South East Wales

Newport Chartist mural: Two hundred at demolition protest

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Media captionPeter Rawcliffe, chair of Save Our Mural, and fellow protesters spoke to Wales Today

About 200 campaigners have protested at the site of a demolished mural after failing to have it preserved.

The artwork depicted the 1839 Chartist uprising in a subway off John Frost Square in Newport was created in the 1978.

But Newport council removed the 35m (115ft) mosaic as part of a £100m shopping centre development.

It said it would cost £600,000 to save and move the mural.

The diggers moved in on Thursday, a fortnight after heritage body Cadw declined to list the 1970s mosaic which was in a city centre subway off John Frost Square.

Pippa Bartolotti from the Wales Green Party said the council demolishing the mural has "woken a sleeping giant".

'Upset a lot'

Image caption Around 200 protesters joined the demonstration against the council's mural decision

"It's just a pile of rubbish on the floor," she said.

"I managed to retrieve some. There's likely to be a couple of hundred (at the protest). I think people have had enough, this has upset a lot of people."

Peter Rawcliffe, chair of Save Our Mural, told BBC Radio Wales people are "incandescent" at the council's actions.

"It's in bits, and we're hoping to be able to make a memorial out of the bits for the people of Newport," he said.

"We're asking the city council to make a decision to let us have the rest of the mural."

On Thursday protesters shouted at workers as the demolition started, before barriers were pulled down and some people rushed through.

The mural was created in 1978 by artist Kenneth Budd who used 200,000 pieces of tile and glass.

It celebrated the bloody rebellion led by the Chartist leader John Frost, a magistrate and mayor of Newport who was forced out of office for his radical views.

A champion of universal suffrage, he led a march of around 3,000 people in to the town and a confrontation with troops positioned at the Westgate Hotel which left many protesters dead.

Criteria for listing

Image caption The demolished mural depicted a fatal confrontation between democracy protesters and troops at Newport's Westgate Hotel in 1839

Frost was convicted of treason and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered but this was commuted to transportation.

He survived and later returned to Britain, where he continued to campaign for political reform until his death aged 93.

Around 4,000 people signed a petition calling for the artwork to be saved.

Wales' heritage body Cadw said the artwork did not meet its "special architectural interest" criteria for listing.

Previously, the artwork faced demolition in 2009 under a development proposal that was later scrapped.

The council called in consultants who advised that moving the art work would cost at least £600,000.

A report to the council said there were "real risks that the mural would not survive such a move".

A spokeswoman for Newport Council said it would consult with the public on a replacement to mark the Chartists.

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