#Temple80 – A month celebrating Wales’ Peacemakers and movements

Through November 2018, the Welsh Centre for International Affairs organised an ambitious programme of events to mark the 80th Anniversary of the opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace on Nov 23rd 1938, as well as #WW100 – the centenary of the Armistice of 11th Nov 1918, and beginning of the post-WW1 “Peace Process” that shaped global relations over the century since.

WCIA delivered over 43 events with a wide range of partners, each exploring an area of Wales’ ‘Peace Heritage’, and the work of Temple organisations past, present and future – as well as showcasing through the Wales for Peace Exhibition the work of volunteers and communities who have contributed to the Wales for Peace programme between 2014-18. This blog aims to draw together links and resources from all these activities, as they become available.

Voices of 1938 – Clippings Projection 

Voices of Temple80 – Film

Temple80 November Programme of Events (scroll down for recordings / outputs)

View full programme of events – English; Welsh; Eventbrite

View Temple80 Exhibition Guide – English; Welsh

Listen to ‘Assemble’, composed for Temple80 / WW100 by Iffy Iwobi and Jon Berry

Temple80 Anniversary Evening

Centrepiece of Temple80 was the Gala evening on 23rd November, attended by about 230 people and including:

Self-Guided Tours of the Temple of Peace, and Temple80 / Wales for Peace exhibition.

‘A New Mecca’ Performance in partnership with Dr. Emma West, Uni of Birmingham and British Academy; Being Human Festival; Gentle Radical Arts Collective; and 50 volunteers and participants from diverse community groups. View ‘A New Mecca for today’ Being Human Festival blog by Dr Emma West.

– Communal Rededication of the Hall of Nations (back to its original 1938 title, as discovered from the archives)

– Food, Drink and Fireworks

– Launch of ‘Voices of Temple80’ Documentary Film by Tracy Pallant / Amy Peckham / Valley & Vale Community Arts

– WCIA VIPs Reception and alumni reunion, with Cutting of a ‘Rainbow Cake’

Peace Garden 30th Anniversary

On Saturday 24th, this was followed by a #PeaceGarden30 Rededication and Family Fun Day, in which WCIA brought together UNA Exchange international volunteers and alumni and Garden of Peace Founder Robert Davies, with children from Roath Park Primary School

Together they unveiled 2 new colourful mosaics (created by international volunteers) on a new archway entrance in the Peace Garden; buried a Time Capsule in the Garden, to be opened in 50 years time; and unveiled a plaque on one of WCIA’s meeting rooms in honour of Robert Davies, and all international youth volunteers inspired by him from 1973 to today.

#Temple80 ‘Wales for Peace’ Exhibition

The Exhibition accompanying Temple80 sought to draw together the story of the Temple, with Wales’ peace heritage of the last 100 years – including hidden histories gathered by community groups and volunteers 2014-18 – along with responses from young people, schools and artists.

View Temple80 Exhibition Guide – English; Welsh

Artists in Residence showcased a range of responses for visitors to delve deeper into the Temple’s stories:

  •    Jon Berry, Temple80 Artist in Residence composed a series of musical installations responding to the Temple spaces & heritage; and also collaborated with musician Iffy Iwobi to produce and perform ‘Assemble’, a 8 minute musical tribute for the BME Remembrance Service.
  •    Ness Owen, collection of 5 poems responding  to heritage materials in exhibition;
  •    Will Salter, ‘Guiding Hand’ alternative tour of the Temple encouraging deeper spatial appreciation;
  •    Hazel Elstone, crafted multicoloured wreath of red, white, black and purple Remembrance poppies
  •    Lee Karen Stow, with her ‘Women War & Peace’ photography display;
  •    Tracy Pallant & Amy Peckham, with their community films including Temple80 Rap by BME artist Jon Chase.

