Mason, Kelvin

Kelvin Mason
6 July 2021Feature

How have activist choirs risen to the challenge of COVID-19?

In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing.
About the dark times.
– Bertolt Brecht

Dark times

When COVID-19 hit the world, one of the first cultural casualties was choral singing. As expert opinion about the main risk has shifted from ‘fomites’ (contaminated surfaces) to focus on airborne droplets and aerosol transmission, the case against choirs gathering has hardened.

For street or…

5 July 2021News

Choirs fundraise to help end male violence against women

As part of the White Ribbon campaign, members of three activist choirs collaborated to stage a fundraiser for the charity, which works with men and boys to end male violence against women.

Canwyr Stryd Bangor, Côr Cochion Caerdydd and Aberystwyth’s Côr Gobaith organised an evening of teaching songs, singalongs, and performance poetry.

The evening began with Anthea Sully, chief executive of White Ribbon, who outlined the White Ribbon Promise ‘to never commit, excuse or remain…

1 August 2020Feature

The pandemic has broken down barriers for some activists

Doing politics outside of our ideological bubbles was never going to be easy. Between excluding people and/or leaving in an over-dramatic way, on the one hand, and staying silent in the face of irrational, immoral or even malicious views, on the other, lies the thorny territory of discussing, questioning and challenging.

Radical academic Paul Chatterton has a name for interactions between dedicated activists and non-activist communities: encounters on ‘uncommon ground’, recognising…

1 August 2020Blog entry

Kelvin Mason finds points of agreement with ideological opponents

Citizens of liberal democracies, at least those who at least broadly subscribe to the principles of liberalism and democracy, tend to regard science as an ally in political debate. Climate change deniers, for instance, are regularly denigrated via citing: “97% or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities” . Armed with such apparently incontestable evidence, “reasonable” people then find it…

1 August 2019News

Radical choirs make waves in Aberystwyth

Over the weekend of the 7–9 June, the streets of Aberystwyth reverberated with the sound of singing in at least three languages – Welsh, Norwegian and English – as Aberystwyth’s Côr Gobaith hosted Norwegian socialist choir SJOKK, Pales Peace Choir from Powys, and Cardiff’s renowned Côr Cochion. SJOKK (‘shock’) was founded in 1981 to ‘spread socialist and humanistic ideas and values through singing and music’.

The event was a result of a chance meeting at the 2018 Street Choirs…

1 June 2018News

Wales protests British role in Syria air strikes

‘Not in Our Name!’ Ceredigion says bombing Syria is not the answer. Photo: Marian Delyth

People from across Ceredigion and beyond gathered in Aberystwyth on 16 April to protest against the UK government’s decision to bomb Syria. Organised by Stop the War Ceredigion and Aberystwyth Peace and Justice Network, the protest attracted more than 70 people.

It was part of a UK-wide series of protests organised by the Stop the War Coalition against the UK government, referring to the…

1 June 2017News

Court's decision favours corporate power over public interest - campaigners

Climate activists block the rail head terminal road at Ffos-y-frân on 21 April. PHOTO: COAL ACTION NETWORK.

On 8 May, five Welsh activists learned the price of nonviolent action they had taken in April to save lives and mitigate environmental harms. Sentencing them to 18 months’ conditional discharge, magistrates in Merthyr Tydfil also ordered them to pay compensation of £10,000 to the Miller Argent mining company plus court costs of £525.

On 21 April, environmental activists had ‘…

1 April 2017News

UK nuclear power driven by military demands - SPRU

Peter Smith of Stop Hinkley. Photo: Alun Williams

On 11 March, a conference entitled ‘Green Nuclear-Free Wales’ drew more than 60 delegates to the National Library in Aberystwyth on the sixth anniversary of the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster (in March, a Japanese court ruled that state negligence contributed to the triple meltdown).

Speakers in Aberystwyth included the former chief electrical engineer for Hinkley Point, Peter Smith, who critiqued nuclear industry safety…

1 October 2016Review

Peirene Press, 2016; 160pp; £12

In her foreword to this short story collection, publisher Meike Ziervogel writes that she ‘commissioned Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes to go to the Calais refugee camp to distil stories into a work of fiction about escape, hope and aspiration.’

The ethical challenge of distilling the stories of people living so precariously into a work of fiction is clear: the charge of exploitation lies in ambush behind every sentence. This risky endeavour has paid off, however, producing a…

1 August 2016News

Welsh activists blockade bomb base

Combined choirs sing out against Trident, AWE Burghfield, 15 June 2016. Photo: kelvin mason

On 15 June, far-flung groups from Aberystwyth, Swansea, Knighton, Cardiff, Newport Gwent, Rhyl and Bangor joined others from all over Wales at the Atomic Weapons Establishment near Burghfield to protest against Trident and its replacement.

The Wales Day was part of a month of direct action organised by Trident Ploughshares, culminating in a ‘grand finale’ on 30 June with blockaders…

1 June 2016News

Kelvin Mason celebrates the Welsh campaigners at the coalface of anti-coal activism

Ever since 2007, I have been writing in Peace News about opencast coalmining in Wales, climate change and local injustice.

My particular target has always been the 11-million-tonne Ffos-y-Frân mine near Merthyr Tydfil. At a rough count, I have written and/or edited 12 articles about Ffos-y-Frân for Peace News over the last nine years. Over the same period of time, I have also campaigned and taken direct action against opencast coalmining in Wales.

Alerted to the travesty of…

1 June 2016Feature

Mobilising climate justice, lessons for social movements

End Coal Now! activists at Ffos-y-Frân in May 2016.Photo: reclaim the power

In early May, the Reclaim the Power (RtP) network organised ‘End Coal Now!’, a protest camp and occupation of the 11-million-tonne Ffos-y-Frân opencast coalmine near Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales. An early appraisal of this action could yield valuable lessons for social movements taking action this year and beyond.

End Coal Now! was followed by the occupation of a lignite coalmine in Welzow in…

1 February 2016News

Coal giant attempts to enclose common land

Alyson and Chris Austin, United Valley Action Group. Photo: Friends of the Earth

After the consortium Miller Argent had their proposal for a six-million-tonne open-cast coal mine, Nant Llesg near Rhymney, rejected by Caerphilly council last summer you would have been forgiven for assuming that, after years of the scheme being hotly contested, that was the end of the matter. Not a bit of it.

Despite the strength of resistance to the proposal locally as well as across Wales and…

1 October 2015News

Coal campaigners win Caerphilly victory

Activists celebrate the Caerphilly council’s vote against Nant Llesg open cast mine. Photo: LOTTE REIMER

Back in October 2007, George Monbiot published The New Coal Age. Expressing his absolute incomprehension and dismay, Monbiot wrote: ‘If this is allowed to happen, we might as well give up now.’ He was, of course, talking about Ffos y Fran opencast coalmine.

Well, our authorities in Wales, from the Labour-controlled government to Merthyr Tydfil council, did allow…

26 May 2015Feature

Social movements should take heed of social psychology, argues Kelvin Mason


Borras and Holt community protection camp. Photo: Kelvin Mason

The newly-elected Conservative government is set to follow through on David Cameron’s infamous 2014 pledge to go ‘all out for fracking’. They will also cancel subsidies for new onshore wind turbines. Allowing free-market dogma to dictate ecocide rather than plan a sustainable energy future, this government is contemptuous of the greatest moral challenge of our age, climate change.

So dire is the impact of human…