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Creative Responses

Published Tue 25 Oct 2022 - By Literature Wales
As the country celebrates Black History Month, we celebrate the diversity of communities and individuals who shaped Wales by shining a light on some of the fascinating stories of Black and Ethnic Minority people and their lives in Wales.

In 2020 the Welsh Government published an audit and accompanying report which identified and discussed public monuments, street and building names associated with the slave trade and the British Empire in Africa and the West Indies.

It also touched on statues and place names associated with Black history.

The audit found commemorations of only 7 individuals of Black heritage in Wales. Strikingly, until 2021, there was only one sculpture of Black people – and that was to an anonymous group in Cardiff Bay. The Betty Campbell statue became the first of a named individual.

But there have been Black people contributing to life in Wales for centuries. Africans came to Wales with the Roman army and during the Tudor period, with the beginning of British colonial expansion. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic seafarers, escapees from slavery, families, workers and students have all been a part of our history but the commemoration of people of colour is negligible.

To begin to rectify this, we are delighted to have supported Cadw’s Creative Responses project, by collaborating to commission the poet Alex Wharton to research and write about a number of notable individuals. Using poetry, song, and film, Alex has conveyed the stories of prominent figures in the world of entertainment, sport and academia. He has created tributes to people including Iris de Freitas, Clive Sullivan and Betty Campbell.

Working on this project via Cadw and Literature Wales has been a hugely transformative experience for me. It’s showed me a Wales that I didn’t know of before. And it’s given me a real sense of hope, pride and inspiration. These stories are all of ours, and my duty has been to celebrate the people and the lives they lived. Any dust has been shaken off – these names and many more are here for us to look back, absorb and decide how we go forward. I’m very grateful for the opportunity, Diolch yn Fawr.

– Alex Wharton, 2022

These pieces are the start of a journey to commemorate a wider range of people and to recognise the diverse ways in which they contributed to the Wales we see today.

Find out more on the Cadw website.