Recordings / Outputs from Temple80 Events

Event Photo(s) Video(s) Audio(s)
Exhibition – throughout November Flickr Album;

Building the Exhibition

Self-Guided Tour with Craig Owen  
Exhibition Launch and ‘Temple of Memories’ Round Table Flickr Album FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – ‘Temple of Memories’  
BAME Remembrance Service, 2nd Nov Flickr Album   ASSEMBLE – by Iffy Iwobi & Jon Berry
International Development, 5th Nov      
Schools Conference, 6TH Nov Flickr Album    
War, Peace & the Environment, 6th Nov Article    
Temple Tours   Exhibition Walkthrough  
Turning the Pages – every day through Nov Soldiers Stories FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – Turning of the Pages Thoughts from the Crypt
Story of the Book of Remembrance, 9th Nov Flickr Album FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – Story of the Book 1 and 2 Story of the Book of Remembrance
Armistice Day Services, 11th Nov Flickr Album    
Campaigning for Change, 13th Nov   FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – CAMPAIGNING FOR CHANGE Campaigning for Change
Refugees & Sanctuary, 16th Nov   FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – REFUGEES & SANCTUARY  
Peace Education, 20th Nov   FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – PEACE EDUCATION  
Legacy of WW100, 21st Nov Flickr Album   Legacy of WW100 Audio
Women War & Peace, 22nd Nov   FACEBOOK LIVE – LEE STOW WOMEN WAR & PEACE

FACEBOOK LIVE – WELSH WOMEN & PEACE

FACEBOOK LIVE – 1980S ANTI NUCLEAR CAMPAIGNERS

Women War & Peace x 6
Peace Garden Rededication & Family Fun Day, 24th Nov Flickr Album Peace Garden Rededication + Robert Davies  

Media Coverage

A New Mecca for Today? Being Human Festival Blog by Dr. Emma West, British Academy

‘We Will Remember Them’ – BBC Documentary by Huw Edwards (Temple of Peace features in about 5 minutes of content, with Dr Emma West and Dr Alison Fell)

How Wales’ most Tragic Mother spread Peace and Hope – Western Mail / Wales Online

Cardiff’s Temple of Peace opens its doors to celebrate 80th birthday – University of Birmingham article

War Mothers as Peace Builders – University of Birmingham

Remembrance Weekend at Temple of Peace – The Cardiffian

Temple of Peace turns 80 – The Cardiffian

Social Media Archives

Twitter Feed & Media: https://twitter.com/walesforpeace?lang=en

Youtube Videos Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0G2l7QV_yPDU4RHB8hEEPg?view_as=subscriber

Soundcloud Event Recordings: https://soundcloud.com/walesforpeace

Flickr Photo Albums: https://www.flickr.com/photos/129767871@N03/albums

People’s Collection Wales archive collections: https://www.peoplescollection.wales/user/8498/author/8498/content_type/collection/sort/date

Facebook Community Page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/walesforpeace/posts

 

 

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Welsh National Health Service: Happy Birthday!

By Niamh Mannion

2018 marks the 70th birthday of one of the UK and Wales’s most treasured institutions: the NHS. The National Health Service, which turned 70 on the 5th July this year, was founded by Welshman Aneurin Bevan. Here at WCIA, we want to look back at the legacy of Aneurin Bevan and appreciate the incredible work done by the doctors and nurses, past and present in the Welsh NHS. Everyone at WCIA wishes the NHS a very happy birthday!

The Mastermind: Anuerin Bevan

Bevan was born in Tredegar, South Wales, the son of a coalminer. As a teenager Aneurin exhibited an early aptitude for politics, becoming a trade union activist. In 1919 until 1921, he attended a trade union supported college in London – The Central Labour College, where he read economics, politics and history.

After returning home to Wales, he faced a spell of unemployment until 1926 when he was employed as a paid union official. In 1928, Bevans fortunes continued to improve, winning a seat on Monmouthshire County Council. His rise continued when he was picked to represent and won as the Labour Party candidate for Ebbw Vale in the 1929 general election. As a sitting MP, Bevan was highly critical of Winston Churchill.

Following the conclusion of WW2, Bevan believed peacetime would allow the UK a fresh start and opportunity to create “a new society”. In 1945, the Labour party won the general election with a landslide victory. The new governments victory, was based upon a programme of expansive social reforms known as the ‘welfare state’. Bevan was named Minister for Health by Prime Minister Clement Attlee. At the heart of the new ‘welfare state’ was the National Health Service. The NHS was launched by Aneurin Bevan on the 5th July 1948. Bevan centred the three core principals of the NHS to be “that it meets the needs of everyone, that it be free at the point of delivery, and that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay”. He further remarked “no society can call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means”.

