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Guest Post: Redrawing Newport's History

Co-writer of the Newport Rising graphic novel, Rhys D.W. talks how he and the team went about recreating the Chartist world, reanimating the protagonists and breathing new life into their story.

On the 12th July 2019 I had the privilege of becoming a published author. Together with Josh Cranton (co-writer and illustrator) and David Daniel (producer), we made a graphic novel about one of the key moments in the history of our city and indeed for democracy the world over - the Newport Rising.

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For those who are unaware, the Chartist Newport Rising was the last large-scale armed rebellion against authority in Great Britain. On 4 November 1839, nearly 10,000 Chartist sympathisers marched on Newport. They arrived outside the door of the Westgate Hotel demanding to free members of their group who had been arrested for campaigning for the right to vote. Shots were fired and 22 people died, fighting to make their voice and the voices of the people heard.

Their actions led to democracy - a right we take for granted today.

Brief

Out initial brief was to make the Newport Rising Chartist story relevant to a new generation whilst honouring it’s values and heritage. No pressure!

We decided to stick to our strengths. Combining our mutual love of manga and anime, with Josh’s incredible artistic ability and my knowledge of branding, it seemed natural to make a graphic novel. After much thought about the structure, the first half of the book detailing the Chartist backstory, was to be written in verse. This added a calm, ordered and flowing feeling to the story before switching to regular dialogue when the chaotic skirmish begins outside the Westgate.

In terms of paying homage to Newport, we were inspired by RISE Propaganda’s limited colour palate and decided to only use the city’s traditional colours of Black, Amber and Red

Characters concept

The Chartists movement was anti-establishment and frequently practiced civil disobedience as a means to get their message across to the ruling classes.

“In essence, they were the original punks”

With the rich history of music in Newport, (TJ’s, Stowaway, Le Pub) it seemed only right to portray the key characters as leather clad, pierced, chain wearing, tattoo touting badasses.

The original concept drawing of the the punk Chartist leaders before Josh worked his magic.

The original concept drawing of the the punk Chartist leaders before Josh worked his magic.

Whilst the Newport Rising involved many key individuals, due to the 40 page restriction on comic length, we couldn’t include as many as we’d liked. Instead we decided to focus on the three key leaders John Frost, William Jones and Zephaniah Williams and their roles. Even then, we did take some artistic license with the story. But we hope this encourages the reader to delve into the history to find out more about the events before, during and after the events 180 years ago.

Breathing Life into the leaders

From past experience in marketing/branding we knew how important it is to make the main protagonists seem as authentic and as consistent and as possible. The way your characters look, sound, behave and interact can make or break a story. To gain inspiration we researched the history and lives of John, William and Zephaniah to bring them back to life once again.

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John Frost

Inspired /// Chartist /// Leader

John Frost was the leader of the Newport Rising. He was a religious man with an excellent command of the English language. Initially a tailor and a draper by trade, he became the Mayor of Newport in 1836 before being forced out of office for his Chartist leanings. At the time of the ‘Rising he was 55 years old.

With his religious background, age and occupation we felt a well dressed rockabilly machine gun preacher would be perfect to capture John’s character.

Throughout the novel his authority and inspirational nature is conveyed through his height, stoic poses and powerful speeches.

William Jones

Tiny /// Rebel /// Punk

William Jones’ main responsibility was to lead the march of Chartists from the Pontypool area. Ironically, the former watchmaker turned up late to the march! Combined with his career of pub landlord and actor, we decided to make him the most rebellious out of the three.

His image, bright red mohawk, bear chest and knuckle tattoos, were inspired by members of the Sex Pistols (who aptly have performed a gig on Chartist march route). Asymmetrical features, small stature and aggressive posture, convey his sense of disorganisation and chaos.

In the novel he plays the role of John’s sword, right hand man and aggressor. Fiercely loyal, he’s like one of your mates that you can’t live with, but can’t live without!

