Laura was commissioned by EMP Projects for a two-week artist residency in Newport in April / May 2015 to engage with the wider public through art and dialogue the contemporary relevance of the Chartist movement in today’s society. Using The Project Space as a base, she organised up pop up events at the Cwtsh, a resident run community space, and at Newport Museum & Art Gallery for passers-by to share their thoughts on the Chartist legacy.
Based on Professor Chris Williams’ work on how the central values of the Chartist Movement may be expressed for the twenty-first century, Laura encouraged the public to discuss:
- Democracy – a political system that reflects the views and interests of the people
- Equality – of all both in terms of political rights and of opportunities
- Dignity – respect for all forms of labour
- Participation – the idea that all have an opportunity and an obligation to contribute to debating the present and future of society
- Community – that social and moral values can be understood best in a common, collective context
- Co-operation – that much more can be achieved by working together across boundaries than by remaining isolated
- Vision – a future that is worth championing and that offers positive hope for all
In order to pull together different viewpoints and complex connections Laura illustrated a documentary comic booklet in a nod towards cartoons as tools for political commentary. The comic included some historical context, viewpoints on voting, democracy, and the local Newport spirit. The work was exhibited at The Project Space and shared widely on social media, and the findings contributed towards a report to the Chartist Commission.
‘Celebrating Chartism’ is an arts / social engagement plan that was presented to the Newport Chartist Commission in May 2015, with a view to presenting an event in November 2015 and beyond. The Chartist Commission is an independent panel set up to consider new ways in which Chartism can be celebrated through in a forward-looking and meaningful way; by incorporating its legacy with that of Newport as the home of democracy.