Everyone in Wales should celebrate Welsh language ‘miracle’ says Guardian in response to Jeremy Bowen criticism
The Guardian newspaper has responded to criticism of attempts to spread the Welsh language by BBC journalist Jeremy Bowen, saying that its survival is a “miracle” and that “every Welsh person” should celebrate it.
Bowen came in for fierce criticism this week after claiming on his BBC Radio 4 programme This Union: Being Welsh that the “determination” of the Welsh Government “to spread” the Welsh language “risks devaluing” his identity.
His remarks had drawn the ire of fellow BBC broadcaster Huw Edwards who said that Bowen’s “take is 1970s Cardiff”.
In its editorial, the Guardian newspaper backed Huw Edwards’ view, saying that Jeremy Bowen “grew up in an industrial south Wales – English-speaking, male-dominated, culturally monolithic – that no longer exists, and he seems to some extent to be in mourning for that lost communitarian world”.
“Deindustrialisation in the 1980s robbed the south Wales working class of their identity, based on coal, iron and steel.”
But in recent years a new identity had matured in Wales, it said.
“As industrial English-speaking Wales was losing its sense of purpose, largely rural Welsh-speaking Wales was discovering a new confidence, thanks to the start of the Welsh-language channel S4C in 1982, the growth of Welsh-medium education and all the jobs requiring bilingualism that came with the devolution referendum in 1997,” the editorial added.
“Westminster was taken aback when Guto Harri, Boris Johnson’s new press chief, gave an exclusive interview to a Welsh language news site Golwg360. But Welsh-speaking Wales is not responsible for the travails of English-speaking Wales, and the two have to find a way to coexist.
“The survival of Welsh – after centuries of attempted suppression by the English since the Act of Union of 1536 – is a miracle, and every Welsh person, whether or not they speak it, should celebrate that fact. It does not solely define Welshness, but it contributes to its many-sidedness and unquenchable hwyl.”
In the three-part series, Bowen, who lives in the district of Camberwell, in London “returns home to Wales in search of what it means to be Welsh.”
He said: “A Welsh Government survey says now 70% in Wales can’t speak Welsh. About 20% of the population speak it regularly.
“Welsh Government’s determination to spread the language risks devaluing the identities of Welsh people like me”.
The Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles has pushed back against the remarks, stating that “Cymraeg belongs to us all” and that this is the case “whether we can speak a lot, or not”.
Plaid Cymru MS Delyth Jewell said the journalist’s “attitude reflects a divisive past” and that “modern Wales is a confident, bilingual nation”.
Jeremy Bowen later responded to say that he wasn’t against the Welsh language.
“All I’d say to members of the ‘backlash’ is that I hope your views are based on listening to the series. Not on others’ tweets. Some I know didn’t listen before they tweeted. Listen, then decide.,” he said.
“If you listen to the programmes and still think I’m against the Welsh language (which I am not) tell me exactly what you don’t like and I will answer and explain my thinking.”
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