In 1951, Bevan was appointed Minister of Labour. However, no sooner had he been appointed than he resigned, in protest to Hugh Gaskells introduction of prescription charges for dental care and glasses. Bevan professional success was never to return to such legendary highs. He was elected Deputy Leader of the Labour party in 1959, however he died the following year, at the aged of 62. Bevan was a true visionary. Not only did he recognise the inequality and poverty experience by so many – he did something about it. His legacy of the National Health Service is truly revolutionary.

Wales and the NHS: A Special Connection

The National Health Service welcomed its first baby at Glanamman Cottage Hospital in West Wales at one minute past midnight on the 5th July 1948. The baby in question, named Aneira (the female form of Aneurin) after founder of the NHS Aneurin Bevan. Since 1948, the NHS in Wales has gone onto deliver over 2,500,000 babies.

aneurin bevan

The NHS currently provides healthcare to the three million residents of Wales. In a year, the NHS in Wales will prescribe over 80,000,000 prescriptions and carry out over 17,000,000 GP appointments. The Welsh NHS will carry out 4,375 hip replacement operations per year, 547,090 dental fillings per year and 459,225 ambulance call outs per year. NHS Wales also deals with 1,003,710 A&E attendances every year, which works out to around 2,750 daily A&E attendances.

The values of the NHS at its foundation in 1948, still underpin the NHS in Wales today. However, the un-quantifiable changes in medical technology, increased expectations and a growing elderly population has proved challenging along with the limited budget of health care.

NHS: WCIA says thank you!

As a WCIA volunteer, I would like to extended the warmest birthday wishes to the NHS! We’d also love to thank the NHS for their phenomenal care of all their patients over the last seventy years.

Jonah Jones, artist and conscientious objector

By Peter Jones

My father, the artist Jonah Jones (1919-2004), was effectively a lifelong pacifist. As with many things, including religion, he was a doubter, but he never quite renounced his principles, for he hated war, having witnessed its dreadful depredations.

Len portrait 1944.jpegHis father Norman served in the Great War at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. Wounded at Vimy Ridge in 1917, he was invalided out. Norman felt some bitterness about his war experiences, and always tried to ignore Remembrance Day. Clearly this had some effect on his son’s views. Then in late 1935 Jonah got a post as an assistant at Felling public library near his home on Tyneside. The librarian, Mona Lovell, was a convert to the Society of Friends and under her influence Jonah became interested in Quakerism. She became an intellectual and cultural mentor to him, helping to focus his reading and introducing him to new artistic experiences like classical music concerts, ballet and theatre. Mona played a vital part in Jonah’s development, and the two became close friends.

Jonah came to feel that he must do all he could as an individual to prevent another war. He joined the Peace Pledge Union and sold Peace News on the streets. Following the outbreak of the Second World War he was registered as a conscientious objector. In October 1940 he was sent to Exmoor to work as a forester, beginning almost three and a half years working on the land which took him also to Kircudbrightshire in south-west Scotland and Wensleydale in North Yorkshire. Mona and Jonah began a regular correspondence that continued until the late 1940s, when life took them in different directions. She kept all his letters, a selection of which, edited by me, is to be published this autumn by Seren Books.

Jonah’s letters during this time give a clear picture of life as a conscientious objector. The worst experience was his two months on Exmoor. The group of COs of which he was part was treated badly, underfed and made to work in sodden clothes that did not dry from the previous day’s soaking. The locals in a deeply conservative area were openly hostile, “waiting for the slightest excuse to beat us up, for we are hated in this valley, we know it only too well”. Solidarity between the COs soon broke down – Jonah describes a vicious row between Christadelphians and Plymouth Brethren. The four months in Scotland were better, at least initially. He lived in an isolated shepherd’s bothy with a small group of fellow COs in what he described as “six lads living out Communism in its simplest & most wholesome form”.

