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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

Guest Post: Like a Fever reviewed

RISE Music editor, Gavin Facey, gives his opinion on the latest release from the Newport indie rocker.

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Jack Perrett is back with a new single that picks you up, chucks you about and in a little over two and a half minutes leaves you feeling more than a bit dazed…and wanting to hit repeat.

First showcased live in April, the frenetic Like a Fever is Jack’s first release since popular Blur parody Portlife and is a shift in direction that pays off, as he delivers his most exciting and catchy release yet.

Unlike much of his Britpop influenced material, Like a Fever is pure garage rock revival (think less 1994 and more 2004), as he couples blistering riffs with driving power chords. Meanwhile, on drums, Morgan is more thunderous and influential than he has ever sounded on a Jack Perrett tune.

Already played on BBC Radio Wales by Janice Long and Adam Walton amongst others, Like a Fever is perfectly suited for both radio and a baying audience and has quickly become a favourite at Jack’s live shows. Don’t be surprised to hear it being blasted at 1am on your local Red Stripe drenched indie club dance floor.

Like a Fever is officially released on 7th December via CD and digital download and will be accompanied by a video, directed by Focus Shift Films. In the meantime, you can already listen to the track on Spotify or Soundcloud.

-GF

See below for more on Jack:

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Greyed Out

Today we are hand the reigns of the website to long time cherub Curtis Jones who explains his love of street art and his campaign to get a legal graffiti wall in the ‘Port:

“Greyed Out is an autobiographical film about my relationship with two motorway tunnels in Newport and how they inspired me because of the graffiti art that appeared on them.

”I think it would be great if Newport had a place for people to paint graffiti art legally, just like Bristol, Cardiff, Swansea and many others. I'm in contact with some others that want to make this happen and we're in the early stages of planning.

“Anything that gets people out creating and getting inspired is awesome – especially in these turbulent political times.

 “If you have any thoughts on a legal wall (positive or negative) – feel free to send me a message on Instagram (www.instagram.com/curtjones_)

Thanks to RISE for allowing me to share my documentary on their website."

If you would like to be on the Soapbox and share your project/opinion share the RISE community, drop us a message on our social medias. Spread the love!

Guest Post: The 5 Best Bands from Newport, South Wales
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Newport has a rich history of music with so many awesome bands coming out of the city. But who ranks among the the best?

Local music historian, and director of upcoming TJ’s documentary The Rock of Newport, Nathan Jennings, sets the record straight. Here are his top 5 bands (in no particular order) to come out of the ‘Port:

 

1. GLC (Goldie Lookin Chain)

“Not to be confused or mistaken with the GLC music festivals of mid-80s.

“Not your atypical 4 piece band. The Goldie Lookin Chain continue to deliver for over 15 years, something so typically honest, socially cultural, comically fun and something that be best described as ‘Safe as f***’ about Newport. And proud of it.”

Key Track - Guns Don‘t Kill People

2. Skindred (& Dub War)*

“Benji Webbe is the frontman & larger than life character of rasta-metal outfit Skindred. A band which has elevated itself since the late 90s to international popularity and regularly thrilling audiences all around the world, notably with the ‘Newport Helicopter’.”

*a great mention has to be given to recently reformed Dub War from early 90s also!

Key track - Kill the Power

 

3. 60 ft Dolls

“The band that you could say put all eyes on Newport during the early/mid-90s. The

“Rock/britpop/indie trio had mass pop appeal, gained them extensive worldwide tours, major signings and top hits during their career.

“As well as once sharing a Transporter Bridge journey with DJ John Peel, Richard Parfitt who fronted the Dolls, can be best be associated with ‘The New Seattle’ period of Newport music.”

*Worth mentioning along with many notable others including The Darling Buds, Novocaine, Give Me Memphis and Five Darren’s just to name a few.

Key Track - Happy Shopper

 

4. Save Your Breath

“Some may say that I am biased in mentioning this Newport band (as the members comprise of my close friends).

“The now defunct pop-punk band, Save Your Breath for me gave an edge and energy to the genre of pop-punk. With roots distilled in Hardcore Punk, this band had some great singalongs and had a really great 10 years of fun enjoyed by all!”

Key track: Stay Young

 

5. Cowboy Killers

“Once described as the ‘Welsh Dead Kennedy’s’ defending frontman Beddis’ mad but melodic vocals.

“This band in their hayday tore up the UK punk scene through the late 80s/90s.