Zephaniah Williams

Progressive /// Peaceful /// Influencer

Zephaniah’s character is perhaps the most interesting out of the three. At the time, he was described as a free thinker and man of the people who could speak fluent English and Welsh.

Our ‘Zeph’ character was inspired a real life modern day local hero by the name of Lynette Webb. A true leader of the people, she would do anything to improve the lives of the residents in her local community of Pillgwenlly.

In the novel she plays the role of John’s shield and prefers non-violent methods to resolve conflict. However when the chips are down, she rescues her fellow Chartist leaders in their moment of greatest need.

Over to the artist

The novel then progressed through storyboarding, panel layout and many, many drafts and redrafts before Josh began the enormous task of drawing and colouring. After a solid six months of holing himself up in his studio without sunlight, he eventually resurfaced with incredible artwork that blew us all away. You can read more about the illustration process in a chapter written by Josh included in the appendix of the graphic novel. You should also check out his other works at https://www.joshcrantanimation.co.uk/

To my fellow Chartists… Thank You

I hope you have enjoyed a quick insight into the planning process of the novel. The last year has been an incredible journey for us and we’d like to say thank you for everyone that has supported us along the way. I’d like to personally say thank you to my co-authors Dai and Josh for their patience, camaraderie, banter and being worthy opponents at Klask.

Josh Cranton (illustrator, co-writer), David Daniel (producer) and me. If we ever form a band, this would be the album cover. (photo courtesy of  Kamilla J Photography )

Josh Cranton (illustrator, co-writer), David Daniel (producer) and me. If we ever form a band, this would be the album cover. (photo courtesy of Kamilla J Photography)

Thank you to the 2500+ people that attended the exhibition between 12th - 20th July and bought one of the 420 copies sold.

Special thanks to Our Chartist Heritage, Newport Rising and RISE Propaganda for making the project possible.

There are only 80 copies left at the time of writing and you can now purchase the graphic novel online now at www.newportrising.co.uk. All proceeds go to the Our Chartist Heritage Charity.

Rhys D.W. is the creative lead in the Newport Rising group. When not involved in making comics, he’s an award winning consultant across industries such as Sport, Public Activism, Entertainment and Governance. You can check out his work at www.rhysdw.com

Taking back the Westgate 180 years on...

Newport's Westgate Hotel is set to re-open its doors for the launch of a Chartist-inspired graphic novel 'Newport Rising', written and illustrated by local artist Josh Cranton in collaboration with RISE Propaganda and commissioned by Our Chartist Heritage, the charity behind the Newport Rising Festival.

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The new owners of the Westgate have agreed to work in partnership with Our Chartist Heritage, to celebrate the unique history of the building and are supported by a strong public sentiment to see the Westgate’s doors open again. The launch of the graphic novel ‘Newport Rising’ will take place on 12 July 2019, after which new uses for the building will be actively explored, including public exhibitions and a heritage information centre.

Built on the site of an earlier hotel of the same name, the Westgate Hotel took centre stage in the 1839 Newport Rising when thousands of Chartists from the Gwent Valleys marched on Newport in an abortive attempt to free political prisoners as part of a national movement to win the vote for the working man. Twenty-two Chartists were shot dead by the authorities outside the Westgate; this is the story that inspired Josh Cranton’s graphic novel ‘Newport Rising’.

Unoccupied since the early 2000s, ownership of the hotel has changed hands numerous times. Some areas of the building have suffered unsympathetic refurbishments over the years and other areas have been severely damaged by the elements. Despite extensive repair work to the roof and structure of the building, its stunning ballroom and architecture remains at risk and in need of further restoration. Further work is required to safeguard the building for the future, which will include exploring and developing viable and sustainable uses for the hotel. Our Chartist Heritage and the owners hope to work together to achieve this, with assistance from Newport City Council.

Project Development Officer for OCH David Daniel said:

"We're absolutely thrilled to be able to host this launch event at the Westgate Hotel, at the site of the dramatic historical events that are central to the Chartists’ cause and the character of Newport today. The impact of the sacrifices made by the Chartists was ultimately felt all over the world and remains in the hearts and minds of Newport's citizens. We are incredibly thankful to the owner for his support and vision in forging this partnership so that we can work together, in the spirit of the Chartists, to bring about this positive change."

