Protests set to disrupt University community open day

Protesters standing under a banner reading "Injustice"

The planned protest follows one in April, where 250 protesters linked arms in silence against  the suspension and gagging of Auriel and Alan

A PROTEST over the suspension and gagging of Arts Centre staff is set to disrupt a University community open day on Saturday.

The demonstration was originally planned to protest the suspensions of the Director and Operations Manager, Alan Hewson and Auriel Martin suspensions in March this year, but following the recent announcement of Hewson’s retirement, it was unclear if the protest would proceed.

However, local artist and protest organiser Lynne Dickens has confirmed today that the protest will proceed as planned.

The protest was planned to coincide with events during the day, notably the music festival ‘MidMad’, at which protesters were originally asked to “wear masks of Alan and Auriel’s faces” to mark the significance that the event was “created and managed by Alan and Auriel for many years.”

The organisers of the protest described this as “poignant, if not tragic.”

The open day, Access All Areas, will be offering a variety of different events throughout the day, and aims to get local people involved with the University.

Vice-Chancellor April McMahon said “We want to celebrate our strong ties with the local community and encourage people to take advantage of what we have to offer. We are working closely with local schools, colleges, adult learners, local suppliers and businesses to make the University even more accessible”.

The protest is due to take place roughly two months after 250 people linked arms around the Arts Centre in protest against the suspensions. The National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke, also spoke out in support of Hewson and Martin.

McMahon has assured staff and students that there were no plans to close or ‘radically alter’ the centre after rumours surfaced on a Facebook page entitled “Save Aberystwyth Arts Centre”.

Lynne Dickens, speaking before the announcement of Hewson’s retirement, highlighted the one of the main reasons for the protest, saying “Alan Hewson and Auriel Martin are still suspended, gagged and banned from the campus and these issues haven’t gone away.”

The University’s stance remains unchanged, with a spokesperson saying “It is standard practice for neither employer nor employee to comment during the course of an investigation… Aberystwyth University has not confirmed or denied alleged suspension of staff in any public statement or to any press or media, and will not do so… It remains resolutely committed to this and therefore will not be drawn into any discussion regarding members of University staff”.

Organisers of the demonstration asked for 1,000 people to assemble in front of the Arts Centre just before 11am for the first protest, with the later demonstration set to take place at the MidMad Festival.