Wales

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Former first minister, the Rt. Hon. Rhodri Morgan, discussed Friday morning the passing of a Welsh children’s right law in 2011.

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Three politicians and experts discussed Friday the passing of a Welsh children’s rights law in 2011.

The event, held in the SAC, was part of Swansea University’s Texas Showcase — a week-long tour presenting the Welsh university’s research with stops at UT, Texas A&M University and the University of Houston.

Wales passed the 2011 law with the legal assistance of Swansea University and gained cross-party unanimous support. According to Rhodri Morgan, former first minister of Wales, the Rights of Children and Young Person Measure was the first domestic law protecting children’s rights. It required Welsh ministers to have due regard on the rights of children when exercising their functions.

“Normally in Wales, we do things after England, then follow,” Morgan said. “But with children’s rights, we did this first. We would become the first part in the U.K. and Europe.”

Although Morgan was in his “lame duck” period, he said he felt requiring government to take children’s rights into account was necessary and tangible.

“Following a very strong tradition and pretty strong cross-party support, why not do it?” Morgan said. “Why have people not already obliged the government to take regard for [what] would be followed by other countries? Why not us, and why not now?”

According to Jane Williams, associate law professor at Swansea University, there was tension regarding the law between the politicians and civil servants in the federation.

“There were elements of the coalition government that were resistant,” Williams said. “To put that in context, within the coalition in other political parties, there were brought reports. For many years, we were thinking about how to incorporate the U.N. and the barriers to that.”

Shortly after the law’s implementation in Wales, Williams established the Wales Observatory on Human Rights of Children and Young Persons. Williams said the observatory members included academics, government and non-governmental organizations from Wales and the U.K. The organization provided legal research and lobbied to bring the legislative measure to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in the U.K.

“It’s because the University was a neutral space,” Williams said. “This was a nice illustration of how we can be an informed society and for lobbying — which we were able to do.”

According to Helen Mary Jones, a former member of the National Assembly for Wales, Swansea University’s observatory was a major component to the legislation’s success.

“Jane [Williams] built an expert grip of human rights leaders and brought them together with backbone players of both parties,” Jones said. “The work Jane and the observatory did enabled us as back-benchers … lets us think what’s the implication and what’s right and wrong. Through this process, Jane and colleagues were able to advise us.”

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Author Kenneth Morgan discussed the history of Wales during World War I on Friday at the Harry Ransom Center as part of its weekly “British Studies Seminar” series.

“I want to focus particularly on Wales, where I came from, because war had a very particular impact on the society, culture and the sense of nationhood in Wales,” Morgan said.

In discussing Wales before the outbreak of the war, Morgan said its coal fields and seaports brought economic prosperity while church choirs exemplified cultural achievement.

“Welsh before the war had a great sense of optimism,” Morgan said. “The Welsh choirs were at their peak.”

Morgan also described the rise of a liberal government in Wales that was led by David Lloyd George, who became British prime minister in December 1916.    

“He was a great figure of radical, nationally conscious liberalism government,” Morgan said. “He then emerged as the most prominent, dynamic figure in liberal government.”

Morgan also said Lloyd George helped the war effort by mobilizing troops and supporting the liberal ideals of the war.

“He became in particular the great advocate of conscription,” Morgan said. “He claimed, as I said, that it was a war of liberal values.”

Despite Lloyd George’s enthusiasm, Morgan said the war weakened liberalism in Wales and plunged the state into an economic and cultural depression.       

“The social base of Welsh liberalism was also being undermined,” Morgan said. “[Wales] shortly, lurched into depression and mass unemployment. [There were] diminished signs of the Welsh language and the erosion of the strength of the Welsh choir.”

History junior Jonathon Parker said he took a particular interest in the formation of Wale’s national identity.  

“I didn’t know much about national identity in Wales,” Parker said. “I’m British myself, but I’m not very familiar with Wales. I gained a much better general impression of what Wales was like.”   

English senior Victor Hernandez, who has visited Wales, said the discussion informed people about conflict in the U.K.

“I think it was an excellent opportunity for people of this city to get acquainted with the power struggles that exist inside the United Kingdom, which are foreign to almost everyone outside the commonwealth,” Hernandez said. “I thought it was insightful and a brave account of a brave little nation.”

