Reflections on 2nd Manning Truthfest from crew & supporters

4321 group photo at the end of sat night event at labour club

Above:Some of the Truthfest crew with family members, supporters and staff at the Labour Club early hours Sun 25 Jan.

Truthfest Crew speak about the event…

Joe Murray, Afri Co-ordinator

4307 kev and joe

The Manning Truthfest  is a special ‘experience’,  the result of one of Donal O’Kelly’s many inspired ideas. Having emerged out of the extraordinary visit by the Manning/Fox family to Ireland, it has maintained the extraordinary spirit of that visit, providing the space for the expression of solidarity with Chelsea Manning and the Welsh wing of the family through waves of music, song, dance and laughter.  The family, their friends and supporters and the truth-festers all seem to merge into one extended family, with the common purpose of raising awareness, resisting injustice and celebrating truth.

There is no end to the generosity of those involved as was displayed by ‘the musicians who missed the boat’ this week-end from Rosslare to Pembroke.  Delayed by a flat tyre, they arrived at the ferry just as the bridge was lifting and were not allowed on board.  In another situation they might have given up and gone home but not on this occasion. After a quick consultation, they jumped in the car, drove to Dublin, crossed to Holyhead and after 17 hours, arrived in Fishguard where they immediately started playing and had to be dragged off the stage 2 hours later!

Chelsea Manning’s courage in telling the truth, exposing the lies and facing the consequences of a 35-year prison term is the inspiration and motivation;  it is a privilege for any of us who can in any way contribute to celebrating this truth and courage.

Special thanks to Genny who ‘made it happen’ and organised logistics etc.

Andy Storey, Afri Acting Chair

4271 miriam andy

Once again, we were overcome by the hospitality, spirit and dedication of Chelsea’s family and friends as they struggle to support her in her courageous course of action.  We were honoured that we could play some small part in expressing solidarity with her and with them.  The price of truth and justice is a demanding one, and Chelsea and her family are paying a very high price indeed – they deserve all the support they can get and we will continue to do what we can to help. 

Genny Bove, Manning Family Fund

04 genny shaker

Big thanks to everyone for making this another powerful and memorable event. There’s something very special about this particular solidarity effort…

I was pleased to be able to make a small contribution to Saturday’s event by reading out some of Chelsea Manning’s own words to an audience that included at least ten members of her family along with their friends and other local people. These words need no introduction – they shine with truth and convey Chelsea’s motivation and morality with great eloquence.

We were very sorry to be without two of our main men this time: Ciaron O’Reilly, who first came up with the idea of a family visit to Dublin and had the faith to see it through to fruition back in November 2013 and Donal O’Kelly who, inspired by meeting the family on this first visit, dreamed up the idea of a Manning Truthfest in Wales by way of a return fixture. However, what they created has taken on a life of its own now and looks set to run and run. Part of its strength and resilience is that it’s something we’ve been doing with rather than for Chelsea’s family, added to which there’s enough love, humanity, mutuality, trust and respect in the mix to keep us all warm. Long may it continue.

Robbie Sinnott

4192 robbie on keyboard

I count myself very lucky to be able to show support for such wonderful people – the Manning and Fox families – to receive their amazing hospitality, and share in their warmth and enormous sense of fun.

I thank Chelsea for risking everything to speak truth to power. Your ongoing courage is a constant reminder that humanity is something to be proud of, and that there is hope that the systems of injustice can be overcome.

Sorcha Fox

4269 sorcha fox

I got home alright, 6 hours drive dreaming of Kev’s Welsh cakes the whole way home! Had them with a glass of milk at 2am in rainy Leitrim – perfect 🙂

I just want to thank Genny and Joe and Andy and all at Afri for making another trip possible and especially to Chelsea’s family. They help us to see where a person like Chelsea came from – someone fundamentally thoughtful and kind, who just couldn’t stay silent in the face of injustice.

Lovely to see all the Manning Truthfest crew again and be part of that wonderful night in the Labour Club. It is indeed a special thing to be part of and a privilege. 

Love to Kevin and Susan and Sharon and Joe and Mary and Joan and Pat and all the children and grandchildren – we’ll be thinking of you til we see you again and we’ll keep working for Chelsea until she’s free. 

Love and respect.

Eimear Kavanagh

4335 eimear

Just some of many moments I loved..

Genny, mum and I arrived in Pembrokeshire: we pulled into Sharon and Joe’s driveway under a raised Irish flag. How much more welcoming can you get than that? The life size pirate figures in the garden tells that the occupiers of the home have a sense of humour and don’t take life too seriously and it was true. As we sat in their living room before a huge spread of sandwiches we heard some hilarious tales of the tortoise that went on walkabouts and the tenner that accidently got buried in the garden.

