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Charlotte Church joins fundraising concert for the people of Palestine

11 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Charlotte Church. Yui Mok/PA Images

Martin Shipton

Charlotte Church will join a fund-raising choral concert in a workmen’s hall later this month, to raise funds for the people of Palestine.

The event, on 24 February, will bring together three causes that motivated one of Wales’ most colourful local councillors.

Ray Davies, who died aged 85 in 2015, represented Bedwas on Caerphilly council for decades. He remembered as a child seeing the Milk for Spain appeal being organised on the steps of Bedwas Workmen’s Hall during the Spanish Civil War.

Later the hall was the centre of a soup kitchen during the miners’ strike in 1984-85.

Ambulance fund

Like the workmen’s hall and the Palestinian cause, the Côr Cochion (Red Choir), of which Ray was a founding member and his widow Wendy Lewis is the current director, was dear to his heart.

The choir will be joined at the February 24 concert by Charlotte Church. As well as Côr Cochion, there will be a megachoir of 100 singers to raise money for the charity Middle East Childrens’ Alliance, which provides life giving support to children in Gaza and the rare opportunity for education and play in the midst of war. The afternoon’s collection will help fund an ambulance for Al Awda hospital. which was destroyed in the recent assault on Gaza.

In the run-up to the event, Charlotte Church and Côr Cochion are running a series of workshops to teach songs of freedom from many different traditions. The organisers promise the concert will be an afternoon of  unforgettable singing which will lift spirits in these dark times, and give inspiration and hope.

Wendy said: “Charlotte has long been a passionate supporter of human rights, and this has led her to add her voice to the recent marches demanding a ceasefire in Gaza.  Two million people, half of them children, are experiencing an Israeli blockade of food, water, and medicine. The UN’s Antonio Guterres declared: ‘The nightmare in Gaza is more than a humanitarian crisis.  It is a crisis of humanity.’

“Ray dedicated his life to the three causes which have come together for this fundraiser: Bedwas Workmens’ Hall, choral singing and Palestinian rights. He would have been thrilled to see this culmination, at the end of  the Hall’s centenary year.”

“Ray visited Palestine for the first time in 1994 when he organised a cultural visit for the choir to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. There they witnessed at first hand the effects of the occupation. They came home determined to support Israeli and Palestinian groups working for peace. Later, during one of his visits to the area, he was shot during a protest demonstration against the Israeli occupiers. Fortunately his wounds were not life threatening.

Ray protesting in Palestine

Back home in Wales, Ray could regularly be seen wearing his trademark red beret, singing with Côr Cochion near the eastern entrance to Cardiff Market.

As a young man he worked as a miner in Llanbradach Colliery and later in Llanwern steelworks. More recently he became well-known for his protests in support of the Palestinians, and for his actions as a peace campaigner and anti-nuclear weapons activist.

Miners’ strike

Caerphilly Labour MP Wayne David, said at the time of Ray’s death: “He was one in a million. He was highly respected by everyone locally – even by those who disagreed with him. I knew him for decades – from the time I was a student at Cardiff University. He was always highly enthusiastic about left-wing causes and passionate about fighting for the underdog.

“A few years ago I got a phone call from him. He asked me if I could get him out of prison. He’d been arrested demonstrating at a protest against the Israelis and was in a jail in Jerusalem. He gave me the number of the Israeli Ambassador and asked me to call him, which I did. Ray got released and was sent back to Britain.”

Ray Davies was heavily involved in the support movement for the miners’ strike and appeared in a film directed by Karl Francis called Miss Rhymney Valley, in which he argued that the winner of a beauty contest should be the contestant who did most to help the miners’ cause.

In 2013 he starred in a documentary film called The Spirit of ‘45 made by left-wing director Ken Loach about the achievements of the Labour government elected in 1945.

Tickets for the February 24 concert in Bedwas Workmen’s Hall are available from Eventbrite by donation to the Middle East Children’s Alliance

Meanwhile on Saturday February 10 Rhondda Cynon Taf’s branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign Is holding an event called For the Love of Gaza with local musicians at St Dyfrig’s Hall in Treforest.

Branch chair Andrew Draper said:”It’s crucial we keep the pressure on, and music and culture are powerful ways of doing that. The Israelis said they don’t bomb hospitals, we have seen that’s not true. What we see is a genocide unfolding. We will not stand by and do nothing while it happens.”

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