In Wensleydale, where he spent by far the longest time, Jonah was on the whole treated quite decently by people. He fell in with the Castle Bolton group of artists, who mentored him in his first uncertain steps towards a career in the arts (he grappled with watercolour painting during these years). Briefly he came under suspicion from the local policeman, who dimly thought this young man sketching landscapes and churches might be a spy, until Jonah got a permit from the area superintendent.

Forestry Gang.png

A crisis in his personal life in May 1943, and sheer exhaustion from constant tree felling (no power saws then), brought Jonah to a drastic reappraisal. He decided to enlist in the armed forces, but without renouncing his refusal to bear arms. He was finally called up eight months later and was drafted into the Non-Combatant Corps. Here he spent a dreary and frustrating eight months moving about sacks of flour and similar material.

Jonah was rescued from this in October 1944 when he was accepted into 224 Parachute Field Ambulance, part of the 6th Airborne Division. This was what he had been aiming for when he enlisted. He saw action in the Ardennes and Germany, and was among the first to enter the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, spending a couple of days treating the sick and dying there. Jonah never had the slightest doubt that he had done the right thing by joining 224 PFA. He helped to save lives and heal the wounded, German as well as Allied. He was proud of his work and besides, he became friends with a number of artists, writers and designers who were fellow members of the unit. It was during this period that he decided conclusively to pursue a career in the arts after demobilization.

Jonah went on to spend almost two years stationed in Palestine during the final stages of the British Mandate. He became increasingly disillusioned with government policy towards Jewish refugees. The letters end with Jonah settled in Wales and establishing himself as a full-time sculptor and lettercutter.

Mona & Len Park Bench.png

Jonah’s letters to Mona Lovell tell a fascinating story of life in wartime, both among civilians and in the Army. They also portray the remarkable people with whom he was close friends – poets, painters and others as well as the redoubtable Mona. Above all the letters are a significant record of one man’s experience as a conscientious objector in the Second World War, and make for rewarding reading.

 

Dear Mona: Letters from a Conscientious Objector by Jonah Jones, edited by Peter Jones

Ten Years of Independence: All about Kosovo and the challenges to come

By Georgina Whiteman

The Republic of Kosovo is a disputed territory and partially-recognised state in South-east Europe that declared independence from Serbia on the 17th February 2008. Kosovo has been conquered by the Byzantine, Bulgarian and Serbian Empires, part of the Ottoman Empire and then more recently, part of Yugoslavia. Its long history has led to confusion over borders, questions of its legitimacy, and an array of languages and cultures muddled up into one small land-locked country. Much like Wales, it has spent much of its history fighting for its autonomy and rights, and much like Wales, has come out a success story. But just who exactly is Kosovo, and why is it deemed Europe’s youngest and fastest growing economy?

kosovo 1

Kosovo is an Albanian majority country, with 93% of the population identifying as Albanian. Minority groups consist of Serbs (predominantly in the North, Montenegrins, Romani, Bosniaks, Croats and Turks. During the 1999 Kosovo War, over 70,000 ethnic Albanians, 10,000 ethnic Serbs and 7,000 ethnic Bosniaks were forced out to neighbouring countries. Many of the ethnic Albanians returned following the United Nations taking over administration of Kosovo after the war. The main languages are Albanian and Serbian, with Bosnian also an increasingly popular language. It considers itself a secular country, in which the two main religions are Christianity and Islam. Kosovo has had a dark history, and still today faces many socioeconomic and political issues.

Kosovo is a transition lower-middle income economy, having seen solid economic growth in the past decade and being one of only four countries in Europe to experience growth in every year since the 2008 financial crisis. Kosovo’s growth model is heavily reliant on remittances to fuel domestic consumption, particularly due to the extremely low average monthly wage (€304) and lack of employment opportunities. In recent years, Kosovo has received an influx of foreign direct investment, seen developments in its financial and technological sectors, and increased exports significantly. Kosovo’s main exporting partners are Italy, Albania, Macedonia, Switzerland, Montenegro and Germany, and its key exports are metals, mineral products, textiles, packaged foods, plastic and rubber. In more recent years, the wine production in Kosovo has grown and has started to be traded with Germany and the US, as well as smaller countries within the region.

