Skip to Main Content

"Cenedl heb iaith yw cenedl heb galon"*

Reading Sophy's post on creating a Culture for a Healthy World prompted me to think on what the prerequisites would be to create such a culture on a nationwide basis, as here in Wales, culture is a very hot topic. You cannot live in Wales for any length of time and not be aware of the deep cultural wounds this country has suffered under the occupation of the English. These hurts turn out to be, time and again, big obstacles in the path of Transition. The number of native Welsh speakers that come to our events can be counted on one hand, despite all the bilingual posters and leaflets. There's plenty of Welsh activists, but they are rather too busy with preserving and promoting the Welsh culture and campaigning for an independent Wales to be concerning themselves with yet another English incomer thing, such as the Transition Movement. 

Welsh landscapeIt is more than twenty years ago that I arrived in the green valleys of Wales. I've lived here longer than in my home country of Belgium. I got married to a Welshman and both my kids were born here, but I will always remain an outsider or dynes dieithr. In Wales, you do not belong until you can trace your family back at least three generations living upon Welsh soil. But you know, I'm ok with that. I'm just grateful to be living in such a beautiful place and hope that one day I might be able to show my gratitude in more than words and give something back somehow.

It is not that Welsh people are unfriendly, far from. But there is a certain guardedness, a sideways glance from dark eyes under bushy eyebrows and polite words spoken in a soft, gentle voice: "So you like it here?" These words have an edge as sharp as the local grey slate. I still remember how shocked and hurt I felt by the reaction of a little old lady in Dinas Mawddwy when I expressed my desire to learn the language. "Welsh is for the Welsh and even if you learn it, I will not speak it with you!" It was said kindly, with a smile, while I was having a panad (cup of tea) with her, in her front room. This, fortunately, is not a common attitude, but it is an understandable one. It is the response of an invaded people, who are having to fight to keep their language and culture alive to this day. Welsh might now be the first language in all but a few primary schools across the Welsh speaking parts of Wales, but to achieve that took quite a struggle. We need to look at history in order to understand the present:

In 1847 a parliamentary report was published which concluded that education in Wales was at best inadequate, that the Welsh were ignorant, lazy and immoral and that the the main causes were the widespread use of the Welsh language and Nonconformism.

Image of the Blue Books

The report states:

"The Welsh language is a vast drawback to Wales and a manifold barrier to the moral progress and commercial prosperity of the people".

This resulted in a furious reaction in Wales, culminating in the book-long response of the bard Robert Jones Derfel "Brad y llyfrau gleision" or "The treachery of the Blue Books", but the primary education of Welsh children was from then on conducted in English.

Welsh Not cartoonIn some schools the cruel practice of the "Welsh Not" humiliated and punished children overheard speaking their native language. I cannot begin to imagine the impact this must have had on this proud nation of bards and poets. And it wasn't just the Welsh language that was targeted. My husband remembers how his dad told him of his great grandfather, who used to walk up a hill to where a large boulder lay and with his Nonconformist congregation would have visions of angels. All over the hills around here you can find these boulders, most them broken in half or destroyed by dynamite, where the Anglican clergy took offence at the "pagan" practices of the Welsh Nonconformist Chapels.

Cultural genocide sadly still takes place all over the world. It happens by denying people their language, their ethnic identities, their religion. It happens by systematic rape and by forceful removal from ancestral lands. It happens by mass immigration of members of the occupying nations and by dismissal of the native cultural values as "inferior". As long as this goes on, peace is not possible. And even when the wrongs are in the past, it is rare to see any statements of culpability, of regret and apology, even rarer still to see any compensation being made available to those who have been wronged. Yet that is where healing starts. Many Welsh people still see themselves as a Socialist country under English Tory occupation. The Welsh Independence Movement has certainly been given new hope by the Welsh referendum last spring and recent developments in Scotland. I think nothing short of independence and a profound apology from the English monarch will bring some form of closure and allow this nation to move forward.

