This 30 year-old programme will change the way you see Wales

Gwyn Alf Williams in The Dragon Has Two Tongues

Nick Stradling

The biggest problem we have in Wales is that our children grow into adults without any perception of the events that shaped their surroundings.

I was one of those children. Growing up as a monolingual southerner, my only outlet for Welshness was sport.

This was despite my own father being a historian, who wrote and presented a BBC Wales documentary about Welsh volunteers in the Spanish Civil war.

But a little over a decade ago he did something that would transform my own understanding of Wales, which was to obtain for me an old VHS copy of the 13-part documentary series ‘The Dragon Has Two Tongues’.

“What is history? Divine gossip about the past, among gentlemen. Have another glass of port.”

-Wynford Vaughan Thomas

“History in more than a page in a book! History is the buckle that bites your back. History is the sweat you can’t keep out your eyes. History is the fear crawling in your belly!”

– Gwyn Alf Williams

From this opening gambit, The Dragon Has Two Tongues demanded my undivided attention.

It transformed me from a 26-year-old with little understanding of nor love for Wales, into the 38-year-old member of the Welsh independence movement I am today.


Power

For those unaware of The Dragon Has Two Tongues, it presents the history of Wales from two entire different political standpoints.

Wynford Vaughn-Thomas gives us the conservative, establishment, unionist point of view, while Gwyn Alf Williams speaks as a fire-breathing Marxist and separatist.

What is so powerful about this series is that it is, by its very nature and in its title premise, entirely counterpoint and bi-partisan. It could never be accused by objective viewer or critic of polemicism or partisanship.

Herein lies its great power and this is the most important point I want to make: The Dragon Has Two Tongues is not Unionist or Nationalist. Not Marxist or Capitalist.

It just wants you to care about Wales. And that in itself makes it a revolutionary programme.

Just by seeing that Wales actually has history, it achieves more than any of the arguments put forth by its two presenters.

Hywel Dda, Llewellyn the Last, Cilmeri, the Acts of Union, Prince Madoc, Iolo Morganwg, and Tryweryn – I hadn’t heard about any of them before I watched this series.

A new audience

Wales is the only country I know of that is accused of insularity for taking an interest in its own history. The motive behind this, of course, is to discourage us from doing so, in case we come to conclusions the British establishment would not like.

Our history is not better. Or a sign of prophecy or greatness. It’s just Welsh, and we need to know it to understand where we now find ourselves culturally, politically and psychologically.

The Dragon Has Two Tongues, although groundbreaking, was never repeated on television and is not commercially available to purchase through any UK or Welsh retailer.

I am not suggesting a conspiracy here, but pointing to clear patterns of behaviour and culture in our media, schooling systems and lifelong learning. The lesson is that Wales doesn’t matter.

My passion for Wales on film inspired me to start a twitter page @MoviesWales and the YouTube channel Wales in the Movies.

It is through these channels that, until February, I shall be uploading one episode of The Dragon Has Two Tongues every week on Thursday nights. And I want as many people to watch the show as possible.

I hope that we can start a debate and by doing so, show a new audience that Wales, and our history, are worth understanding.

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