Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Llangollen Visit

Funny I should have thought of Terry Waite in my last post. I saw him on Tuesday evening, being driven around Llangollen in the competitors parade on the opening day the annual International Musical Eisteddfod. He's currently Eistedfod President, and takes part in opening functions, evidently with much pride and pleasure.
After Tuesday's Retail Partnership board meeting, Clare and I took off to North Wales in the car, for the three and a half hour journey to Llangollen. We arrived just as the roads were being closed, and were fortunate to end up re-directed to the hospital car park to await re-opening, just fifty yards from where the parade left the grounds and hit the main road for a tour of the town. So we had a grandstand view of the hundreds of mainly youthful competitors from all over the world - Australia, America, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Georgia, India, Romania, Poland, Russia, Spain, Turkey, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine - to name some. It's the sixty-first year of this festival of world music. It was going for nearly fifty before the term 'world music' hit the markets. It makes me really proud to be Welsh.
However, our reason for going was the appearance of American singer Joan Baez in the Tuesday evening concert. Terry Waite introduced it with a poignant tribute to her, with festal acclaim for the release of Alan Johnston. He quite unashamedly told of his own efforts to get a message to Alan in captivity by getting interviewed several times during those months on the World Service and other global media networks. "Take each day at at time" he counselled; "You will be surprised to discover resources within you that you didn't know you had."
I heard Terry given honourable mention by Alan Johnston on the day of his release, and this advice quoted. Nobody knew Alan had been given a radio and just how much the reports of the campaign for his release given him hope. He had heard Terry's message, and learning this was a blessing that Terry was glad to share.
For once, in this cruel world, solidarity worked. May it not be the last time.

Joan Baez was as moving and inspiring as ever, singing all the songs we listened to and learned to sing for the first time when Clare and I were just turned nineteen. Next year is her fiftieth as a public performer and peace campaigner. She started when Llangollen was only twelve years old, also spreading its message of peace and reconciliation through music. It was her first visit, and the audience was full of people 'our age' - old hippies, ex hippies, and so on. It made me wonder. What have we achieved? The world is as unsafe now as it was in our youth. We failed to raise and educate the leaders who could make it otherwise, no matter how hard we tried. Thank God for the people of courage who were never daunted by the reality, who kept the faith throughout the darkness of this present world, whether in prison, or on the frontline of protest. They saved us from the indignity of our mediocrity.

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