 Book cover Desmond Tutu "No future without forgiveness"

In South Africa the Truth and Reconciliation Commission uses a form of restorative justice to address the deep divides between blacks and whites, the Jewish people were able to bring some of the worst perpetrators of Nazi war crimes to justice during the Nuremberg Trials and after many years of denial, the Australian government has now apologised to all Aborigines for the suffering caused by the theft of thousands of their children. These actions are not quick fixes, some are insufficient by themselves, but can be seen as a start. It will still take many years, even generations to heal the wounds. But it does appear that by first acknowledging the injustices that have occurred and offering an apology the process can start and that it is hard to make any kind of progress until this has happened.

In Transition training, we advise those who wish to bring transition forward in their communities, to find out which issues are alive in that community and then see if those can be incorporated in the journey. Maybe it is now time for the Transition Movement in Wales to speak out in favour of Welsh Independence and thus put itself where the people are. We cannot continue to operate in a vacuum as if politics don't exist, when it is clear that without questioning the political situation in Wales, we are merely re-arranging deckchairs. It would have been as if some well meaning people in South Africa had tried to create equality without addressing Apartheid. Welsh dragon flagAs the majority of transitionistas in Wales are English incomers, this might prove to be a difficult and humbling process, especially because of the lack of awareness regarding the strength of Welsh sentiment. Sure, it would set us apart from the Transition movement in England, where the choice has been made not to engage in politics. But as the world economic situation continues to worsen and the British conservative government seems to relish the opportunity to use the ongoing crisis to push through some seriously regressive, ideologically motivated policies determined to make the poorest bear the biggest burden, at which point do we show our colours? When we lose our libraries, our Sure Start playgroups and youth clubs, when the quality of education and health provision depends on how much you can pay, when pensions shrink and unemployment grows and all the while the fat cats purr in their tax havens, at which point do we draw a line? In Wales, we do not need to suffer this downhill slide. Never in a month of Sundays will the conservatives gain enough votes in an independent Wales to be more than a fringe party. We owe it to the memory of people like Aneurin Bevan, who's vision gave us the NHS, not to allow it to be dismantled in his home country. 

With time now running out, we haven't got 10 or 20 years, this is the 11th hour and we desperately need to gather more momentum if we hope to create the necessary resilience to weather the storms we can now see brewing on the horizon. Let's get organised!

* "A nation without a language is a nation without a heart."

Video link


Jo Homan's picture

yeah, case well put

"Maybe it is now time for the Transition Movement in Wales to speak out in favour of Welsh Independence and thus put itself where the people are." What's would the permaculture angle be on this - people care? Social justice? I suppose the risk would be getting entrenched in an "us and them" argument. But then, you don't have to be anti-English just pro Welsh. Makes sense to me.

Ann Owen's picture

The permaculture angle

Well I guess it could be Fair Shares...and you know, the us and them, that's how it is now. We have to find a way to work with that, certainly isn't as big an obstacle as just the sheer lack of communication. Finding communality amongst all the antagonistic feelings is the biggest job. Once Wales is an independent nation that, at least, will be easier.

John Mason's picture

Some interesting and

Some interesting and thought-provoking lines there Ann. I think there are three key things going on here.

There is an element of an embittered lament for a glorious past long gone, although readers of Welsh history will know that it is not a simple tale: it began with the marginalisation of the once-dominant Brythonic peoples to the Western fringes of the landmass now decorated by the euphemism of the United Kingdom through wave upon wave of invasions from pre-Roman times through to the Normans and their gradual awarding (divvying-up) of land to the barons, interrupted by periods of in- and out-fighting and rebellion. This applies to varying degrees to the entire western UK though relative isolation allowed cultures to diversify: hence in the Welsh and Cornish languages there are similarities yet some differences too.

Secondly, as you note there occurred the obscene religious cultural "purges" (I can't think of a better word offhand) more recently which were aimed at unifying cultural aspects just as the big supermarkets want to turn every large UK settlement into a Tesco-Town.

