Could President Barack Obama be heading to the Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl?

Could the most powerful man in the world be heading to Porthcawl?

US President Barack Obama has been invited to the Grand Pavilion to celebrate the venue’s link with singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson.

He has been asked to pop along to the seaside resort when he attends the Nato Summit in Newport in September.

Grand Pavilion manager Mark Phillips has sent an invitation to Mr Obama via his personal and White House website offering the 44th American President a special tour of the venue where controversial socialist Robeson sang to the South Wales Miners Eisteddfod from New York via a transatlantic telephone link in 1957.

The Broadway and West End star, who was investigated by the FBI and MI5, had been invited to attend in person, but had been denied a passport by US officials who branded his political activities un-American during the height of Cold War-era paranoia.

Roger Price, organiser of the South Wales Miners Eisteddfod, with a portrait of American singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson at the Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl
Roger Price, organiser of the South Wales Miners Eisteddfod, with a portrait of American singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson at the Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl


Mr Phillips said: “We’ve always celebrated the strong links between Paul Robeson and the South Wales miners here at the Grand Pavilion.

“This will be the first time a sitting USA president has made an official visit to Wales, so if he was able to find time for a visit, President Obama would be most welcome.”

Roger Price, custodian of the South Wales Miners Eisteddfod, which has been updated to become the Welsh Open Brass Bands Championship since the closure of the deep mines, said: “This is a great opportunity for a building with such a long tradition to further forge this international link.”

Roger’s brother Mike Price, originally from Treherbert in Rhondda, was just 18 and a new member of the Treorchy Male Voice Choir when it took part in the eisteddfod on October 5, 1957.

He fondly remembers hearing New Jersey-born Robeson’s deep bass baritone voice coming through the Grand Pavilion’s speakers.

Before singing a selection of songs including All Through The Night and the Welsh national anthem in English, Robeson addressed the crowd.

He said: “My warmest greetings to the people of my beloved Wales and a special hello to the miners of South Wales at this great festival. It is a great privilege to be participating in this historic festival.

“All the best to you as we strive toward a world where we all can live abundant, peaceful and dignified lives.”

Mike Price said: “His voice boomed out of the loud speakers and we sang back to him and the atmosphere was electric.

“The sad thing is this was a time when his voice was at its best and he wasn’t allowed to travel.”

Robeson became a friend of the miners, identifying with their struggle after witnessing one of their hunger marches through London in 1928 while he was starring in Show Boat in London.

He performed in Wales and starred in the 1940 film Proud Valley, in which he played American miner David Goliath who finds work and friendship in the valleys.

Mike Price said that growing up “with the Robeson legend” and hearing his grandparents talking about him, he assumed the world-renowned performer “was from Maerdy”.

“He was so much part of the culture,” he said.

“There was a tremendous affinity with the miners. It really was a very, very special occasion.

“I would like to think Barack Obama wouldn’t need much persuading to visit the Grand Pavilion.”

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