru. 

Whose Wales? delves deeper into the degree of ambiguity that runs through Welsh politics that in turn has hindered discussions of a clear Welsh political identity. Can any one party claim to have done more than any other in the fight for securing and then developing Welsh devolution?

From one of the leading proponents of the devolution of Wales, former MP Gwynoro Jones, and an award-winning author and former BBC journalist, Alun Gibbard, this all-encompassing, well-illustrated book, Whose Wales? The battle for Welsh devolution and nationhood, 1880-2020, looks at these often-bitter claims and counterclaims. 

Intriguingly, the authors approach the subject matter from different perspectives. Alun Gibbards’ insightful documenting and analysis complement Gwynoro Jones’ first-hand experience and knowledge in a publication that is unique in both its scope and structure. Whose Wales? is a compelling book for this original analysis. 

One of the most interesting and turbulent periods in Welsh political history during the 20th century is told by former MP for Carmarthen, Gwynoro Jones, who was one of the two protagonists in three bitter elections in the constituency. He shares the story of the tensions and disagreements between himself and Plaid Cymru’s Gwynfor Evans. He also recounts his years forming the SDP with David Owen, David Steel, Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams and his involvement in European politics, in the context of devolution.

Well written and comprehensive in its political content and breadth of historic detail, Whose Wales? is constructed into 27 thought-provoking chapters and four distinct sections: 


o The Devolution Crucible 1880 – 1966

o The Carmarthen Cauldron 1966 -1974

o The Road to Referendum 1974 – 1979

o Years of Respite and Return 1979 – 2020


The volume contains a preface by historian and former University vice-chancellor Professor Sir Deian Hopkin and Political Editor Martin Shipton. Two appendices, by David Melding CBE and Glyndwr Cennydd Jones, offer differing constitutional solutions for Wales in the years to come.

In support of the book, Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales 2009-2018 says:

‘Alun Gibbard and Gwynoro Jones have traced the revival of Wales from the industrializing country of the 1880s and the nonconformist consciousness that led to Sunday closing. They describe the bitter battles over devolution in the 1970s through to the small margin in favour of a Welsh Assembly in 1997 and on to the well-established lawmaking, tax-varying Parliament with solid public support that we see today. We were not meant to be here. This book shows how we survived.’   

Professor Sir Deian Hopkin states:

‘The rhetorical question in the book’s title, Whose Wales? echoes the kind of questions that historians and political commentators have raised over the decades, from Gwyn Alf Williams’ When was Wales? to Dai Smith’s enigmatic question in the title of his book on Welsh politics, Wales! Wales?’  


Sunday, 2 May 2021

Book preview: Whose Wales? to be released in June

 The battle for Welsh devolution and nationhood 1880-2020 


We’re almost there! After more than two years of work by my co-author Alun Gibbard and me, the book will be released soon.

In a nutshell, it asks whether any one political party can claim the credit for securing the devolution we now have in Wales today. We look at the various twists, turns, and battles from Lloyd George, to Gwynfor Evans, to Mark Drakeford.

What started as a project expected to be around 60,000 words in length, turned out in the end to approach 115,000 - there was indeed a great deal to say!

The volume contains prefaces by historian Professor Sir Deian Hopkin and Political Editor Martin Shipton. There are two appendices, one by David Melding CBE, the former Conservative MS, on a federal model solution for Wales and the other by Glyndwr Cennydd Jones on an isle-wide confederation. 


The book also includes an interesting contribution by Carwyn Jones, the former First Minister for Wales...


Tuesday, 27 April 2021

What do the polls for Senedd Elections 2021 tell us ?


Can they accurately point to the final outcome?

Wales is more or less halfway through the Senedd election campaign. Hitherto it is proving to be a rather subdued campaign as well – although I doubt whether the candidates in the constituencies are of that opinion. Nevertheless, the noise and bustle seem to be missing.

Perhaps that was always going to be inevitable during the pandemic period.

Be that as it may, the pollsters on the other hand have been busy. Three polls in three weeks or so all giving contrasting sets of data.