Thirdly, with the advent of easy personal transport, there came the economic invasion, and like the Norman invasion nearly a thousand years ago this didn't just affect Wales - it came like a blight to almost every rural area of the UK. The symptoms vary in intensity from place to place but in all cases they can be summarised as destruction of community (and each community has its rich own culture). This occurs because a) they drive up property prices beyond the affordability of many locals, rural wages being low (the Cotswolds of England being one of the worst cases I can think of); b) they leave some communities like dormitories, deserted during the wetter, colder months; c) in some cases they introduce a strong themed culture that attracts more and more followers yet may have nothing in common with the lives of those living there in the first place and - the worst bit - integration (via the newcomers wanting to learn the ways of the community to which they have moved) does not occur. The incomers go there because they like it, but did they ever pause for one moment to consider why the people who had lived there for generations liked it?

There is a fourth problem: this is likely a global one that applies almost everywhere - the relentless march of consumerism and the misinformation it bombards people with. An example of such a paradox: Machynlleth - where I live and Ann lives close to - has a large proportion of Welsh-speaking locals in favour of the SE England founded and based corporation, Tesco, setting up shop here. This would lead to a further degree of cultural homogenisation, but that's just it - consumerism, whose only culture is taking money from the many and passing it up to the few - has gotten its claws in everywhere. The campaign against it has been accused of being just another case of "incomers telling us what to do" and the debate has seen periods of intense bitterness at times: trying to get our local Transition Initiative off the ground at the same time was with retrospect probably twice as hard as it would have been because this other big issue was ongoing.

Consumer-capitalism on a massive scale requires a large amount of uniformitarianism and in its fully evolved form (this is a horrible extrapolation but I'm sure it is not far off the mark) large areas of the world would be culturally the same in pretty much most aspects. It continuously chips away at what is left, leaving individuals to fight amongst themselves whilst, standing gloating over the proceedings, there is a heartless Goliath that nobody ever voted for and people feel impotent to challenge. Perhaps such realisations are partly what spurred members of the Occupy movement into being?

One of the most interesting evenings during our awareness-raising campaign was taking Transition to the heart of the local Agricultural sector: intimate discussions in farmhouse kitchens can see a lot more meaningful dialogue being achieved than asking 300 people in a hall to write something on a post-it note within ten minutes!

As to independence: there are many arguments for and against which lead to lengthy debate whenever they are aired, but will independence achieve anything until consumer-capitalism is addressed? That is what has stifled a lot of culture, be it in the form of second homes, homogenisation of market towns or whatever. It has taken over our lives more than any other thing. I'm not saying capitalism is wrong per se, but this flawed version of it is in the process of turning places the UK over into cultural wastelands - and depending on how things pan out in the Eurozone in the coming times, we risk financial wastelands too. So supporting local culture in various ways is a beginning to getting community resilience rebuilt, but I'd be cautious with respect to big political questions which, although important, may be overshadowed by events for which that resilience is so desperately needed.

I'll stop waffling now ;)

Cheers - John


Catriona Ross's picture

Separation is a divisive issue

A thought-provoking polemic Ann, and much that sounds familiar from the Scottish perspective too.  However I'd disagree very strongly with the idea of Transition groups lining up with the pro-independence lobby.  Politics do my head in; the fact Transition makes a point of not being political is what drew me to it.    

I have no specific knowledge of the situation in Wales, but would imagine that, as here, independence is a deeply divisive issue.  in Scotland there's an understandable momentum for independence that stems from deep rooted distrust of the Tories and desire for a system that would ensure Scotland was never ruled by Conservatives in Westminster again.  However there's a lot more to it than that and many people who are passionate about cultural and linguistic resurgence would not necessarily support separation. It's an issue I'd want to steer well clear of.  And, as John says, will independence achieve anything until consumer capitalism is addressed? 

Here, it was the Scottish Nationalist Government which gave the green light to the desecration of a beautiful area of coastline and site of special scientific interest, making a mockery of every rule in the book to allow US billionaire Donald Trump to build his luxury golf course at Menie, in Alex Salmond's constituency.  The First Minister argued that the economic benefits would outweigh the environmental arguments against a development aimed at the super-rich, who will be flown into Aberdeen airport, where Mr Trump himself likes to land in his private jet. Menie residents continue to fight a bitter battle against eviction.  See Tripping up Trump or check out the documentary You've Been Trumped if you're in the mood to get your blood boiling.

