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Friday, August 27, 1999 Published at 09:10 GMT 10:10 UK

UK: Wales

Stereophonics in 'race slur' row

Welsh flags at concerts have sparked a race row

Rock band Stereophonics are at the centre of a row over nationalism after a music magazine linked Welsh patriotism with a rise in race-related attacks in south Wales.

Following the group's sell-out Swansea gig earlier this month, the New Musical Express published a letter attacking the crowd chants of "Wales" and the waving of Welsh flags as racist.

[ image: Fans of Welsh bands are known for flag-waving]
Fans of Welsh bands are known for flag-waving
The reader said if people waved the flag of St George at an English band's concert they would be branded Nazis.

He also attacked the band for showing clips on a big screen of Wales beating England at rugby.

Letters editor John Oldham responded by linking the band's music and patriotism with a "dramatic rise" in race-related attacks in south Wales.

The magazine has since withdrawn the comment.

BBC Wales's Sian Parry-Hughes speaks to John Harris and Ray Singh
The editor of music and style magazine Select, John Harris, has defended the outpouring of Welsh pride.

He said flag-waving at Welsh bands' gigs is well-established and has been a feature of the Manic Street Preachers' concerts for years.

'Not racist'

"To associate it with race attacks is absolutely ludicrous," said Mr Harris. "It is a complete over-reaction.

"People have been in the habit of waving Welsh flags at gigs for two or three years. So what? Long may it go on.

"There is no anti-English sentiment at all. It is simply saying these groups are doing very, very well."

His comments are echoed by Race Relations Commissioner Ray Singh.

"Let us not get this out of proportion," he said. "Each occasion and gathering should be looked at on its merits."

Mr Singh said unnecessary publicity should not be given to a "dying breed" of nationalist groups, such as the British National Party.

"The activities of the BNP are being reduced in other big cities and they are trying to get into the Valleys and brainwash Welsh youngsters."

Racial hatred

Mr Singh pointed out the Welsh flag is waved wherever the black athlete Colin Jackson races.

The World Championship gold-medal winner also drapes himself in the flag.

Mr Singh said he believes nationalist feeling should not be suppressed, but he hopes that those with genuine national pride will expel those who use it to stir up racial hatred.

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