A FESTIVAL celebrating Newport's key role in the formation of modern democracy – and those who fought for it – will be a little different this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Newport Rising Festival, which launched in 2018, celebrates the legacy of the Chartists and the Newport Rising of 1839. The uprising saw thousands of Chartists march to Westgate Hotel, in Newport city centre, to liberate their comrades being held captive - ending in a bloody battle where 22 of them were killed.

South Wales Argus:

Westgate Hotel at a previous Newport Rising festival

For the last two years, hundreds have gathered to follow in the Chartists footsteps - following a Walking Trail featuring pavement roundels which were selected in a public vote backed by charity Our Chartist Heritage (OCH) and funded through Heritage Lottery Fund.

But this year will be a little different due to restrictions put in to halt the spread of coronavirus. Although the march will not take place, organisers have risen to the challenge to ensure that the 181st anniversary of the Newport Rising is remembered and celebrated.

South Wales Argus:

Newport Rising 2019 (Picture: Kamila Jarczak)

Instead 22 volunteers from OCH - one for each Chartist who lost their life in the Newport Rising – will walk 11 laps of the trails, with the event live-streamed.

Chairwoman Melinda Drowley, explained: “Sadly the torchlit marches of 500+ people that we enjoyed at previous festivals are not possible this year and, with local lockdowns in Newport and the Gwent Valleys, we’ve had to get creative.

“So, in memory of the 22 Chartists shot dead outside the Westgate Hotel in 1839, 22 of our dedicated local volunteers are going to walk 11 laps of Newport’s Chartist Trail to make 20 miles - the equivalent distance that some Chartists marched in 1839.

“We’ll live stream the event and we hope that the people of Newport will cheer the marchers on or even join them for part of the way (subject to guidelines on social distancing and the maximum size of gatherings).

“As the final laps will be in darkness, we’ll carry lit wax torches, so make sure you look out for those in the city centre.”


This march will take place from 7pm on Saturday, November 7.

Those wanting to show support can light a torch, available from the Newport Rising website, in their gardens. Money made from these torches will fund future events, education programmes and Newport Rising Festival 2021.

Other festival events this year include

  • A live-streamed seminar by the creators of Newport Rising graphic novel in partnership with Newport and Gwent Literary Club.
  • A virtual commemoration event (in lieu of the usual commemoration at St Woolos Cathedral).
  • A curated film club with virtual and live screenings.
  • Live performance and music streaming.

Other events organised by OCH have been rescheduled; the annual Chartist Convention will now be in December and a guided walk to the Chartist Cave has been postponed until restrictions on movement in South East Wales are lifted.

For full details about Newport Rising Festival 2020 visit newportrising.co.uk