A Brief History of Kosovo

1st Century AD Romans gain control of the area, populated by Dardani people.

 

6th Century Slavs begin to settle in the area, which slips from Roman/Byzantine control and becomes a disputed border.

 

12th Century Serbia gains control of Kosovo – which becomes the heart of the Serbian empire, seeing the construction of many Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries.

 

1389 Battle of Kosovo leads to 500 years of Turkish Ottoman rule.

 

1912 Balkan Wars lead to Serbia regaining control of Kosovo from the Turks.

 

1946 Kosovo is absorbed into the Yugoslav Federation.

 

1974 Yugoslav constitution recognises the autonomous status of Kosovo, giving the province de facto self-government.

 

1990 Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic strips Kosovo of its autonomy and imposes Serbian administration, prompting Albanian protests.

 

1991 Start of the violent break-up of Yugoslavia. Kosovar Albanians launch passive resistance movement but fail to secure independence.

 

1996 The rebel Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) start attacking Serbian authorities in Kosovo, which see’s retaliation in form of a Serbian crackdown.
1999 NATO implements a 78-day air campaign on Serbia due to international effort failing to stop the Kosovo conflict. Yugoslav and Serbian forces respond with ethnic cleansing against Kosovar Albanians. Following a peace agreement, Yugoslav and Serbian forces withdraw from Kosovo and a UN sponsored administration take over.

 

2008 Kosovo unilaterally declares independence.

 

2012 Group of countries overseeing Kosovo since 2008 end its supervisory roles, but NATO-led peacekeepers and EU rule-of-law monitors remain.

 

2013 Kosovo and Serbia reach landmark agreement on normalising relations which grants high degree of autonomy to Serb-majority areas in the North, with both sides agreeing not to block each other’s efforts to seek EU membership.

 

Transparency International ranks Kosovo as one of the worst countries in Europe for corruption perception, significantly lower than many developing countries. There is much dissatisfaction with the war-time politicians still in power in Kosovo, due to many unresolved allegations of war crimes and abuse. Tensions with Serbia are still rife, with the occasional conflict arising in the North, particularly in Mitrovica, a melting point of cultures divided by the New Bridge over the Ibar river.

A 2016 estimate predicted that Kosovo has a population of 1.816 million people, in which roughly half are under the age of 25, according to the UNDP. Youth unemployment reaches a global low, with over 60% of young people unemployed. Education attainment is low, and most young people attend mono-ethnic classes in which all staff and students belong to the same ethnic group. The Kosovan economy generates only half the required jobs to keep up with the amount of young people entering the work force – and with poor education standards, low education attainment and segregated schools, young unemployment only seeks to grow until the Kosovan government and policy makers implement change.

Roughly 190,000 Kosovans are thought to have left Kosovo since its independence declaration in 2008. Hundreds of thousands of Kosovans left prior to this, seeking refugee due to the Kosovo War and the following unstable and corrupt political climate, with many seeking refuge in Germany and Switzerland. 50% of Kosovo’s youth stating intention to emigrate if the strict and unpopular EU visa regime changed. Migrants send money back to their family in Kosovo, in which these remittances account for approximately 15.6% of total GDP – one of the most remittance dependent countries in the world. Whilst remittances benefit the recipient due to the increase in disposable income, they further inequality due to their inflationary impact on the local economy, and their use for luxury consumption as opposed to infrastructural investment. Many migrants frequently return to Kosovo, and express dissatisfaction with the current state of the country due to the high rates of corruption and lack of representation for the Diaspora. The purpose of the establishment of the Ministry of Diaspora in 2011 was to research the causes of migration, and to represent the interests of expatriates as well as to offer representation for them to directly influence government affairs.