The first poll was in the third week of March when the usual You Gov/ITV Wales poll showed that Labour could be heading for trouble. They were on 32%, the Conservatives on 30%, Plaid Cymru on 23% and the Welsh Liberal Democrats on 6%. The reasons for Labour's decline is for another time.

What was intriguing about this poll was that First Minister Mark Drakeford was seen as doing a good job by 57% of those interviewed and only 34% with a negative opinion. Over 70% of Labour and Plaid Cymru voters gave Drakeford the thumbs up. Plaid Cymru came in behind the Conservatives on the popularity contest for First Minister. Adam Price and his party just do not seem able to make a breakthrough according to the polls. The issue of independence for Wales is a similarly intriguing set of polls but again, that is for another day.

But despite that, the poll highlighted that Labour could lose seven seats – 5 to the Conservatives and 3 to Plaid Cymru. The Conservative gains would be in Cardiff North, Gower, Vale of Glamorgan, Vale of Clwyd and Wrexham.  Plaid Cymru projected to gain Blaenau Gwent, Cardiff West and Llanelli. Lee Waters has been very active on social media and he like Helen Mary Jones has also come in for criticism recently. How much that will impact the Llanelli result is speculative.

This synopsis would give a Senedd seat distribution of Labour on 22 seats, the Conservatives on 19, Plaid Cymru on 14, Welsh Liberal Democrats on 1 and the remaining 4 seats probably to the Abolish Welsh Assembly party.

By 20th April a new poll emerged, this time from Opinium for Sky News and this one gave a completely different result. This time Labour was forecasted to be within a couple of seats of returning to Government. Labour would win 29 seats, the Conservatives on 19, Plaid Cymru on 10, Liberal Democrats with 1 and Abolish the Assembly with 1. This one showed that Plaid had taken the main hit, down by 4.

Soon after there followed the second YouGov/ITV Wales poll confirming the Opinium poll and a Labour recovery. This time the poll result forecasted Labour with 26 seats, the Conservatives on 14 but Plaid Cymru with 17 replacing the Conservatives as the main opposition party in the next Senedd. Abolish the Welsh Assembly party remained on two seats and Welsh Lib Dems with their solitary one.

So what is going on with these polls?

The first thing to say is that every poll result has a margin of error in its findings of around +/- 4%. So for example, if a poll finds that Labour is on say 29% that means it could actually be in a range of support between 25% to  33%.

Then of course whilst pollsters do their utmost to get their say 1,000 interviewed sample as near as possible to cohere with the actual composition of the population of Wales the sample may not actually be truly accurate.

These two factors really make making seat projection from polls somewhat hazardous, particularly when you consider marginal seats and of course the 20 regional list seats. So possibly the pollsters should be reporting on the range of seats for each party in a given poll rather than being so specific in their findings.

There are aspects that I will return to before polling day such as likely voting turnout; that in this election because of Covid the figure using postal ballots will be probably much higher; then there is the matter of 16-17 year-olds voting for the first time and in what numbers will they turn out to vote; and finally the extent and impact of tactical voting in a number of key marginal seats.

So where are we at present?

First of all polling headlines could be misleading. But it does look that at present as if Labour will be just short of overall control. That is not unusual, because in four of the last five Assembly/Senedd terms it has had to rely on either formal coalitions or the support of non-Labour members to govern.

But there are still two weeks of campaigning left and as we have discovered in the last 36 hours unforeseen events can and will happen. Just Ask Boris Johnson!


Monday, 8 February 2021

Alan Evans Llanelli Online interviews Rob Phillips of the Prospect Union

The latest news and information on the National Library of Wales


The discussion follows Welsh Government's change of heart and after a 15,000 petition calling for more financial support to the National Library.

Although welcomed, the £2.25m additional funding is only a stop gap measure.  

Required is a medium term strategy and a development plan for the way ahead, placing the Library on a sound financial footing and ending uncertainty including job security. 

https://ceredigiononline.com/newyddion-news/an-interview-with-rob-phillips-union-rep-at-the-national-library-of-wales/

I was also at the zoom meeting making a contribution after posting week or so back...

https://www.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/6193048010130023309/7759643716511621479



Cyfweld Rob Phillips o Undeb Prospect

Newyddion am y Llyfrgell Genedlaethol


Ychydig ddyddie 'nol cefais air gyda Rob Phillips ar ol i Lywodraeth Cymru newid ei meddwl a chyfrannu dros £2.25m i'r Llyfrgell dros y flwyddyn nesa. 