Here in Scotland the Nationalists seem every bit as in thrall to the industrial growth model as any other other mainstream political group - in fact more so.  If Transition groups took a stance on independence they would alienate many existing members and swathes of people who might potentially become involved, as well as wasting lots of energy on a debate already being widely played out elsewhere.


Ann Owen's picture

Independence thoughts


I would imagine that in Scotland you actually have Scottish people involved in the Transition Initiatives? The problem in Wales is that we hardly have any of the native population on board. I have actually stopped worrying about the fact that speaking out in favour of independence might be divisive, as we are about as divided as we can get in Wales. This needs addressing if we ever hope to build the necessary resilience to weather the coming storms and this is a conversation that needs to be had in the frankest terms!

Catriona Ross's picture

Scottish people in Transition

Hi Anne,

Scottish people are in the minority in Transition groups; I referred to this in the blog about the Black Isle and Eigg a couple of weeks ago and picked up some of the themes referred to there again last week.  Many of the issues talked about in this debate -  affordability of housing and land, dilution of language and culture, bitterly divided communities etc - sound very familiar and I agree there is a great deal to of work to be done to ensure we move forward in a positive and cohesive way.  

The fragmentation of communities and erosion of our identity and culture has wreaked havoc on wellbeing in the Highlands and is the source of deep rooted grief.  However it doesn't follow that every Scot is in favour of independence and that Transition declaring itself pro independence would overcome the issue of lack of support from locals; on the contrary, I think it would be likely to make matters worse.  

I'm not from the Black Isle itself but am the only native Highlander I know of who is currently active in the group.  If Transition Black Isle took an overtly political stance or fellow members started preaching independence at me I would leave.  This is not because I am anti independence, but because I resent being told what to think about the politics of my country, by a group of 'Sassenachs' or anyone else.   I joined the Transition group because I wanted to get involved in positive practical work at local level to help build a stronger, more connected and resilient community.  If I wanted to channel my energy into politics or the independence debate I would do that elsewhere.  

Much of the despair and bitterness causing division in this part of the world stems from a feeling of frustration among locals that their communities have been 'taken over' by strident newcomers.  I believe that adding in a political element would only fuel further resentment; assuming people, local or otherwise, will share your political views as to what is best for them is dodgy territory. I hope listening, identifying shared concerns and common ground, open discussion and and working away on practical, local action will be effective in building trust and earning respect and support from people from across the spectrum of backgrounds and political hues.



Ann Owen's picture

Independence thoughts


As I see it, the Transition Movement could well join the list of invasions, as something that is mainly driven by English incomers and has virtually no native Welsh following. After 3-4 years of very little progress in gaining Welsh speaker support, we need to be very frank in asking the question as to why this is. I wouldn't be so fast as to put the blame with consumer capitalism, there's more to it than that. Don't forget that although the Tesco issue was very divisive for the community of Machynlleth, there was that interesting moment where anti-Tesco campaigners found themselves on the same side as local farmers and shopkeepers! And it also brought once more the reaction that the anti's were just English incomers telling the Welsh people what to do!

What I would love is to hear what Welsh people have to say about this, maybe you could send a link to a certain pencil behind ear person we know?


John Mason's picture

Hey Ann, I think my reference

Hey Ann,

I think my reference to "our most interesting evening" also gives a clue - I'm with you! Let's get out there and talk to the people who will really matter - the food-producers! The current scenario that has been steadily disintegrating is that abstract products matter more than the things that keep us hale and hearty: no, the key things are exactly the latter: food (whether meat, fish, fruit or grain), water, sanitation and shelter with heat when necessary. With those you have a fair shot at things.

Locals know this IMO. Sarah Woods has made an interesting play on one aspect of it

Incredible days - I've just had a fine barbecue and watched sunset over the valley after a full day clearing Sycamore, with one big one involved!