For the past four years, The Joy Formidable has toured to play their particular brand of brash energetic sci-fi groove that is hard to describe, but easy to love. 

 

Ritzy Bryan, the diminutive blond guitarist and powerhouse singer of the Welsh trio, called in from Atlanta to talk with The Daily Texan about the tour and why you should know where Wales is on a map.

 

The Daily Texan: How do you keep your energy up throughout the tour? 

 

Ritzy Bryan: Well, we have toured a lot.  The live side is a huge part of this band.  I think we’ve found a rhythm.  We have a good pace.  We know how to find a balance.  We have a really good time on the road and just make sure we put on the best possible show each night.  We’re old pros now.  This is our third year without much of a break from touring, so we’ve definitely found our rhythm.  

 

DT: Do you get a chance to explore the cities while you’re touring?

 

RB:  We always want to do that before a show, after a show, whenever we can. I’m more of that mindset where you should really enjoy soaking up different places, food and culture.  It makes for a better show, a better connection with the people, playing festivals.  We definitely want to get out on site, see who’s playing, see what the vibe is.

 

DT: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve gotten from a fan?

 

RB:  The strangest is when we were doing a show back in the UK, and they had obviously gotten pretty organized, because the first four rows of the audience were actually wearing masks with our faces printed on them.  And no one warned us! None of our crew guys said, “When you go out there, you’re going to be faced with something quite weird.”

 

DT: A few sites say that you are from North Wales, Ireland (North Wales is in Wales, which is part of Great Britain).

 

RB: We don’t get too worked up about it, but it is quite nice to be able to put North Wales on the map. All too often, we get questions like, “Is that in Scotland?” or, “Is that in France?” and it’s like, “No! It’s a fucking country, a really old country, and we’ve got our own language.  It’s a very old language.”  It’s kind of nice when you can put it on the musical map a little bit more.  

 

DT: Wolf’s Law has been really well received. Are you already writing songs for the next album?

 

RB:  We’ve definitely been writing quite a bit on this tour and over the summer, but we never put any pressure on ourselves to make the next record. We’re very much at peace with our own creativity, and how and when and at what intensity that comes, and it has it’s own natural flow. It’s been a great year for us, releasing Wolf’s Law and touring, and we’re just very excited about the future.

 

 

The Daily Texan: How’s the tour going?

 

Ritzy Bryan: Very well.  We had a little hiccup a couple nights ago. We had to cancel because of the weather.  That was disappointing.  None of us like to cancel shows, but it was out of our control.  Other than that, we’ve made it to Atlanta, and it’s been a really good first week.

 

DT: What are some of the more interesting things you’ve found while on tour?

 

RT: Anything and everything. I love nature, so, in any sort of urban setting, I always try to head for the greenery, the open space.  I love being in Austin and seeing the shows and the vibrancy of the city. And, if we’re here for a whole day, I always try to find a moment to go down to the river or see the bats going out. It’s nice to see all the flavors a city can give you.

 

DT: Which bands are you excited to see at ACL?

 

RB: I’ve said that this weekend is when we are seeing everyone, because we saw no one last weekend.  We were so busy.  So, I definitely want to see Wilco.  I’m going to get off stage and leg it over to see them.  I really want to see The Cure, and, if we get in early enough on Friday night, I’d love to see Queens of the Stone Age as well.  And, if I can persuade everyone to stay long enough on Sunday, I would love to see Lionel Richie.  It’s a great lineup.

 

DT: Do Americans mistake your accent for Australian? That often happens to my English friends.

 

RB: Yeah, actually, they do.  It does happen quite a bit, but we’re very pale, which I would have thought would give us away as not being Australian.

 

DT: Any injuries yet on tour? You’ve said before you’re a bit clumsy.

 

RB:  When I’m on stage, I tend to zone out.  I think it’s the sign of a good gig if you end up a little bit unaware of your surroundings, and you get in a trance or a bit of a bubble when you’re performing, but that isn’t always great for my coordination, which, even when I’m paying attention, isn’t always the best.  I’m pretty good at falling well these days.  It comes with the gig, though.  If you have some cuts and scrapes and bruises, it shows you were putting a bit of effort in.