A CRUCIAL moment in Newport's history has been "taken into the future for new generations" with the creation of a new graphic novel, launched today in the city centre.

Newport Rising tells the story of John Frost and the Chartist uprising of November 4, 1839, a formative and bloody milestone in the struggle for suffrage and a fairer political system.

Twenty-two people were killed in a violent clash outside Newport's Westgate Hotel that day, and it was inside that building today (Thursday) that a huge crowd gathered to celebrate the book's launch.

South Wales Argus: Guests explore the artwork inside the Westgate Hotel, Newport.Guests explore the artwork inside the Westgate Hotel, Newport.

At 6.39pm (an apt 18:39), the doors swung open and members of the Newport Rising group ushered guests into the former hotel – rebuilt since the days of the uprising – which is normally closed to the public.

South Wales Argus: The Westgate Hotel is normally off-limits.The Westgate Hotel is normally off-limits.

Over the past six weeks, parts of the Westgate have been transformed by artists into a gallery which proudly reflects the Chartists' defiance and rebellion.

Amid that artwork, Newport City Council leader Debbie Wilcox told the crowd that the Chartists continued to be a key part of the city today.

"The Chartists were then, they are now, and will be in the future," Cllr Wilcox said. "This is a city of democracy."

South Wales Argus: In an image from the graphic novel, John Frost (right) and other Chartists have been designed with punk influences.In an image from the graphic novel, John Frost (right) and other Chartists have been designed with punk influences.

Pat Drewett, from the city's historical group Our Chartist Heritage (OCH), told the audience he believed many of the forms of oppression – or "slavery", as John Frost called it – remained a feature in our society.

"If walls could speak, they'd tell us of the injustices the Chartists were forced to endure," Mr Drewett said, naming as examples austerity, poverty, child exploitation, corruption, and unequal education opportunities.

"Many of these forms of 'slavery' still exist in some form or other," he added.

Given the subject matter of the new graphic novel, it was no surprise to hear such political statements – especially surrounded by artworks displaying messages such as "Good laws are never resisted."

But there was also much cause for celebration, with so much talent and creativity on display.

Artist Amelia Unity, from Tongwynlais, had created a work with the word 'hope' surrounded by the names of the 22 Chartists who lost their life in the Newport Rising.

She said: "It feels like there's a real buzz, and Newport's really embracing this."

The decoration of the Westgate Hotel, and the completion of the Newport Rising project, has been down to a small army of volunteers from OCH, Rise Propaganda, Newport Rising, and more – and their hard work was praised by each speaker at the event.

South Wales Argus: Josh Cranton (left) and Rhys DW.Josh Cranton (left) and Rhys DW.

But the major plaudits were reserved for David Daniel, Rhys Jones (who writes as Rhys DW), and Josh Cranton – who together were the creative driving force behind the new book.

Mr Jones, who was responsible for the story and character development, said the project had taken one year. He said the trio had drawn inspiration from the 70s when planning their story, set in 1839.

"Twelve months ago we were sat down, wondering how to bring the Chartists' story up to date.

"The Chartists were the original punks back in the day – that's why they look the way they do, in our comic.

"They were the ones who broke the rules first."

And artist and page-designer Mr Cranton, for whom Newport Rising was his first foray into graphic novel work, said: "The fact all these people have turned up is amazing – we've had constant support.

"Being a part of this community has allowed me to meet so many new people who are positive about making changes in the city."

He added: "People [in Newport] really appreciate its history, and hopefully this will get another generation involved."