Cheers - John

llanllyfni's picture

what a refreshing article.  i

what a refreshing article.  i am a welsh speaking permaculturist and im forever surprised by the hypocritical attitude of english permaculturists whove moved into welsh speaking areas.  on my permaculture course half of the students either had land here or were thinking about moving to wales, almost exclusively because the land was "cheap".  since then ive met plenty more especially in your area and machynlleth, none of whom have bothered to learn the language past a "bore da" and the ones ive met from machynlleth can not even pronounce the name of the town in which they live. 

one of the central tenets of permaculture (and transition for that matter) is community and making sure that we do what is right for it and by it. and yet pricing local people out of their homes and land and the dilution of their language to levels that are now untenable are rarely ever considered to be anything worth worrying about by your everyday immigrant permaculturist. 

apart from the obvious heartbreak this causes one of main problems that arise is that it stops the development of the green movement in welsh speaking wales (and personally makes my job in this sector very difficult).  some posters to this article talk about how the locals actually seem to be on the side of tesco, and they sound disappointed or surprised by this.  the green movement in welsh speaking wales is almost exclusively english and middle class.  these well meaning people bring their english and middle class priorites (and purchasing power) into a welsh and classless society and as such perpetuate our age old negative experience of english middle class people, resulting in the green movement being as establishment as london bankers and politicians.  consequently all green movements whether english run or not are deemed as "them".  tescos on the other hand is just "normal", everyone in the world has a tescos, why not us? 

we in the green movement in welsh speaking wales (i dont know what it is like really in the english speaking parts of wales, my limited experience is the same as in the welsh speaking parts, english people with more money than the locals) need to do things differently.  we need to embrace the sensitivities of the local people as without their support we will be banging our head against the wall. 

i recently went to talk at a small holders association meeting in my area.  there were about 30 people there, every single one of them english, english speaking, middle class and living in the best houses in the area.  3 or 4 of them voiced their disagreement that the areas where the transition, permaculture concepts are working well (well off english shires) are very different to the area in which they live and couldnt see why i thought that just because it works there doesnt mean it will work here.  one woman at one point felt comfortable enough to make disparaging condescending comments about welsh nationalism despite her living in an area where the majority of her neighbours vote plaid cymru.  this seems to me to be ludicrous.

an example of us "greens" in wales trying to do things differently would be tescos in machynlleth, if the local welsh speakers want a tesco, the worst thing to do would be for us to oppose it, that is only going to be perceived, as one of the posters has already said, as us telling them what to do yet again.  instead, we should be (and my apologies if this has already been done) trying to positively influence the tesco development, with new and innovative ideas about how tescos could help and work with the local green movements for the benefit of all locals.  tescos wins "community" points, we win positive "local community" points and welsh speaking locals get their greener tesco.

with regards to independence, whether the transition movement supports independence for wales or not independence is coming, devolution only goes one way.  it would be sensible for the green movement in general to get on board and help develop that inevitability.  certainly standing on the sidelines saying that we dont support independence because we dont agree with the industrial model will do nothing but keep the transition movement on that sideline.  

two things i dont agree with on this page are what the scottish member (sorry i dont remember your name) said about the transition movement being non political, really???  and the comment made by someone (again sorry) that wales is divided.  it is one of the least divided countries in europe.  were not divided religiously, or geographically, historically, politically or even linguistically (welsh speaking welsh people dont in general hate non welsh speaking welsh people and vice versa), the only example of division i can think of is along welsh english lines, the "them" and "us".

again ann thanks for an interesting article with a refreshing perspective that for once sees things through welsh eyes.




John Mason's picture

Pretty much agree with those

Pretty much agree with those points, Craig, except to reiterate that what has occurred in Wales has affected many rural areas of the UK too - young people unable to afford to buy houses, homogenization of high streets where once local food businesses thrived and so on. I've lived around here (Aber then Mach) since 1981 and have never been in a position to buy a place: few of my local mates have either. But is the core problem the system, or the people who go with it e.g. the estate agents lining their pockets by selling property at inflated prices or those who rubbed their hands together as property prices headed through the sound-barrier? As you say, there is a big class element to this, too - and a lot of estate agents ARE local family firms, so I don't think the "classless" tag applies to Welsh communities. Why else would many of my mates refer so dismissively to the crachach? Anyhow, the way I see it, the whole way the property market is managed all over the UK is anti-community.

Anyway, I'm with the "us": we have more common ground than not - and there's that saying, "when in Rome...." - it's a pity a few more incomers don't remember that.

