Another worrying chapter in the story of free speech in Wales

An Open Letter to Chapter Theatre, Cardiff by Gwyn Wigley Evans, Interim Leader of Ein GWLAD

I AM addressing this open letter to Chapter’s management following your recent decision to cancel a book launch which had been previously arranged at the theatre.

The book “Gwlad!Gwlad?An Invitation To A Party” by Aled Gwyn Job had been booked for Thursday, November 29, 2018.  But, this booking has now been cancelled following a letter of complaint sent to the theatre by Benjamin Angwin, a self-styled, local “Plaid activist”.

In the first place, I find it very worrying that the theatre could make such a decision based on one letter, laced with inflammatory comments, sent by one individual. No attempts were made to seek further evidence of this individual’s claims about Ein GWLAD and corroborate that evidence before reaching your decision. Furthermore, no attempts were either made to contact the book author to put these claims to him. Surely, the failure to perform these two basic common sense procedures are akin to a dereliction of duty on your behalf as a publicly funded theatre?

Should you try and fall back on the line that you have a policy in place where you do not entertain events staged by political groupings, once again your arguments will cut little ice.

This particular book launch was arranged by Aled Gwyn Job as a private individual wanting to publicise his book in Cardiff- to be paid out of his own pocket. It was nothing at all to do with Ein GWLAD as a political party as such. Yes, in his book the author does write about the process of establishing Ein GWLAD as a new political party, but that is only one element contained within its pages, as the book takes a wider look at a year in the life of Wales as a nation as well as covering various events in his own personal life.  It’s an intensely personal take on things, and not organized or sanctioned by Ein GWLAD as a party in any shape or form.

This whole  incident should set off some alarms bells for most right-thinking individuals in Wales today. There is something particularly worrying in the fact  that an individual can seek to scupper the launch of a book about Wales using the “racist” canard – a book which even the English publisher has confirmed publicly contains no racist or inflammatory language whatsoever.

But, we believe that you as a theatre have acted in  a much more damaging way in responding to this individual’s poison-pen letter in such a knee-jerk way, by immediately cancelling the book launch.

This process of seeking to shut down free speech is a growing blight on our society today. Using bullying and shaming tactics against people who merely want to exercise their right to express their opinions is an absolute disgrace in the first place. But then to see a theatre- supposedly devoted to fresh expressions by means of the arts- supporting and condoning such tactics is even more problematical and dangerous for us as a society.

We would like you to reflect upon an old and very wise Welsh proverb ” Rhydd i bawb eu barn ac i bob barn ei llafar” (Allow everyone have an opinion and for those opinions to be expressed).

Ein GWLAD believes unreservedly in this proverb. We want to see a Wales where people are allowed to express themselves openly without fear of being immediately shut down or shamed for doing so. There is little point in campaigning for a free Wales, unless we also have a society where its citizens are also free in this most important of respects.

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