THE story of the Chartists will soon be coming to a stage near you thanks to the creation of a new musical.

Written and soundtracked by Newport's Pat Drewett and Kelvin Reddicliffe, Chartist RockX tells the story of Jack the Fifer, a Chartist from Tredegar.

Chartist RockX guides the audience through the life, loves and sufferings of ordinary workers in South Wales and the events leading up to the Chartist March on Newport in 1839.

Lead character Jack the Fifer takes the audience to the Chartist rocks where John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones stood addressing the crowds at the huge rallies they organized in their campaign for the right to vote.

The “X” in the title hints at the secret ballot which was one of the demands in the six points of the Charter.

Well-used to tough conditions, Jack had been a soldier fighting at the Battle of the Alamo in Mexico three years earlier.

However, on his return to Wales he was shocked by the overcrowded, insanitary slums on the edges of Merthyr and Newport where disease was rife.


The high price of bread, poverty wages, bribery, corruption, turnpike roads, and the threat of the workhouse were all real concerns of working families.

Thousands upon thousands of men and women became Chartists, hoping for changes to their living and working conditions, schools for their children, a green and safe environment and the right to vote.

The musical tries to reveal the passion of the Chartists against injustice with a demand for change which was passed from meeting to meeting, from street to street, from mouth to mouth.

(Video: Ollie Barnes)

Chartist RockX utilizes melodies from well-known songs such as Calon Lan and Cwm Rhondda, once sung passionately at Cardiff Arms Park, overlayed with lyrics adapted from Chartist poems.

Mr Reddicliffe and Mr Drewett said: “It was a conscious decision to layer Chartist words from early Victorian times on top of tunes written at a later date, because these Welsh rugby songs combine so well with the passion and roar of the Chartists."

Mr Drewett added: “The script also uses many original quotations made by John Frost, Zephaniah Williams, Henry Vincent and other Chartist leaders."

Both Kelvin Reddicliffe and Pat Drewett offer grateful thanks to the many people who assisted in this project and especially John Marenghi whose dramatic sketch of John Frost feature on the front cover of the CD and the script.

Kelvin Reddicliffe, who has produced a CD of the music of Chartist RockX, hopes the musical would generate a greater sense of pride and appreciation of the values and virtues of the Chartists.

He said: “The important thing is that the musical attracts more people living in South Wales to appreciate their own heritage.

"I hope that through the imaginative use of music and drama the musical attracts new young actors to the stage and new audiences to take part in performances.” 

The script is free to download at and is also available for schools on Hwb.