Wrexham’s march showed that none of the momentum has been lost from the independence movement
Ifan Morgan Jones
Back in 2019 the Welsh independence movement held a series of three huge marches, in Cardiff, Caernarfon and Merthyr Tydfil.
The sheer size in thousands of those who attended, and the passion and positivity generated by these events, where truly historic in a Welsh context.
In a nation defined more for its political quietism, which has tended to reserve passion for the rugby pitch, this was a historic turnaround.
And then it all came with a juddering halt.
First with Covid, which cancelled three scheduled marches in 2020 in Wrexham, Tredegar and Swansea.
Then, despite a surge of members to 20,000, things turned sour within YesCymru itself, with the central committee resigning en masse in the summer of last year.
Yesterday, that long-awaited march in Wrexham finally happened, organised by AUOB Cymru, with support from YesCymru and IndyFest Wrexham.
And there were real questions about whether the momentum that had stalled over the last almost three years would or indeed could be reignited.
Like several other failed Welsh national movements in the past – most famously the CymruFydd movement of the last 19th century – would this one peter out and remain another big ‘what if’ in Welsh history?
Well, on the basis of yesterday I think it’s fair to say that the passion and dedication to political change that characterised the movement back in 2019 was still there in abundance.
The march for independence in Wrexham very much picked up where Merthyr Tydfil in autumn 2019 had left off.
The vibrant, feel-good atmosphere here felt a million miles away from the kind of rancour that has characterised the movement on social media in the intervening period.
A big march is essentially the antithesis of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The latter is all about what drives people apart – into their different political silos and echo chambers.
The aptly named All Under One Banner, like a mixture of a Wales footballing away day and an Eisteddfod, has everyone marching together to the same, literal, drum beat.
You also have to take your bucket hat off to the organisers, as the event also felt like a slicker affair than the previous ones.
In fact, the march itself felt almost incidental to an event that included a fully kitted-out main stage with speakers and huge screens, music, and a number of stalls selling beer, merchandise, books and other goods.
The emphasis was on having a good time, not just making a political point. It was less of a political chore and more of a nice family day out in a new location.
And given the large dent in my bank account made not just by the stalls but all the surrounding shops, I think that before long Wales’ towns and cities will be bidding to host an independence march, rather than putting up a fight as Wrexham Council did.
What negativity there has been about the march has inevitably come online, and has focused on what some claim was a smaller crowd size than previous marches.
Having been present it didn’t feel that way at all. There were around as many people there than the Merthyr Tydfil march, and more than Cardiff.
But one thing is very important to note: Welsh independence marches aren’t a census. They are not an event by which supporters gather in one place for a headcount.
While the size of the crowd in Wrexham showed that none of the enthusiasm has gone out of Welsh independence movement, it wasn’t some kind of official barometer of its appeal.
Polls show consistently that around 25% of Wales’ population would vote for independence. Only a tiny fraction are ever going to turn out for a political rally.
Neither should we compare like for like with other Welsh independence marches. You’re obviously going to get a bigger pro-independence crowd in Caernarfon than Wrexham.
As proudly Welsh as Wrexham is, it’s obvious that some parts of Wales are going to be more fertile ground for the movement than others, for historical, cultural and political reasons.
That the Welsh independence movement managed to attract between 5,000 and 8,000 people – estimates vary depending on who you ask – to the north-east of Wales was a success.
And as Welsh independence marches become the ‘norm’, it’s likely that we’ll see the crowds shrink rather than increase in size, as the number of marches increases and their novelty fades.
Only 1,200 attended a Scottish independence march in Dumfries last month, and Scotland is closer to independence as it has ever been.
The challenge for the Welsh independence movement now will be to keep this new momentum going.
The good news for them is that the UK Government seem entirely determined to help them out in that regard, with a series of attacks on devolution making the status quo unviable and essentially forcing a choice between further autonomy or a stripping away of powers.
There will be bumps and scrapes along the way, and many of them beyond the Welsh independence movement’s control – no one could have seen Covid coming, for instance.
But on the basis of yesterday’s march, the movement is not just Yma o Hyd, but yma for the long haul.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.
I think the writer has called that just right…
Was there a N.C stall?
The presence of the James Larkin Society from Liverpool was heartwarming…
Nothing on the Yes Cymru web site as of mid-day today (Monday)…
Drone footage would be something to see…any available?
I am sorry I was not able to be in Wrecsam this weekend but roll on Cardiff in October. As the football chant goes ‘With my little pick and shovel I’LL BE THERE’. Probably without the pick and shovel.
I’ve always said this. Do nothing nothing will be done. The Westminster establishment arrogantly assume those obedient Welsh are so browbeaten will do nothing to defend themselves like Scotland. How wrong are they! The fact is. Scotland had more control over its own affairs Pre-Devolution than Wales has now. And the ones who should be further down the road to independence is not Scotland but Wales with what we’ve endured since our initial invasion in 1283. Illegal annexation in 1535. The inhuman Welsh Not campaign between the 16th & 19th centuries. And exploitation of our natural resources. Our time has… Read more »
I think one of the things I was really thankful for from yesterday was the affirmation that the Independence movement is beyond the online arguments and YesCymru itself. Being on the march reminded me that independence isn’t something that belongs to any one group, it is a desire that spans many different kinds of people. I was particularly pleased to see the Pride rainbow in amongst all the flags yesterday… and I was gutted I didn’t get a chance to wander around the socialist bookstall afterwards, but I felt the children deserved a smoothie after the march and we ran… Read more »
“…..on the march reminded me that independence isn’t something that belongs to any one group, it is a desire that spans many different kinds of people. ”
That is the plain and simple truth. The campaign will succeed if all are welcome to join but none try to hijack it for their own narrow agenda.
The online world is not a reflection of reality, although a small minority of out of touch people think it is. Diwrnod gwych, diolch i bawb weithiodd mor galed arno, misoedd o baratoi gofalus ac ymroddgar.
The march cannot have failed to bring the issue of independence to the attention of the people of Wrexham, and in a positive way. It is now up to the Welsh Government to bring to the attention of towns like Wrexham the attacks being made on devolution by the Johnson Government. Wrexham may not yet be ready to commit to the drive for independence, but most here will not want to see devolved government chipped away by a BritNat Westminster.
The welcome from Wrexham residents and shoppers and especially the crowd of young women in the Fat Boar was wonderful.
When informed that there was an independence march in Wrexham yesterday, I heard Richard Tice saying “only about 50 people would have turned out”. That’s what the English Establishment thinks of us.
It is better that they sneer at us. Better that they deny it to the last. Their reactions when we win will be all the more amusing…
I doubt whether 50 would turn out to see Richard Tice, whatever he may be !
Looked much more organised, well done. Other; next time we should have girls at the front , as many as possible, all with a flag. That would work really well, I think?
To paraphrase Mark Twain – reports of the death of the welsh indy movement have been greatly exaggerated 😉. Now lets make the october 1st march in Cardiff the biggest pro indy march wales has ever seen!