Whilst we celebrate ten years of Kosovo, and its booming growth in the face of 2008 and its ongoing fight for international recognition, there are still many issues that need facing. Although the main battles are over, the war is not yet finished and with the help of international organisations and development funds, its wholly possible for Kosovo to come out as a beacon of hope from the ashes of former Yugoslavia. For such a young economy, we need to aid in developing employability skills in the youth, matching jobs to seekers, and aiding ascension into the EU to enable the youth of Kosovo to access an international network of employment and education opportunities. We need to hold those accused of war crimes accountable and aid the government in reducing corruption and increasing transparency for its country. Finally, we need to connect the Diaspora, to develop a network that aids Kosovo in its development in more ways than foreign aid ever could – through the transfer of finance, skills, culture, education and political power.

The ghost in the attic

By Mari Lowe

When I first started working at the Temple of Peace, it wasn’t long before I was told about the ghost in the attic.  Some people swear they’ve heard strange noises and felt an unusual presence, beyond the first floor.  Given that one of my jobs was to dig around in the archive up there, I quickly brushed it aside, and told myself that it would be peaceful working amongst the rafters, rather than scary. 

ghost in the attic 1

Temple opening 1938.  In the front row, third from the left, is Minnie James who was selected to represent those mothers of Wales who had lost children in World War 1.

Initially, working with the archive was frustrating, as it’s currently uncatalogued, making it difficult to find anything specific.  Also, as an institutional archive, some of the material can look a little dry at first glance (imagine minutes, accounts, etc.), so it took a lot of patience to understand the content and to begin drawing out engaging stories.

But after a few very dusty afternoons, I started to understand the Temple’s past.  We have documents and objects going right back to the 1910s, actually predating the Temple.  This includes ledgers from the Welsh National Memorial Association and publications by the Welsh League of Nations Union, both of which were given a home at the Temple when it opened in 1938.

Here on the Wales for Peace team, we are also working with various partners to open up the archive and to tell the story of the building, ready for our 80th anniversary celebrations in November.  We recently had a great sharing session with some of our creative partners and I selected some gems from the archive to help get the ideas flowing…

Ghost in the attic 2.png

In the wood-panelled Council Chamber, Bethan, John, Tracy, Emma and Mari, get stuck into some archive material.

One of the items which really caught our attention was a set of original photographs of the Temple opening ceremony in 1938.  Dr Emma West has been researching the story behind the opening ceremony but had never seen these beautiful snaps of the day itself.  The publicity campaign was, in fact, handled by a London-based PR firm. 

We also loved the menu card from the formal lunch which followed the opening ceremony, hosted by the Mayor of Cardiff at City Hall.  Included on the menu was crème portugaise, a soup made with tomato and bacon.  The menu also lists the formal toasts, including a toast to the League of Nations.  The toasts seem so full of hope despite the fact that World War 2 was already looming at the time.

Jumping forward in time, we explored a series of photograph albums featuring the work of Bill (W.R.) Davies, first Director of the WCIA when it was established in 1973.  This includes the Freedom from Hunger Campaign in Wales which was based at the Temple.  Film-maker Tracy Pallant will be interviewing Bill and using these recently-discovered albums in their conversations.

These are just a few highlights from 100 years-worth of historical material which we are in the process of researching and developing, and we look forward to sharing more with you.  

And just so you know, the next time someone pops up to the Temple’s attic and hears any strange noises, they needn’t be scared; it will probably just be me ferreting around in the archive!

The Windrush Generation and Wales

By: Niamh Mannion

The African Community Centre has undertaken an intergenerational project focusing on the experiences of the Windrush Generation in Wales.

The Swansea based charity has centred the project on recording the culture, journey and settlement of people from the West Indies who settled in and around Swansea in the 1950s and 60s.

Intergenerational Effort

The Windrush generation from the Swansea area are now enjoying a well-deserved retirement and have some incredible stories to tell. Young people from the African Community Centre have been trained in interviewing and filming techniques, so they can positively record the Windrush generations extraordinary stories.

Personal Accounts

The African Community Centre’s interviews have shed light on the culture, personal experiences and challenges of the Windrush experiences in Wales. The interviews have also given a chance for younger generations to gain an insight into the hardship experienced by older generations. The second generation Windrush descendants heard about racism and hardship endured by older generations. However, the second generation also became aware of the massive societal change in Wales.