It was a warming and comical start to the weekend and it just continued in this way until the end. Susan really loved telling mum and I funny stories of the young Bradley. I only wished there was more time to have spent with more family members as it seemed they all share the same traits of humour and friendliness; it wasn’t at all as if it was the first time we had met. It was a joy to see so many of them get up to dance and sing and then of course hear Kevin’s heartfelt speech at the end.

Really exciting to meet up again with friends I have already made through the Manning support and just as pleasurable meeting the new. I am very thankful to Ciaron O’Reilly for this.

The music was absolutely top notch; we were truly surrounded by gifted people… I feel so much gratitude for their sharing. Visiting Susan in her home was a blessing: seeing her beautiful crochet blanket knitting and photos of her children before heading back up north.

Nuala Kelly

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…Memories of great music and wonderfully generous performers, the really warm welcome from  Sharon, Joe, Joan, Mary, Kevin, Pat and of course Susan, not to mention their friends in the club and Genny’s colleagues and friends. 
The outstanding memory I have is the amazing energy, creativity and humour of Joe, Paul, Robbie and RoJ especially but also Imogen and Miriam, who played their hearts out and entertained us with words and song… even after long and trying journeys. Genny and Sorcha’s readings from Chelsea’s interview with Amnesty were very moving and reminded us of her courageous contribution to democracy, freedom and solidarity with others. It is important that we keep the flame of hope alive in whatever way possible. These issues take time to move on and to gain greater public understanding of the enormity of Chelsea and other’s sacrifice, but it is to be greatly welcomed that Amnesty International is now taking an interest in her case. 
Before too long, I hope we can reciprocate the hospitality and host Kevin, Sharon, Susan and family members when they visit Dublin. Kevin’s speeding off to buy Welsh cakes just before our departure left me speechless – he had overheard me say it was the only request I had to bring some home for Ultán but had forgotten to get them! So, that along with a slice of Eileen’s amazing almond cake, saved the day!

Thanks again to Joe and Genny for organising everything with such aplomb – I really appreciated being part of it – even if I can’t play or sing, it was good to rekindle relationships with Susan and Chelsea’s extended family.

Joe Black

4261 joe black

Lovely communal weekend with magic in the air. Chelsea was ever present from the great banners to RoJ`s stirring song, from Pat (Susan’s sister) and husband sharing memories of Chelsea’s early years to Sorcha and Genny reading Chelsea’s words. Great to take to the streets in Haverfordwest with Genny and Eimear and do that thing. Thanks to Joe Murray for not blinking and keeping the faith, Andy for great work on the sound, Robbie for fantastic piano and singing and Paul for crossing a time zone with his driving and finding the measure of the love song and sharing with us all. To Imogen for lifting us all with four strings and a bucketful of spirit, and Sorcha for weaving it all together on Saturday night, Nuala for all round good vibes and the Manning family for a treasured welcome. Finally, thanks to all the beautiful women who guided me round the dance floor. Let the music keep your spirits high.

Eileen O’Connor

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I met the Manning family for the first time at the Truthfest last weekend. What an amazing family they are: special people. Bless you Susan, Sharon, Joan, Mary, Kevin and your other halves. Didn’t get to speak to Pat this time around. We were made most welcome everywhere we went. I felt really relaxed in their company and loved being with them.

There was great entertainment throughout the weekend. Brilliant musicians from Dublin with great personalities and stage presence… Robbie, Roj, Joe B and Paul. And not forgetting the lovely Andy, Sorcha and Imogen. There were quite a few special moments but think the one that stands out might be Joan on stage. What a star!

4280 joan sings

There was the most generous Nuala who made sure everybody had a drink (it was noted) and Joe M from Afri. Apologies if I have left anyone out!

I feel honoured and blessed having met all of you and shared this important event. Hope to see you again. A big thank you to Genny for pulling it off… thanks to Ciaron too.

Below: Truthfest Crew with Sharon and Joe Staples just before departure on Sunday.

4338 farewell pic

There were also these comments from two local supporters who between them procured and delivered a cello so Miriam could complete the band line-up. Thank you!

Freddie Riley

An unforgettable night of celtic high spirits and comradeship which it was a privilege to have attended.  The music was both accomplished and engaging and the readings of Chelsea Manning’s writings served to remind us of the selfless and clear sighted courage that brought such terrible  and unjust punishment on this young person’s head. 

Vicky Möller

The Irish singers were powerful, it was so good of them to come over to help Chelsea and her family, an amazing treat.

I have never heard La Quinta Brigada sung so well. I felt I was there – rare to hear Christie Moore left in the shadows.

And great for Martin to have a chance to sing his own songs with relevance to the theme. Also my friend Jess Hope who has long campaigned for Shaker was able to take lots of photos of people standing with Shaker. The people campaigning for this innocent man’s freedom will be especially proud that the Manning family were also happy to stand with Shaker.

05 mary susan shaker sm


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