The launch of the ‘Newport Rising’ graphic novel will see the doors of the Westgate Hotel open again for the first time in well over a decade, and members of the public will be able to pledge their support for this venture by coming to the Westgate Hotel from the 12th - 20th July , when Chartist artwork, both modern and contemporary, as well as the newly published graphic novel will be available to view and purchase.

Second Year of Rebellion
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We always knew it would be tough to top last year.

In 2017, we started with a few stickers and a strong message and ended with people getting tattoos of our art, our favourite brewery showing our work and a member of the GLC wearing one of our uniforms whilst performing.

Where to go next?

Easy. Stay true to our message and community. Go beyond rebellion -  inspire individuals and communities to do amazing things, big and small. And that’s how 2018 unfolded. We made some awesome new like minded friends along the way and had a blast. Here’s just a few our favourite RISE moments from the last year…

(January we were exhausted… so lets skip to February)

 

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FEBRUARY

The RISE wedding

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MARCH

Newport’s Champion

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April

Record making

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May and June

Illuminating countdown on Newport landmarks

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July

Rebel Party and lager launch

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AUGUST

Portlife jar ppearance

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September

#RISEONTOUR

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October

Overpriced Toast

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November

Newport Rising

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December

Nirport revisited

Thank you for believing what we believe in. We hope you have had as much fun bending the rules this year as we have.

Together we have raised over £1500 over the last 2 years this year for charities and we will continue to do so with 5% of all our profits going to good causes.

This is a testament, not to RISE Propaganda, but to YOU, the amazing community that supports it every day.

We’ll be back sometime in 2019. In the mean time, keep making a difference and spreading the love,

Yours as always

JF

The Legend of Nirport

That time Kurt proposed to Courtney in Newport…

RISE Propaganda first captured the attention of the public with the Nirport event on the 10th December 2016. 5 days of art pieces to celebrate the myth of Kurt Cobain visiting Newport to propose to Courtney Love at our beloved TJ’s music venue 25 years earlier.

In those 5 days:

Prints were pinned to the front of TJ’s…

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locks placed on the Millennium bridge in the city…

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Adverts placed in the local paper…

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road signs modified…

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and money raised for the homeless from sales of the print.

Skip to the present day, and we are releasing the remainder of the limited edition prints along with a new uniform:

Both print and uniform are available for pre-order now (released on the 10th December) on the store and as always, with any RISE Propaganda supplies, 5% of the total supplies of our profits go to charity. This winter, we are giving to the homeless charity Shelter Cymru.

Enjoy!

RISE

Incredible value!

Giving our community a good deal.

*i.e. until the end of time.

*i.e. until the end of time.

We believe our community should RISE with us. That’s why, from the start, RISE Propaganda has pledged to give 5% of the total value of its profits to local charities. We have currently given more than that, with over £1500 to good causes. Here’s a list of donations so far:

£300 raised - Shelter Cymru and All Creatures Great and Small - December 2016 (Nirport event) - Secret Garden Cafe (Partners)

£50 raised- Togs Centre New Inn - February 2017 - Dragon Flli (Partners)

£85 raised - Bridge for Social Inclusion/GOL Cymru - June 2017 - Coleg Gwent (Partners)

£50 raised - Riot City Ravens - June 2017 - Riot City Ravens (Partners)

£222 raised - Newport Food Bank - October/December 2017 - Tiny Rebel and Newport Market (Partners)

£800 raised - Newport’s Rocky statue and legacy fund - June 2018 - Newport’s Rocky (Partners)

Current total : £1507

This winter the RISE community have decided to donate to Shelter Cymru. This means that when you buy from the RISE website/workshop this Christmas, not only will you be supporting your local movement but also helping the homeless in our streets at this difficult time of year.

Thank you for making a difference. Together we RISE.