Rachel Oliver’s cover for Land of Change uses vibrant colours to arrest our attention with the strong message of WE ARE ALL ONE.
Dr. Gemma June Howell, the editor of this Welsh anthology, has brought together a broad, diverse and upliftingly multicultural collection of contributors who all seek a brighter Wales and a changed Wales.
Several women take issue with toxic masculinity. Caroline Richards laments the era when ego came into being, saying that it 'spread via testosterone'. Both Trump and Johnson’s careers can clearly be used to justify her claim. And while Summar Jade asks the question 'who can blame us when we say all men are the same?' Zoe John shows us the 'misogynistic and sexist narratives' that far too many men still engage in. It is Maj Ikle who rightly suggests that we need to get 'beyond sexism, beyond patriarchy.'
We also need to get beyond the racist stereotyping of black people, according to Kate Cleaver in Am I Black Enough? If the key message is WE ARE ALL ONE, then those who seek division on the grounds of race, migration, gender or sexual orientation simply have to be confronted.
Two testimonies in particular stand out on these issues. One is by Des Mannay, writing about The Story of the Cardiff Three, framed for the murder of a prostitute. All of them lived in the Cardiff Docks area and anti-working-class and racist bile were used against the three men and against their community. A broad-based campaign campaigned for their release and eventually the three were released in 1992.
During the campaign support came from then NALGO member Ted Adey who spoke of fair treatment for all regardless of race, sex or religious beliefs. If only USDAW had lived up to such a view, according to John Frost who witnessed first-hand how factory officials and government sought to pin the blame on migrant workers for a COVID outbreak in a food factory he was working in. John tells us how the union there allowed conditions to exist unchallenged and refused to make any attempts to recruit migrants.
Are we all one, or are just some of us one – and the rest other? This question is forever answered as some by a ruling class which, according to Gareth Twamley, engages in 'feeding frenzies for the few ….. lunching from a golden trough'.
Rebecca Lowe tells us that we are 'living in a manifestly unjust capitalist dystopia run by Tory privileged idiots'. As for the Labour Party, Phil Knight recounts how the Labour Council in Newport decided to remove – and destroy – a mural commemorating the Chartist Uprising of 1839 to make way for a new shopping experience.
Clearly there can be no change without struggle, achieved by the broadest possible coalition of forces. Land of Change is a fine book, notable for its message of unity through diversity. The contributors all demand urgent action on the unacceptable levels of social inequality and class division, to realise the message that WE ARE ALL ONE.
Land of Change: Stories of Struggle and Solidarity from Wales, edited by Dr. Gemma June Howell is available here.
Jim Aitken is a poet and dramatist living and working in Edinburgh. He is a tutor in Scottish Cultural Studies with Adult Education and he organises literary walks around the city.