Cheers - John

Charlotte Du Cann's picture

on belonging

Dear Ann,

I started to write a comment, but it turned into a blog! So here it is. Some thoughts about Transition and belonging and the task we face:

Thanks for inspiring it. Great subject, Great post.

All the best,



John Mason's picture

One thing I forgot to mention

One thing I forgot to mention - the first colony of the British Empire? England.

Dick Gaughan (everyone needs a hero - he's mine) gets stuck in:

Cheers - John


llanllyfni's picture

it has John youre right, but

it has John youre right, but theres a difference between what happens in england and in welsh speaking wales.  the people who move to rural areas in england dont bring with them a different culture and language and the communities they move into are very much part of the english class system with most people aspiring to suburban values.  whilst we here in welsh speaking wales do have a form of class system, the one weve always had, tiny english ruling elite, crachach, the rest, theres not a hell of a lot of difference between the two welsh speaking groups bar a bit of cash and a large helping of snobbery.  they all drink in the same pubs, eat in the same restaurants, live in the same areas, send their kids to the same schools, drive pretty much the same cars, watch the same tv, vote the same way, have the same cultural reference points blah blah blah.  granted the son of the welsh estate agent has a bit more disposable income but hes mates with people who have less and they keep his feet on the ground.  we eat drink and sleep with our politicians and tv stars.  we say disparaging things about them but they are part of us.

english people moving into that sort of community, in the main dont have that experience, and have no idea that our communities are any different to theirs and assume we are as aspirational as them (and in my experience permaculturalists are as materialistic and aspirational as the best of them, ive yet to meet one who, despite everything permaculture teaches us, didnt want 5 acres of land, a cottage and a view). 

english immigrant greens understand us as little as any other english immigrant and, in the main, behave no differently. consequently they are lumped into that "them" bracket and are deemed to be yet another perpetuation of "them" thinking they know more than "us", just another branch of the english establishment.  in england the green movement would at worst be seen as daftarsed hippies and at best enlightened citizens. 

we the green movement in welsh speaking wales therefore have to think and act differently.

in defence of permaculturists, i wrote a long boring email to all of my class mates of my permaculture course about my belief about the hypocracy of english permaculture in wales and they all acted on it positively.

John Mason's picture

Hi Craig, "theres a

Hi Craig,

"theres a difference between what happens in england and in welsh speaking wales"

If you replace "happens" with "happened", that's not entirely accurate though. Rural communities across England all had their own strong cultural identities - it's probably true though that their erosion began a little earlier, as a consequence of the vast population-movements triggered as the Industrial Revolution got underway (the Valleys saw something rather similar, did it not?). There is a vast and rich English folklore, for example - it just got buried. It's that homogenisation thing again - the creation of a huge mobile and relatively affluent middle class that in great part seemed to give up thinking once advertising and acquisitiveness swamped their brains! In Wales the language is a strong defence to some aspects of homogenisation and long may it be so but the powers-that-be - the corporations - have certainly found other ways of getting in and making sweeping change to their advantage under peoples' very noses. Hence some Welsh towns getting Tesco-ised with local small traders, sometimes going back generations, driven out. How can that not be harmful?

How did your fellow Permaculturalists respond? What changes did they make? And as Ann asks, how do we involve locals more in Transition? Is it possible?

I still think it is: all the lads I fish with are local Welsh-speakers; most of the people I drink with are and most of the people I talk veg-growing with are too and it's not that they are disinterested - far from it. I just don't think they are into getting involved with something that currently tends to have such an obvious imported "New Age" overtone to it. We have to be bluntly honest with ourselves about this. It's as alien to most of them as suggesting they attend Friday Prayers at the nearest Mosque! They would rather be out there getting on with exactly the things that Transition is about once the woo-woo is removed: growing veg, hunting, gathering - all the normal stuff we've been doing together for years and are in the slow process, at least WRT growing, of expanding the possibilities for the community. My immediate response to the threat of Peak Oil was to start growing my own food and the boys who have the nearby allotments took me under their wing straight away (in return for the odd pint LOL!). If I was to suggest anything to help rebooting our Initiative, having thought it through over a year or three, it would be to drop any hint of new-age stuff. I don't think some people have the faintest clue as to how patronisingly alien it comes across as. Just talk to people as... people.

