Mark of the Chartists

4th May 2007 at 01:00
Historical workshops are showing primary pupils the value of the vote

A HISTORICAL action group has staged a series of workshops to teach primary pupils about the significance of the Welsh Chartists to UK voting rights.

Their bid to raise awareness comes as a recent poll found that more than two-thirds of adults questioned did not have a clue who the democratic activists were.

Young people aged 16-30 had the least knowledge of the Chartist movement, with just 25 per cent saying they had heard of it.

The random poll was undertaken in Newport, South Wales, on the spot at which the 1839 Chartist rising took place, leading to the massacre of 20 sympathisers, on behalf of the Heritage in Action partnership Herian.

The group is presently campaigning for South Wales to be recognised internationally as the historic heartland of the Chartist movement. It is also calling for the Chartists' sacrifices in winning votes to be more widely taught in schools.

Members of the heritage group, dressed in period costume, held the workshops at Newport Museum.

Jeff Pride, a local historian, said: "Our aim was to raise the profile of Chartism. South Wales plays such a pivotal role and has a real opportunity to claim the Chartist legacy."

During the workshops, which were held to coincide with the countdown to yesterday's Assembly elections, pupils came face-to-face with South Wales colliery clerk William Jones, who took part in the Chartist march and saw his brother-in-law Zephaniah Davies shot outside the town's Westgate Hotel.

Pupils were asked to debate why he got involved and why he was prepared to risk death or jail in order to get the vote.

The results of the survey also reveal that 50 per cent of those who had heard of the Chartists were able to name John Frost as one of the leaders.

About two-thirds of those questioned (66 per cent) said they believed that more should be done to raise awareness.

Unfortunately, TES Cymru went to press before the results of the Assembly government elections were known yesterday. See next week's issue for full analysis and comment.

* www.chartismwales.org

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