Revolutionary Spirit in Bangor, at a Screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo”


North Wales has always figured in my life, probably because its seaside resorts (along with Blackpool and Southport) and its mountains (along with the Peak District) were important to those who, like my family, grew up in and around Manchester as working class Methodists. For the working people of Lancashire, holidays in Llandudno, Colwyn Bay or Rhyl were affordable, and the mountains of Snowdonia offered the kind of outdoor pursuits that led to them rubbing shoulders (metaphorically, at least) with the land reformers of the Ramblers’ Association, founded in 1931, and the protestors who staged a mass trespass on Kinder Scout, in the Peak District, in 1932. Revolution was not a part of my family background, but rambling, caring for the poor and downtrodden, and a keen sense of social justice undoubtedly were.

As a child, I toured the great medieval castles of North Wales with my family — Caernarfon, with its multiple octagonal towers, was my favourite — and climbed the peaks of Snowdonia, including, on one exceptionally foggy and bitter day, when I was nine, Snowdon, via the precipitous ridge of Crib Goch, and the seemingly interminable Miners’ Track.

Many years later, after my final exams at university, a group of us — exceptionally intelligent for a brief period, until the effects of cramming a three-year course into three months of non-stop revision wore off — hired a cottage not far from Cader Idris, that jewel in the mountains, where a perfectly tranquil lake, Llyn Cau, floats at around 1500 feet, surrounded by a horseshoe of cliffs. On the day of our ascent, as the fog descended, I struck out for the summit with one of my compnaions, and we then made our way down, fearlessly — or foolishly — skiing on scree, unable to see where we were hurtling until the odd pocket of visibility opened up in the otherwise all-encompassing fog.

Getting on for 20 years ago, I visited North Wales again, on what I recall as a five-day bender with my wildest relatives, which involved a drunken canter up Cader Idris, and about 15 years ago I visited again — this time avoiding the mountains — for an exuberantly drunken wedding in an otherwise dry town, at a time when exuberant drunkenness was, seemingly, de rigueur, especially in Brixton, where many of us attending the wedding were living.

That, however, was my last visit unti last Wednesday. In the late 1990s, when I became fascinated by the ancient sacred sites of Britain — a process that eventually led to the publication of my first two books, Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield — I travelled far and wide, from Cornwall and Wiltshire to the Outer Hebrides, via the Lake District and other extraordinary sites (in, for example, Dorset, Oxfordshire, Luton, East Yorkshire and the Cotswolds), but I never made it to North Wales, and, in particular, to the monuments of Anglesey — the chambered mound of Bryn Celli Ddu, the former site of a stone circle and henge, being a particular attraction.

Having also managed not to visit Wales during my tour, earlier this year, of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” which I co-directed with Polly Nash, and which I took as far north as Aberdeen with former prisoner Omar Deghayes back in spring, I was delighted when, a few months ago, Linda Rogers of the Bangor and Ynys Môn Peace and Justice group asked me to visit to show the film.

As it turned out, of course, although I failed once more to see Bryn Celli Ddu, the timing of my visit last Wednesday could hardly have been more opportune, with the announcement, just 24 hours before, that the coalition government had reached a financial settlement with 15 former Guantánamo prisoners — and with one current prisoner, Shaker Aamer, who is featured in the film, and whose release is one of the film’s primary objectives.

As a result, the chatter was almost incessant from the moment I arrived — with Linda, her husband, the author Philip Steele, and with my blogger friends Earwicga (who also blogs at Pickled Politics) and Rick B. of Ten Percent, who, delightfully, I was meeting for the first time, after several years of admiring each other’s work.

While we mostly stayed on-topic, discussing the financial settlement, how it is a clear admission of guilt, the importance of acting immediately to secure the return to the UK of Shaker Aamer, and the Amnesty International campaign that was launched yesterday (see here for a letter to MPs), we also discussed the government’s shocking attempt to pass a new law to make sure that, in future, anything relating to “national security” will be treated as secret evidence in court, the cynical diversion of the royal wedding, the decline in serious news reporting at the BBC, the mainstream media’s free pass for George W. Bush’s torture admission and his lies about the plots foiled through the use of waterboarding, and, more generally, the coalition government’s genuinely terrifying ideological assault on the welfare state, on legal aid and on university funding — and especially in the fields of the arts, humanities and social sciences, which face 100 percent cuts — and the lack of empathy and compassion amongst those who are being all too easily persuaded to scapegoat the poor, the disabled and students for problems that largely stem from the destructive greed of the City and the tax evaders of the corporate world.

All in all, a great night of activism and resistance, and well worth the lengthy round-trip!

Note: For another report on my visit, see this post by Rick B. Also see this page for information about future screenings of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo”  — on December 10 in Roehampton, on December 11 in Battersea, and on December 15 in Sheffield — and if you’re in London, or able to pay a visit, please also note that the screening on Saturday December 11, at the Battersea Arts Centre, is part of an event entitled, “A Day for Shaker Aamer,” organized by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign in his home borough of Wandsworth. The day begins at 12 noon, with a demonstration at Ponton Road, Nine Elms, London SW8, the site of the new US embassy. At 12.30 those gathered will march to Battersea Arts Centre for a public meeting, beginning at 2 pm, with speakers including Ken Livingstone, Moazzam Begg, Victoria Brittain, Jeremy Corbyn, Lindsey German, Kate Hudson, Gareth Peirce and Yvonne Ridley, and the film will be shown at 4.30 pm, followed by a Q&A with myself and Omar Deghayes.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

4 Responses

  1. Tweets that mention Revolutionary Spirit in Bangor, at a Screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” | Andy Worthington -- says...

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andy Worthington, bofirebear. bofirebear said: Revolutionary Spirit in Bangor, at a Screening of “Outside the Law … […]

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Earwicga Amber wrote:

    Cheers Andy. If you ever get back this way then Llys Rhosyr would be right down your street

    And you chose the wrong castle – Beaumaris is the best!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Rick Burgess TenPercent wrote:

    Cool write up. You must come again and just think, if you get stuck up a mountain now, the heir to the throne will have to rescue you!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Ha ha. Thanks, Rick and Amber. Great to meet you both last week.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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