On 11th November 2017, I made one of many visits to Conwy Castle. To my surprise, I witnessed the red dragon flags at half mast (half staff) on both of the poles within the western towers: visible to all inhabitants of the town and environs, and all visitors. On that morning, I wasn’t quite sure why.
That evening, I made the connection. I understand that the same was happening across the heritage sites and public buildings of north Wales as government institutions paid formal respects to the death of a prominent Welsh politician four days earlier.
The death can readily be described as tragic. The individual in question committed suicide at his home following his dismissal from office. The circumstances for his dismissal were allegations of inappropriate behaviour. The timing of these allegations were not coincidental, but came immediately in the wake of the #metoo movement which had spread virally the month before.
Two brief reflections:
- The flying of flags at half mast remains the most prominent, temporary, way in which present-day heritage sites feature in the commemoration of the dead. They may contain permanent memorials to specific individuals, but this is distinct and prominent as a memorial strategy for the short-term. The problem is: as in this and many other cases, the medium doesn’t bear the subject. In other words, there is nothing to tell those already aware regarding why the flags are flying at half-mast.
- While I have reflected on #metoo heritage in a previous post and discussed the historic absence of memorials to victims of sex-related crimes, only now being rectified and only in some parts of the world, my coincidental visit to Conwy prompts reflection on another form of victim, those affected by the allegations, including the alleged perpetrator and their family, friends, and wider social and political networks. This is therefore an unanticipated temporary memorial to the affects of the viral #metoo movement in 2017.
Put these two elements together, and we are left with a particularly uncanny, haunting, instance of flags at half mast at a World Heritage Site.