EDITORIAL: Coming together

Dylan Moore introduces the welsh agenda’s 67th print edition, and urges unity across generational divides.

‘He was the future once,’ one past prime minister said to another, in 2005. 

Words that signalled a change that was then still some years away, but that nevertheless eventually caught up with David Cameron, who famously signed off his final PMQs with an uncharacteristic piece of self deprecation.

‘I was the future once,’ he said then – in 2016, and with that he passed into history too. Just like Tony Blair, the man he had upstaged eleven years earlier, and Gordon Brown, whom he had also famously slighted as ‘an analogue politician in a digital age’.

If, like me, you’re of an age where 2005 sometimes seems like the other day, you’ll appreciate that it’s hard not to feel that we too are a tad ‘analogue’ sometimes, on some days a little bit like you were the future once.

Lloyd Robson’s book cardiff cut has recently been republished, part of Parthian Books’ new series of Welsh modern classics. Originally out in 2000, it is a raw, visceral evocation of the capital’s underbelly, and deserves another moment in the sun. I’m looking forward to rereading it.

But this review copy landing on my desk has also pulled me up short. Lloyd was the first writer I ever interviewed, back in that same year Blair had looked up at Cameron and thought ‘here’s one to watch’. The year Pope John Paul II died and Charles married Camilla. The year of Live 8 and 7/7. The year the Liberty Stadium opened in Swansea and the year Liverpool City Council finally apologised for Tryweryn.

Syniadau uchelgeisiol, awdurdodol a mentrus.
Ymunwch â ni i gyfrannu at wneud Cymru gwell.

I was just starting out in magazines, applying to the Books Council of Wales – then the Welsh Books Council – for a small grant to part-fund a publication I hoped would take on the might of the then Big Three: New Welsh Review, Planet and Poetry Wales. Since then, of course, Wales’ media landscape has changed completely. Wales Arts Review was founded in 2012, Nation.Cymru in 2017, Voice.Wales in 2019, The National Wales earlier this year.

Change has been driven by the medium as much as the message, just as Marshall McLuhan predicted. As recently as ten years ago I remember sitting on panels discussing the threat to print media from the internet framed as something that might happen one day.

Just like prime ministers, periodical editors can become dinosaurs overnight.

It is easy to forget that when cardiff cut came out, smartphones and social media did not exist. Photocopying zines and hand-to-hand distribution was not retro or hipster; before tweets and blogs it was a necessary part of starting out. Lloyd Robson made his name in the 1990s with self-published work on his own blackhat imprint: city & poems, letter from sissi and edge territory

Much of our work on the welsh agenda in recent years has focused on diversity, and we are unapologetic about that.

Decades on, I often find myself reminiscing about these simpler times, passing down old stories of Wales’ literature scene to the welsh agenda’s Culture Editor Merlin Gable. Merlin is fifteen years younger than me, and every time he takes me to a Cardiff pub, it has a different name to the last time I went there. When Merlin comes to Newport, I make sure we go to The Murenger, which has reassuringly had the same name for over two hundred years.

This issue we take a look at so-called generational divides. A majority of IWA staff are now millennials, ‘digital natives’ who have grown up with technology, and although I would like to believe the stereotyping inherent in such categorisation renders these broad brushstrokes redundant, being an Xennial – the ‘micro-generation’ born between 1977 and 1983 who had an analogue childhood and digital adulthood – I have to say I find the pop-sociology in this area fascinating, and identify strongly with much of it.

Hannah Watkin and Leena Farhat – two Gen Z members of the editorial group, in their early twenties – set out to interview a pair of families about their experiences of the pandemic. 

In choosing interviewees, they ensured a range of ages was represented, and so we hear from a middle-aged couple in Cardiff and their children aged 12 and 17, along with their Abergele-based Nain, as well as a family from Borth whose ‘children’ are 21, 18 and 15. In this family, the grandfather was unable to overcome issues with Zoom to join the multi-generational jamboree, somewhat underlining the stereotypes at play.

But the work done by Hannah and Leena ultimately illuminates what the different generations have in common. Far from being divided by the challenges of the pandemic, many families have come together more closely than before.

Much of our work on the welsh agenda in recent years has focused on diversity, and we are unapologetic about that. We are proud that the magazine now has an editorial group and regular contributions from people who represent a range of backgrounds and life experiences. 

Across a range of protected characteristics, we have made good progress, and we celebrate that, while of course recognising that we still have much further to go. 

Interestingly, age is a characteristic that often receives far less attention than others in debates about equality. And under the landmark Equality Act 2010, of course, social class is not a protected characteristic at all. 

Now more than ever we must make a habit not just of speaking out, but of listening to each other. So let us indeed come together, as our headline this issue says, and as families tend to do at times of crisis. 

This makes us all the more proud, then, that it is a young writer – 18-year-old Tade Evans from Bettws in Newport – who puts the issue of class front and centre of issue 67 with his excellent article ‘Growing Up in the Underclass and What It Taught Me’.

There will come a time – not just yet – when I move on from editing the welsh agenda

My hope is that I will not shuffle off like an ex Prime Minister into a kind of semi-retired irrelevance where nobody wants to hear from me ever again, and I’d like to think that my successor will inherit a publication inclusive of all, in which young and old, analogue and digital – and those like me who feel, increasingly, in between – are able to make their voices heard.

Now more than ever we must make a habit not just of speaking out, but of listening to each other. So let us indeed come together, as our headline this issue says, and as families tend to do at times of crisis. 

Let’s champion our young people and listen to fresh perspectives, and let’s also value the wisdom that comes from experience. Let there be no ‘has beens’ in Wales, because the future belongs to all of us. 

Become a member of the IWA today to receive your copy of the welsh agenda in print. 

Dylan Moore is Editor of the welsh agenda. He writes this in a personal capacity.

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