Sarah and I went to Cardiff today, and this has been rattling around in my head from the moment we turned a corner into Queen Street, one of the main shopping streets in Cardiff now pedestrianised and always busy... that wretched Tory saying us benefit scroungers from the top end of the valleys could all get on buses and come and seek work in Cardiff. (See previous post for that particular rant.)
This particular benefit scrounger has a degree in Art and Aesthetics, and I have always had an interest in public art, particularly the sculpture that graces our streets in the form of statuary of the great and good. South Wales is a good place to be if you like that sort of thing, there are bronze castings of wiry boxers in Merthyr, the Nos Galon runner and his dog in Mountain ash, we've got Kier Hardy and Griff Rhys Jones in Aberdare. No, not that Griff Rhys Jones, this one was known as Caradog, and conducted a 400 strong choir that won prizes in the 19th century. All good stuff. Cardiff has got an awful lot of the great and the good as you would expect in a capitol city, but their are two in particular that stood out for me and did their statuary brethren proud today. For me, their positions, one each end of a bustling retail thoroughfare, both of them are either greeting you as you enter, or watching you leave, speaks volumes about the city, the history, the politics and the people who find themselves walking along Queen Street.
At one end we have Nye Bevan, he was a politician, so he's on a big plinth, unfortunately he is also under a tree, so he gets a lot of bird crap dropped on him. This is the man who started the National Health Service, the man we have to thank for the Welfare State. Beyond any shadow of doubt, one of the good guys, there's a lot of us wouldn't be here today but for him. But the birds don't know that, so they can be forgiven.
And at the other end of the street we have the Miner. The same sculptor produced both pieces. Robert Thomas, from Cwmparc in the Rhondda, '26 to '99.
You cant help but notice that the Miner is only slightly elevated, he's not standing on a plinth like Nye, he is standing on a slab that is barely a foot high, He's a little bit larger than life and you have to look up to see his face, but then, isn't that as it should be? Here is the hero, the working man, the guy that lives next door and goes to the working mens club on a friday night, the salt of the earth. Today he would be labeled a benefit scrounger by certain section of society.
So back to the object of this post. We are presented with two very different people, the politician who worked with ideals and ideas, and the miner who worked with his strength and courage, both working for the greater good, both heroes in their own way. One of them at each end of the street.. What has been rattling around in my head all day today has been the nerve of the Tories who are reveling yet again in the suffering of sections of society that they have no concept of, and would any of them have the humility to feel ashamed of themselves, were they to walk the length of Queen Street with their eyes open wide enough to see the strength of character expressed by these two emotive pieces of statuary... and I have to admit, I would really like to see them squirm.