'Roedd hyn ar ol i'r Senedd derbyn deiseb oddiwrth tua 15,000 o fobl.

Gwrandewch ar y drafodaeth yma:

 https://ceredigiononline.com/cymraeg/cyfweliad-gyda-rob-phillips-o-undeb-prospect-ynglyn-a-llyfrgell-genedlaethol-cymru/



Thursday, 28 January 2021

My experience working with a hyperlocal pioneer – Alan Evans

We run 6 news sites, 5 hyperlocals, one national news, and a Talk Radio

I first met Alan Evans (editor of Llanelli Online) in 2018 he was at the time involved in compiling a half-hour video on Jim Griffiths, the former MP for Llanelli and Charter Secretary of State for Wales. He came to my home, full of exuberance and ideas. His journalistic, camera work and broadcasting skills stood out immediately.

He ran the business from a small room adjacent to the kitchen in his then home in Pontyates and I was immediately impressed with his set up and know how the few times I visited him a year later, in the summer of 2019. What was also a surprise to me was that were always two and sometimes three media students helping him and ‘learning the trade’ as it were.

As we talked during the summer months I became more and more interested in his ideas and particularly taken by his determination, work rate, skills, professionalism, and vision for journalism in Wales.

I had run my own business for 20 years and knew full well what it takes and the commitment involved. Come the autumn there was a small office in John Street Llanelli where I started volunteering, not on any significant scale but more as a colleague to assist in the future planning and development of the business. At times he endeavoured to teach me some extra IT skills so that I could be of more help on the journalism and broadcasting side. At my age the lessons were hard but with Alan’s perseverance, I became quite adept and valued as a member of his team.


 


To cut a long story short since the early spring of 2020 I have become more involved and my contribution has broadened from being of assistance with business development, dealing with press release content, and covering the Welsh language side of the by now six online sites. We also have a partnership agreement, which Alan handed me as a thank you for my contributions.

To be honest I wasn’t too much into ‘community’ news and the term ’hyperlocal’ was new to me – I was familiar with ‘hypermarket’! But by now I fully realise the importance of hyperlocal news and the value of this public news service we now provide.    

Increasingly over the last five years, if not longer, hard copies of weekly local papers have been in serious decline. Indeed many have ceased publishing I daresay that the coronavirus pandemic will add further to that decline. Weekly newspapers, once so dominant in the communities of Wales, have suffered enormously and many are a pale shadow of their former selves and indeed many have gone to the wall. Even daily national and regional papers have seen their print sales significantly decrease and as a result, they have been increasingly switching to online publishing and very recently emulating Alan’s pioneering hyperlocal style.

Increasingly as the ‘bigger boys’ turn to a variant of the hyperlocal and the result is that this development places greater financial pressure and presents a competitive challenge to the original ‘community’ independent groupings. I fear that unless we’re careful it could become the same old story, as in so many other sectors of business, when the bigger companies notice something going well, developing and expanding they then muscle in.

Hyperlocals contribute greatly to community news and participation, they add to the essential task of holding authority to account, encouraging wider involvement and campaigning, giving communities a voice, covering local stories and events, reflecting cultural identity, and promoting civic life and pride. They also fill the gaps in news provision so obviously lacking even from the giant BBC.

I came across that most vividly covering the General Election 2019 from Selwyn Samuel Centre. Llanelli Online and Wales News Online in-depth reporting and live interviews on the night were of a high order. There were candidates interviewed that otherwise would never have received any coverage.

These smaller, independent, entrepreneurial businesses by now play an important part in ensuring a thriving news sector in Wales. It is vital that they are no longer put at a disadvantage because they find it difficult to access the same level of funding and support, as so often is the case when compared to the traditional newspapers and broadcast media, which can dominate and influence too much of the scene in Wales.


