NEWPORT is to cement its special place in the story of how people won the right to vote by hosting a new annual festival.

Spearheaded by a newly-formed organisation, Our Chartist Heritage, the first festival – entitled Newport Rising - will take place later this year, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the landmark law which gave the vote to ordinary people for the very first time.

The event, supported by a £77,400 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, will include re-enactments, film, street theatre, seminars, workshops and a symbolic march down the iconic Stow Hill through which local people and visitors can follow the steps of Chartist protesters who faced a hail of gunfire from militiamen in Newport town centre on 4th November 1839.

Twenty-two of them died in the encounter but their memory spurred people on to continue demanding the right to vote, both in the UK and internationally. The 1918 Representation of the People Act was a huge step towards that goal giving men over 21 the right to vote and some women over 30. Ten years later, all adult women won the right to vote, too.

To highlight Newport’s unique part in the story of the vote, the City Council last year announced its ‘City of Democracy’ initiative and the new festival being staged by Our Chartist Heritage, with Lottery Fund support, will be a key contributor to that programme.

In addition to the festivities which will take place over the weekend of November 3-4, the Heritage Lottery Fund will finance the installation of a new ‘Chartist Trail’ with permanent markers set in the pavement along Stow Hill and surrounding streets, supported by wall plaques that will tell the story of the movement and the massacre that took place only yards away.

Pat Drewett, chairman of Our Chartist Heritage said: “Newport and the surrounding Valleys have always acknowledged and celebrated their links to Chartism, but we now have a great opportunity to claim a place for the city and the region right at the heart of the amazing story of how the vote was won. The popular vote is so important to billions of people across the world today and Newport played a leading role in helping to bring it about.

“We have big ambitions for this annual festival and for Newport’s national and international reputation as one of the major contributors to the spread of democracy. We hope to see the event grow every year and become something that will draw thousands of people to the city.”

Richard Bellamy, Head of Wales at the Heritage Lottery Fund said: “HLF is pleased to support ‘Our Chartist Heritage’ with their plans to celebrate the proud Chartist history of Newport and, thanks to National Lottery players, to enable people to appreciate and understand the important historical role that the city played in the movement for political reform in the United Kingdom.”

To assist them in the delivery of their exciting plans, the group has appointed David Daniel as Project Development Officer for the 2018 festival. He said: "I'm thrilled to be a part of this new initiative; the Chartist story an essential and engaging chapter of Newport's unique history, and the questions raised around the issue of democracy and the legacy of the Chartists remain absolutely critical today. With the invaluable assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Our Chartist Heritage will ensure that new audiences and future generations will come to learn about and connect with the Chartist message while attracting visitors to a city that is undoubtedly on the rise."