I help Wil Lloyd out a bit every year and always go to his Winter Fair - well worthwhile, even last year when it was snowing like hell and about -10 out there, but there you see a community engaged with itself. I'll have a word, Ann!

Cheers - John

llanllyfni's picture

yeah John, youre right

yeah John, youre right england did have all those things in bucket loads and its a crying shame that that has changed, but we're talking about wales and the fact is, although a lot has changed, much that makes our communities actual communities is still with us. 

im no supporter of tescos and what they do but to paraphrase Gandhi badly, does it matter to the victims whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of transition and permaculture?  the local small traders were and are driven out by english people moving in and making the most of a "cheap" business opportunity ("driven out" is a tad laden, its not with guns (anymore) but we havent got a hope of competing with money that english immigrants offer for shops and businesses so it amounts to the same thing).  take a trip to caernarfon, porthmadog and pwllheli (or for that matter aber and machynlleth), the heartland of the welsh language, and play 'spot the welsh shop' game.  tescos does not have a monopoly on homogenisation.

they were great, i expected accusations of chip on shoulder wingeing, but instead i got messages thanking me for pointing it out, or at least for giving my side of the story.  a couple of them that were in the process of moving to wales actually re thought their decisions.  i think that says a lot about the sort of people who call themselves permaculturists.

its an uphill struggle converting locals in welsh speaking areas but i know its a lot easier if youre seen to be (and actually are) 'of' the community.  that doesnt mean that you actually have to be from the area but what it does mean is that you take part in all aspects of the community and that is impossible without learning the language.  once the movement isnt one of "them" its half way there, then its just down to convincing them, as with everyone else no matter language they speak, that were not a bunch of rainbow jumper wearing conspiracy theorists. 

we need to be seen as welsh and that will be very difficult to acheive; its certainly something a few of the big guns never pulled off, Patrick Holden's Soil Association is very middle england, and CAT, despite its green credentials is not in anyway, besides its geography, welsh.  ive worked with many people from CAT, all nice guys, but in all my visits to the centre, ive only ever met one welshman and he works the lift.  they are not "of" the community.

we need to make the movement in wales welsh and not just redwash it, but to be honest i dont see that hapenning.  good talking to you though.


John Mason's picture

Love the vision of rainbow

Love the vision of rainbow jumper-wearing conspiracy theorists LOL!

I used to be very critical of CAT for not bringing in more local talent - today they are better than they were I'm pleased to report.

I'll tell you about one thing that we started doing outside of Transition but along very similar lines. There's a bunch of regulars at my local watering-hole, I'd say 75% local Welsh-speakers, 25% English, who regularly go walking together - long hill-walks with a pub at the end of course. Anyway we started doing seasonal feasts. The rules were simple - get together and cook a massive multi-course meal but only with things that were in season and they could be from your garden, or wild. Everyone had to do a course. We had some brilliant nosh-ups - and all of us learned a lot about food. I knew how to cook all sorts of fish for example but squirrel? It was delicious BTW.

The meets fizzled out last year after two members died within months of one another - not I hasten to add remotely due to anything we had cooked, but it fazed us so badly that we lost the momentum. Time to get that one going again, methinks..... way the seasons are going it'll be mackerel in winter, chanterelles in May and God knows what else!

Good talking to you too - it's been an interesting discussion.

Cheers - John

Jo Homan's picture

just want to say how much I appreciate this debate

I suppose I haven't really thought much about the issues you've explored here - I'm probably one of the people who would escape to Wales in search of a cheap piece of land but I'd certainly be reluctant to do that after reading this! It's been an informative series of posts, a real eye opener. Well done Ann for opening this particular can o worms.

Marella Fyffe's picture


  Not much I can add to this conversation....except a dry laugh!!

Good debate folks

Mike Grenville's picture

Schooling The World

The comment about banning Welsh at school reminded me of this powerful film about education and how indigenous cultures have been (and are) treated and schooled into a western consumer way of viewing the world and themselves.

Martin Grimshaw's picture

Beautiful and moving, many

Beautiful and moving, many thanks Ann