The Mandela Triology - The stage is set for Cardiff memories
Wales Millennium Centre (WMC) is calling for people to share their memories of Nelson Mandela’s historic visit to Cardiff in 1998, in which the South African President was awarded the Freedom of the City. Thousands had lined the streets to hear the anti-apartheid activist address the city on his way to an EU summit.
“For Cardiff, Mandela’s visit wasn’t just about the European Summit”, explains Bet Davies, spokeswoman for WMC. “Having Mandela here as a free man was the culmination of years of campaigning.”
Local authorities in Wales boycotted South African products, universities cut academic ties and the national Rugby Union team refused to tour while the apartheid regime was in place. Speaking to the jubilant crowds, Mandela described this show of solidarity as “magnificent".
Choir member Leonard Parfitt performed during the leader’s visit to Cardiff Castle. “His personality is just huge, he had time to stop and speak to everybody,” he recalls. “I have a tape of the visit and even just watching that now is very powerful.
"The camera was behind him so you can see the reactions of the people he talks to – they’re beaming at him. I spent the rest of the day talking about his visit and thinking ‘I’ve met Nelson Mandela, this is magic!’”
It is eyewitness accounts like these that Nia Jones, communications manager of WMC, wants to hear. “One woman who got in touch with us was working as a waitress at the time, and she served Nelson Mandela as he had tea with Tony Blair. We also heard from a teacher whose class Mandela visited. He sang some nursery rhymes with the kids – they were thrilled!”
WMC’s call for memories coincides with the Cape Town Opera’s European premiere of the Mandela Trilogy, held at the WMC on June 20 and 21. The acclaimed show explores the former president’s extraordinary life in a musical tribute that mixes jazz, opera and traditional South African music.
If you saw Mandela in Cardiff, send your stories to the WMC at firstname.lastname@example.org, post on their Facebook page, or tweet #mandela3. The best stories will be shown on opening night, and their contributors will be invited to the event’s premiere.
By Jonathan Grant