Out of Tredegar
Michael Sheen explores Aneurin Bevan's roots in Tredegar.
A spectre is haunting Tredegar. It feels a little like that at least. This town high in the South Wales Valleys is understandably proud of its most famous son and makes the most of his memory.
Aneurin Bevan was born in Tredegar in 1897. And he was the local MP there until his death in 1960. Memories of Bevan still populate the streets.
Aneurin Bevan was a coalminer at the age of 13. He was a troublemaker with a stutter. An autodidact. He won a scholarship from his union for further study in London. He joined committees. He was a town councillor, then a district councillor, before reaching Westminster in 1929, where his greatest legacy must surely be his central role in the founding of the NHS in 1948. The civic religion of the NHS.
And he fought for it in the image of Tredegar.
It's perhaps ironic then, that it's in Aneurin Bevan's home town that the effect of the NHS was felt least of all.
By that time an estimated 96% of the town's population was covered anyway, by a voluntary scheme: the Workmen's Medical Aid Society.
This is what Aneurin Bevan was referring to when he said, "All I am doing is extending to the entire population of Britain the benefits we had in Tredegar for a generation or more. We are going to 'Tredegar-ise' you."
He said that while he was battling to establish the system nationwide. Or he said it with a jeer to Winston Churchill across the dispatch box in the Commons. Or maybe he wrote it somewhere.
Anyway, it's etched on a plaque outside the old Town Hall in Tredegar. The now dilapidated town hall, just down the street from one of Bevan's old meeting places, which is now a DWP Assessment Centre, itself just down the hill from the Medical Centre, which has been trying unsuccessfully for months and months to recruit new staff.
Those details shouldn't be the beginning or the end of anyone's image of Tredegar. It's more various and interesting - and more beautiful - than they might suggest. But those details, and others like them, do lead eager programme-makers to feel pleased with themselves when, after spending a necessarily small amount of time in the town, they reverse that old slogan of Bevan's and ask, idly it must be said: who is going to Tredegar-ise Tredegar today?
With Dr Alfazuddin Ahmed, Eryl Evans, Iwan Fox, Megan Fox, Alwyn Powell and Nick Thomas-Symonds MP
With grateful thanks to the Tredegar Brass Band and the Tredegar Local History Museum.
Producer: Martin Williams.