We run 6 news sites, 5 hyperlocals, one national news, and a Talk Radio

Our visitor figures at the end of 2020 were as follows:

Llanelli Online: launched July 2016.Total 3,505,506 visitors. 792k in 2020 (68k per month)

Wales News Online: Launched April 2019. Total 1,114,258 visitors. 519k in 2020 (44k per month)

Ceredigion Online: Launched November 2020. Total to date 33,300 visitors

Carmarthenshire Online: Launched November 2020 Total to date 17,000 visitors

Pembrokeshire Online: Launched December 2020 and is slowly gaining a following

Swansea Online: Launched December and attracted 10,000 visitors by mid-January.

Llanelli Talk Radio: Launched mid-2020 120k session listeners in 115 countries

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and video channel with over 25k followers

We have built a very successful news model for Wales and we have advised others in the industry to share our experiences openly. We maintain that Wales needs 4 regional hubs for news production and training and we see ourselves as being able to fulfill the role for a South West Wales hub.

Alan and his wife Angharad have a working day that can be up to 15 hours such is the volume of news we process. My daily input is much less in time than that. We also run a 24/7 online radio station, which has taken off and is gathering a large audience. We promote the Welsh language throughout our service. We do not have any political agenda. We maintain plurality publishing news from all political parties with no preference at all.

We process hundreds of PR’s from sources across Wales but we also actively seek out news from within each of the communities and from organisations embedded in the communities like the NFU, Cylch Meithrin, Schools, colleges, Local Businesses, RNLI stations, RSPCA. We also take content from other news agencies, former journalists, and the BBC Local Democracy Reporters Service.

We have given placements to students from several universities, all of whom have gone on to find work in the industry.

Because of Covid our advertising, which was increasing in 2019, has suffered. We now face an uncertain 2021 unless we can secure some funding.

The pervasive view of businesses and those who wish to advertise or publicise is that the newspaper is the place to do so. They still get public notices, part of the NHS advertising budgets, and other notices we are excluded from They too benefit from the supply from the BBC local democracy service.

I find it intriguing that old habits die hard. The 3,000 printed copies of a local newspaper is more often than not the preference of many when it comes to advertising, even though online news outlets such as ours cover well over one hundred thousand visitors a month. What is more, advertisements appear within every news story.

We have had a modest amount of funding from the Welsh Government, which came in two tranches and was greatly appreciated by us all.

The first tranche was in the autumn of 2019 supporting hyperlocals. We used the majority of the money to fund two new members of staff and open an office in the centre of Llanelli. When the funding ended and news of the pandemic emerged it was clear that the office had to close. So using our own resources we set up a very professional studio operating from Alan Evans’s home in Mynydd y Garreg.

Despite all the difficulties the commitment and enthusiasm that we have has resulted in us opening four new online sites in late 2020 for Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Swansea/Neath Port Talbot. In two short months, visitors to those sites exceed 60 k. The studio uses cutting edge technology and it could be said that what most are experiencing, having to work from home and interview online is something Alan was trying to persuade the media industry and the offices of public servants to do all those years ago. His operation has been described as a hyperlocal beacon by the Independent Community News Network and was invited to become a board member of that organization.

Despite the setbacks and the far from a level playing field we have stuck with it and adapted to make use of whatever we could to maintain a very valued hyperlocal and national news service for the people of Wales.

 

www.walesnewsonline.com

w www.swanseanewsonline.com

www.llanellionline.news 

www.carmarthenshirenewsonline.com

w www.pembrokeshirenewsonline.com

www.ceredigiononline.com

www.llanellitalkradio.com 


Monday, 25 January 2021

 Its high time the Welsh Government and Senedd Members step up to the plate

Future generations will not forgive us if we walk away from our heritage.

It is the failure of today’s politicians to appreciate and understand the enormous sacrifices made by generations of working people decades ago that quite frankly appalls me.

It is a travesty that the National Library of Wales is facing cuts to its services and staffing that a previous National Librarian has said could mean the end of the institution.

Anyone that has visited and or used the services of the National Library can but marvel at what a jewel in Wales’ cultural crown the institution is. Set in a commanding site overlooking Aberystwyth with outstanding facilities. It’s a national library, education centre, art gallery, map library, music archive, national archive, photo library and television archive holding the folk memory of Wales on behalf of the people.



