Got your ticket for Wales’ best summer festival?

Alastair Gittins
4 min readMay 18, 2017


Merthyr Rising 26–28 May 2017

5 minutes with UNISON’s Mike Crimmings, Merthyr Rising organising committee

Mike Crimmings keeps the flag flying outside the red house, Merthyr Tydfil

There’s a real buzz about Merthyr Rising this year. What can people expect from the festival?

There’ll be some fiery political speeches on Friday evening and lively debates throughout the weekend. We have live music from upcoming bands from Merthyr and Wales and from the rest of Britain. There’ll be street food, bars, entertainment for children and lots of stalls including two from UNISON.

It’s going to be a brilliant festival, a true celebration of what went on in 1831 when workers rose up against then coal and iron masters to defend their wages and working conditions. UNISON is fighting the same cause today.

Live music from upcoming bands

What are you most looking forward to this year?

UNISON’s assistant general secretary Roger McKenzie, is opening the proceedings on Friday (26 May) at 5.30pm. We have Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell who’ll be speaking and taking questions later that evening in the Castle hotel. We’re right in the middle of an election campaign so that will be electrifying.

I’m really looking forward to watching some exciting bands and meeting lots of UNISON comrades from across Wales and the UK.

Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell will be speaking at Merthyr Rising

With just a couple of weeks to go now, what’s still to organise?

Most of the weekend’s activities have been organised. Many UNISON members have volunteered for that weekend to staff the UNISON stalls so we are sorting out the rotas. We are going to use the festival to raise the profile of our union and recruit new members.

One great thing is the collaboration between UNISON branches in Cwm Taf area — local government, health and Higher Education, in sponsoring the event. We have come together to pool our monies and back Merthyr Rising.

What’s the history of Merthyr Rising?

In 1831, coal and iron employers and in particular Crawshay cut workers’ terms and conditions and they rose up and marched to Merthyr. A sheep or another animal was killed and someone put a white shirt on a stick and dipped it into the animal’s blood and this was the first time the red socialist flag was raised in Britain. The British government sent troops to Merthyr to violently suppress the revolt and many brave men and women were killed for the cause. They made a martyr of one of the figures Dic Penderyn, who was hanged in Cardiff but now known to have been innocent.

Plaque in tribute to martyr Dic Penderyn

Founder of the Labour Party, and the first ever Labour MP Keir Hardie represented Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare and our celebrations in Merthyr square are outside the red house where he made his inaugural speech.

Founder of the Labour Party Keir Hardie was also the local MP

Why has UNISON decided to be the main sponsor?

We are a trade union that reflects our community. We want to stand shoulder to shoulder with the cause of those brave people in 1831 and also with the people of Merthyr Tydfil today in the current fight against savage Tory cuts. The Tories have never cared about Merthyr or people from the Valley and they never will. They see public services as a luxury that towns like Merthyr do not deserve and they will do everything they can to bring us down.

The people of Merthyr in 1831 showed that we can only be pushed so far and then no more. The Tories say cutback, we say fight back! We preserve the memory of predecessors who fought for the working class and we continue that fight.

It sounds like a great event. How do I get hold of a ticket?

Tickets are available on