This Stupid Iron Ring

Of all the things to write about, a massive iron ring that may or may not be being built in north Wales is probably near the bottom on my list of preferred topics. Wales is a country with an array of structural problems holding back the people who live here and whether or not the government decides to waste £500k of public money on building a tourist attraction *next to a castle* is a drop in an ocean of debates that need to be had. But this debate has annoyed me to my very core and now I’m writing this at midnight, so, great.

Firstly; obviously it’s a terrible idea. My first reaction to this story was actually not as negative as it was for other people. Conwy castle is probably my favourite thing in the world and I don’t feel oppressed by looking at it, for me it symbolises my hometown and its history. I think spending that much money on an Iron Ring is a waste, and I’m sure Cadw could think of much better ways of spending it, and the fact they did this without a public consultation is obviously extremely silly. So, first things this, they fudged it.

But what really started to grate on me is that so many people, obviously incredibly passionate about Wales, could choose *this* issue to get so worked up about. We may all be devastated that we lost a war 600 years ago, but we’re in the midst of a much greater threat to our country and people right now, which is the almost lackadaisical attitude of the UK Government to the Welsh economy. In the midst of globalisation, climate change, automation and whatever else, it has been decided that the Welsh economy is peripheral, bound to crippling mundanity, with the government supplementing low wages and benefits rather than trying to transform where we live into a thriving, innovative part of the world. To see such public acceptance and resignation to that fact is annoying at the best of times, but to see that people can be riled up, that public action is possible, at such a non-event as a £500k sculpture, is even worse. I’m not the person to decide what it takes for people to feel motivated to do something, but I beg of everybody who signed that petition to stick around for the long-term struggle of actually changing our country into one that our ancestors who were killed by Edward I would be proud of.

So that led to a nice simmering level of annoyance, but the new reaction of contrarian articles and tweets suggesting that a “mob” of online nationalists have misunderstood the piece of art and forced the government to back down has pushed me over the edge. People across Wales, but especially north Wales, will have to live with whatever installation is put up in Flint. Their part of the world, the skyline that they see every day, or the landscape that to them feels like home, is being altered by government money. They have every right to voice their discontent if they see something is being done that to them feels like a celebration of their people’s past oppression, with their own money, in their own back yard. Public art is never going to be enjoyed by everybody, and if it was it would miss the point, but if an online petition can get 10,000 signatures in 2 days angrily expressing how much they don’t want it to happen, it is perfectly sensible for the government to take a step back and re-assess. If people think this is a piece of art that has been misconstrued by more than 10,000 people, perhaps it is worth considering why this can rile up such emotion in people? Are we happy living in a country where so many of us can be brought to such emotion by something that others simply don’t understand, and dismiss as angry, juvenile nationalism? This piece of art has clearly demonstrated the different attitudes people in Wales have towards our past, and probably to our present and future. Let’s not, on either side, dismiss the other as in any way reacting to this ridiculous episode of Welsh politics in an immature or unnecessary way. Every emotion is valid.

If you want to continue getting angry about something to do with Wales, there is a variety of options available to you. Do feel free to check out the fact that our language is under immense pressure, to get from Aberystwyth to Bangor on a train you have to go through Shrewsbury, or that there are areas within miles of that castle in Flint which are in immense, structural poverty. Let’s get properly worked up about that. Nos da.