Interviewees talked about their personal experiences of being refused service in shops. Interviewees also shed light on their experiences of suffering racist abuse whilst in the workplace. Interviewees also touched on their unfair treatment at the hands of police officers, including being stopped multiple times by police.

However, interviewees also talked about the changing attitudes of Wales. Interviewees said they now felt part of the community and very much settled in Wales. However, they also spoke of a dual identity between Wales and Jamaica.

Get Involved!

The African Community Centre’s Windrush project is ONGOING!

If you or anyone you know arrived in Swansea, Neath or Port-Talbot in the 1950s, 60s or 70s get in contact with The African Community Centre to participate and have your story heard.

You can contact the African Community Centre: 01792470298 / isioma.ikediashi@africancommunitycentre.org.uk

To find out more about the project visit: https://africancommunitycentre.org.uk/portfolio-item/windrush-intergenerational-project/

Foreign Languages

Anglophone privilege, or handicap, and the world-opening effect of bilingualism

By Anna Lockwood

Globalisation has fundamentally changed the place of foreign languages in our lives forever. But what does this mean for British people who place as the worst in Europe at learning foreign languages? The reason is relatively simple: for brits who wish to work and spend their lives on this island, foreign languages carry no utility. But could the consequences run deeper? The disappearance of welsh is a dire shame to say the least and a very real danger to some. This relates to the argument I want to make in this post that languages are not just valuable for their utility but valuable in themselves.

English is without doubt the language of business and global affairs. This fact motivates millions each year to improve their English in pursuit of career goals and internationalism. Meanwhile, the reasons for monolinguals to pick up another language are numerous. Foreign languages are inherently linked with an interest in global affairs- they create international bonds and require and promote connection and empathy with other national identities.

Through language we express our relationship with the world around us. The amazing ability of humans to express thoughts with such detail in such a diverse number of ways is inherently linked to our equally incredible ability to form bonds with one another. It is essentially what makes us human.

The privilege of having English as a native language is clear. Many of us manage to travel and live without knowing a second language, but this comes at both an internal and external price. We lose the gift multilingualism could have given us, and externally, our human relations are damaged by arrogantly expecting the rest of mankind to communicate in a way that benefits us the most. The linguistic sacrifice is always on the other side, and because language is such a big part of who we are, what we really do is say, who I am is more important than who you are, and what I have to say is more important than what you have to say.

I have become convinced that a dangerous assumption exists in Anglophone countries that languages are ‘just not for us’. That we are wired to be terrible at languages, cast forever into the corner of the classroom to be unfairly hounded by an aggressive German teacher who continuously overestimates, over-commands, and just doesn’t understand that language is not for us. I would like to argue that this position is not just unfortunate or lazy but fundamentally detrimental.

So why are we so bad at languages? As someone who overcame this, I believe I know the answer. We treat foreign language as just another subject. A category of information to be banged into your head word by word until you can temporarily reproduce it on paper. But language is not a category and when treated as such this is the result you have- a nation of people that hesitantly stammer bonjour un café s’il-vous-plaît on command. Your second language does not exist inside a box inside your life but runs parallel and in complete correspondence to your life. Your life can equally be expressed in your second language as in your first, and this is an amazing thing to realise. They say there have been cases where brain damage has caused people to completely lose their first language but remembered their second fully. When pursuing a second language seriously, it is essential that you treat this kind of rarity as likely. In the later stages of learning a language it is not about how much of it you speak, but how little of your first language you speak. I would now like to address any young people considering a linguistic year abroad. I cannot convey how useless moving abroad can be for language learning if you continue to use English. If you truly want to learn Spanish, find a job where you are forced to speak Spanish, set all your devices into Spanish including Netflix, make Spanish-speaking friends, surround yourself with Spanish-speaking people. Temporarily cut English out of your life as much as you can.

Of course, moving abroad is not an option for many, but what I’d like to argue is that having a minimum awareness and respect for other languages is deeply intertwined with gaining an interest and understanding for other cultures. The problems that Wales faces in struggling to keep alive its native language, encouraging its youth to branch out to foreign languages, and promoting a deep-set curiosity in global affairs are essentially the same problem that needs to be addressed collectively.