“As the regular support band of every touring punk band that came through the doors of TJs in the 90s, you’d be silly not to have witnessed the intensity and in-your-face sound of these guys!”

Key Track: Jesus Entering

Nathan is in the process of completing the Rock of Newport Documentary. If you have an amazing Tj's story to be told or just want to find out more about this amazing project, you can contact him on the details below:

Web: http://www.therockofnewport.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/therockofnewport
Email: therockofnewport@gmail.com

 

Guest post: The identity of John Frost revealed!

David Daniel of the Escape Rooms Newport talks of his experience with RISE and reveals the true identity of the mystery person behind RISE Propaganda - John Frost.

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‘WHDTV’ viewable down in our Escape Rooms

‘WHDTV’ viewable down in our Escape Rooms

‘Modern Slavery’ viewable in our Escape Rooms

‘Modern Slavery’ viewable in our Escape Rooms

I remember when I first heard about John Frost and the RISE movement.

My sister Ellie and I were in the process of setting up The Escape Rooms and Ellie sent me a message to say someone had offered to send us an art print. ‘Cool, free stuff’ probably sums up our initial thoughts on the matter, but when we began to dig a little deeper it was clear that this was much more interesting than that.

Here was an anonymous Newport artist using the rebel fist and subverting Newport’s coat of arms with skulls while sharing a message to ‘spread love, break hate’ and ‘Rise and React’ on the side of a Marmite jar…. we were intrigued. When an original print was delivered by a ‘dead cherub’ shortly afterwards, carefully wrapped in brown paper and twine, with a hand printed card and wax seal we couldn’t wait to see what lay beneath. Inside we found the now famous ‘I heart NP’ original artwork, complete with anatomical heart and blood red splatter, and of course we loved it the moment we laid our eyes on it. The work has pride of place in The Escape Rooms where we can both see it and each pretend it is our own, like strange subterranean hobbits. 

A conversation began with John Frost, always via messenger or intermediary as it became clear that our goals complemented each other in many ways. We also love Newport and were keen to work with anyone that had creative drive and I think we saw our own optimism and hope for Newport’s future reflected back at us. Slowly, I’m not sure exactly when, we became part of the RISE movement. The change was gradual at first; we became dead cherubs ourselves, offered our wall space for RISE art and began to spread the word of RISE propaganda.

 

Visitors to The Escape Rooms were told of the secretive and anonymous John Frost and where they could find his artwork. I would share knowing nods with people I had met through the movement, and the occasional ‘nice tee’ when I crossed paths with a wearer of the coveted black dead cherub t-shirt. It was fun, like being part of a secret society and exclusive club.  

Me as Dubious Jake’s ‘sandwich bored’ man, advertising the 0 rated jar stall at Newport Food Festival, October 2017.

Me as Dubious Jake’s ‘sandwich bored’ man, advertising the 0 rated jar stall at Newport Food Festival, October 2017.

Of course, I wondered who the real John Frost was but equally enjoyed the the mystery and playfulness of it all. Like a magicians trick, the fun is in the not-knowing. But then, strange things began to happen. Without even realizing I had been ensnared, I became more and more tangled in Frost’s web.

I found myself doing things I wouldn’t have considered previously, way outside my comfort zone and being challenged to adapt and respond – to rise and react.

I began to meet others doing the same, individuals that had been brought together under a common banner and had been inspired to create new works, new ways to collaborate and achieve small acts of kindness, distraction, entertainments… people that were open to new ideas and new ways to change minds and attitudes. I was inspired and perhaps, under John Frost’s guidance, I had in some small way inspired others. 

And that’s when it happened. I met John Frost. 

John Frost was me. And you. John Frost was everyone I had spoken to that looked up instead of down. To the future instead of the past.

John Frost was the people that know and love the Newport of now, not pining for a well-worn memory of the way we used to be, but loving Newport as it always has been, as an anchor for family and friends and community.

John Frost is every one of those that looks at Newport and says ‘ This is my city, my home, and I’ll do what I can for it’. A cause beyond the rebellion.

Only in acting in this manner can we RISE together. 

Would the real John Frosts please stand up?

David Daniel and the highly rated Escape Rooms can be found on Griffin Street under the market in the centre of Newport. It’s a completely immersive experience that you and up to five friends have to solve clues and escape in under 60 minutes. For more details see the links below:

Web: www.escaperoomsnewport.co.uk
Phone: 01633 504206
Facebook: https://en-gb.facebook.com/pg/theescaperooms/
 
Email: theescaperooms@gmail.com