Ten Acre Riots!
In Ten Acre Riots! I wanted to musically represent some of the narratives and arguments expressed by people in divided and alienated cultures – attitudes that sometimes lead to extreme, violent behaviors. The metaphorical voices that you may hear in this piece were strongly influenced by the discourse surrounding a series of riots that took place in Tredegar, a small, working class, and deindustrialized town in a valley of South Wales. In Tredegar there was an election riot in 1868, a major riot against Irish immigrants in 1882, and an anti-Jewish riot in 1911. In English Tredegar means ‘ten-acre town’, hence the title of this piece.
The deep resentment, anger, fear, and abandonment felt by the perpetrators of these riots is something that is still present in parts of South Wales today. A huge proportion of the people living in phenomenally disadvantaged areas do not receive the support they need, they do not receive the support that they are desperately asking for, and they feel discarded by their elected officials. At the time of writing, Merthyr Tydfil, a neighboring town, has one of the lowest life expectancies in the UK, part of the ‘unbearable sadness of the Walsh Valleys’ (BBC News). The current sociological state of being – particularly an anger at what is considered to be The Establishment – is intensified and reinforced by a rich, recent history of industry – oriented abuse and negligence (mine closures and a subsequent lack of re-development) that is seen as an extension of patterns of exploitation from further in to Wales’ past (a famous exploration of earlier industrial misdeeds can be found in the novel Rape of the Fair Country). Even the word ‘Welsh’ evidences a level of prejudice as it is derived from an Old English term for ‘foreigner’ – ‘Welsh’ is not a Welsh language word. It is perhaps hardly surprising that parts of these communities have acted in such an appalling, reactionary manner given that they have suffered so heavily for such a long time.
The continuing mistreatment of the UK’s poorest has an impact outside the poverty of the South Wales Valleys. In recent years there has been a resurgence of racism, xenophobia, nationalism, and a lurch to the political right. This is overlooking the self-sabotage of incidents such as the Brexit vote (Welsh communities were among those that benefitted most significantly from European Union funding). It is imperative that we listen to the voices of these communities and do our best to understand and help them rather than ignoring them and marveling at their extreme views and desire for change – this holds true for the enormous number of communities suffering across the UK.
Politics aside, Ten Acre Riots! is about alienation, abandonment, and violence.