Last Saturday I took part in a discussion with Billy Bragg on music and protest. Billy is on a tour to highlight 25 years since the miners strike and this seminar took place in the Pavilion in Porthcawl before his gig that night. There was a big emphasis on the work of Paul Robeson as the event was promoted by members of the Bevan foundation in Wales www.bevanfoundation.org as well as a group committed to promoting the memory of Mr Robeson and his work.
Bev Humphreys hosted the discussion, which included Billy and I singing a couple of songs each and taking questions from the floor. At the end we were presented with miners lamps, which was a very kind gesture from the foundation.
It was a thrill to finally sing “Proud Valley Boy” in the building that is referred to in one of the verses. Indeed there is some moving memorabilia of Paul Robeson scattered around the theatre in memory of his phone call from New York to the Welsh Miners conference in 1957. He couldn’t be there in person as the US government had confiscated his passport. I thought the event went well and was very worthwhile.
I have done a number of events with Billy now and we always get on well and good work comes out of it. It was interesting to hear him talk of the differences he sees between Wales and England in terms of the politics. One of the reasons he wanted to do this tour of Wales was to try and connect with the passion he sees here that won`t tolerate the likes of the BNP no matter how bad things get, whereas in England he sees some folk turning towards them and that obviously makes him despair. Interesting stuff and what a good man he is.