The Library budget has been frozen for a decade, which when considering inflation, it has been cut by some 40%. Over the years it has lost 100 staff and now the current round of cuts will see the loss of a further 30 jobs, mainly in curatorial roles and those related to access. This represents 15% of the workforce and comes on top of a reduction of 30% in the last decade

The story of the last decade therefore had been repeated restructuring. Just like other public services staff pay was frozen for 5 years, but it still has managed to keep core services in operation and prioritise acquisition, cataloguing, digitisation and access.

It was established in 1909 thanks to generous contributions from the regular working people of Wales and was given its first government support by David Lloyd George. It is the failure of today’s politicians to appreciate and understand the enormous sacrifices made by generations of working people decades ago that quite frankly appalls me.

It is frankly unbelievable that staffing levels will return to a level even Margaret Thatcher’s government thought unsustainable to run a limited access national library https://undod.cymru/en/2021/01/24/nol-i-oes-thatcher-ir-llyfrgell-genedlaethol-toriadau-in-treftadaeth/

A report commissioned by the Welsh Government recognised that the Library was underfunded for its present role and needed to invest further to meet the challenges of the digital future https://gov.wales/national-library-wales-tailored-review-national-library-wales

It said that changes would be needed, but what is happening isn’t a restructure to help our National Library serve the people of Wales better, it’s a bonfire of culture and history.

In the last 20 years it has transformed from a closed institution where you needed a letter of recommendation to study to a truly pioneering service with collections and exhibitions open to all, an education service to help support school children and an outreach programme which has taken works of art out to communities across the country. It was a huge cultural change with a massive shake up of the structure and services to meet the demands of the digital age and the agenda of opening the Library and its collections to those who really own them.

It’s digitised millions of items and made them available free of charge for people across Wales and the world to use; photographs of life in Wales during the Second World War letters home from soldiers in the First World War, historic manuscripts, maps, works of art, and a century of Welsh newspapers. This work is now all under threat.

According to Andrew Green, cuts of this nature means that the Library means that there won’t be enough staff left to keep essential services running (https://nation.cymru/opinion/are-we-going-to-lose-the-national-library-of-wales/).

The plan seen by unions shows that there will be no digitization except for broadcast material, a cut of between 20% and 40% in collecting and much more restricted outreach and exhibitions.

The photographs showing the Greenham Common protest, posters, and leaflets from the Miners’ Strike, letters sent home from soldiers in the Second World War, and newspapers detailing life in Wales during the Great Depression will remain locked in their storage.

Even seeing those items in Aberystwyth will be more difficult. The enquiries service and reading room services will be disbanded and replaced with a much more restricted service by appointment only and on a part-time basis.

Without a fair budget, even this sad shell of a national library will only survive another few years until the next inevitable round of cuts. But by then, there may be nothing left to save.

The expert staff will be gone and valuable records of Welsh life will either have been sold overseas or thrown in the bin.

The unions at the Library are asking for the support of the public to show the Welsh Government how much they value the Library.

It’s clear from the response to the campaign that the people of Wales care about their National Library- the petition now has over 10,000 signatures and this means that the Senedd will consider a debate on the issue, but we still need your help.

Future generations will not forgive us if we walk away from our heritage.

Please help in as many ways as you can:

·         Sign and share the petition on the Welsh Parliament website at https://petitions.senedd.wales/petitions/244641

·         Write to your Member of the Senedd to ask them to call for fair funding of our National Library. You can find your Senedd Members at https://senedd.wales/find-a-member-of-the-senedd/

·         Contact the Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and the Welsh Language (Eluned Morgan Eluned.Morgan@senedd.wales) and the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sports and Tourism (Dafydd Elis-Thomas Dafydd.Elis-Thomas@senedd.wales) to ask them to act on the review of the Library that they commissioned and to provide the extra funding

 

You can follow the campaign on Twitter https://twitter.com/ProspectLlGC

www.prospect.org.uk

Daniel.maney@prospect.org.uk