Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Further to .....

As we finalise the stories we've gathered over the last few months, we've decided to give people who are anxious about making their views public the opportunity to be anonymous.

Yesterday, one of these people sighed with relief, "I'm so glad there are other people out there who think as I do."

We're trying to recruit actors to voice the words of these anxious people, but yesterday, an actor completely refused to utter the words they were offered, words that would be quite normal in many parts of the UK, but cannot be spoken in the Ebbw Fach.

Isolated and silenced.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

A Rant about Freedom of Speech

People from the whole length of the Ebbw Fach, from Soffryd to Brynmawr, met us in Blaina Library today. With the generosity we've come to expect, many of them allowed us to record their stories. 

What we did not expect was a repetition of something that has happened several times in the last couple of weeks. And it's prompting our first Mythbusterstories rant.

To our surprise, we are finding more and more people who are unwilling to record their stories. Why? Because they are not Labour voters. They have thought intensely about life and come to conclusions that go against to main-stream Labour voting pattern of the Valleys, and do not feel free to express them.

"Why?" we ask.
"Persecution," one person tells us.
Someone else rang us up to withdraw permission for the use of their contribution. We had arranged for their anonymity, but they were still suffering sleepless nights for fear that they be might be identified.

All these people can articulate their views and argue their cases with vigour and clarity, but they are gagged. "It's the close-knit community," one of them explains.

The Valleys are part of Wales. Wales is part of Britain. Britain prides itself on allowing freedom of speech. What price Valleys freedom?

(P.S. Photos by Hannah, one of our non-political, non-anonymous storytellers with a superb secret photography habit.)

Tuesday, 18 September 2012


We've been trying to make sure the stories we collect represent the Ebbw Fach fairly, with an even spread of stories from along its length. Not only that, we hoped to achieve even numbers of men and women, an even spread of young and old. Let alone representing the minority groups carefully.

So we've been puzzled to find that our storytellers are predominantly older men and younger women. We have begun seeking older women and younger men, approaching places and organisations where they might be found.

But one of the Mythbusting storytellers, a delightfully reflective university student, has pointed out that the people who are coming forward to tell stories reflect the population and culture of the Valley. There are more older people than young, and, culturally, the men act as spokespeople in that generation. Older women are more likely to hold back and just let the men talk.

Amongst younger people, if the boys are in work, they won't be free to talk to us, and if they are hanging around on the streets........And what young man is really keen to talk and chat?

That begs the question of why the girls have been free to tell us stories. In some cases employers have given us permission to talk to them, and in others the girls have been shift workers.

Stereotypes? Well, it's challenged our ways of thinking about fair representation.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Wish it wasn't true

When we began, Mythbusters wanted to find stories that debunked myths, exposing them for the fallacies we hoped they were. But it can't always be done.

A lovely young girl serving here turned out to have done an apprenticeship, lost her job three times as businesses went bust, and been reduced to volunteering rather than earning. Wish it wasn't true.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


We've been out and about collecting photos from the mythbusting storytellers, but we've collected some classic statements on the way.

How about this:

"Storytelling, complaining and watching others work are the favourite activities in Abertillery."

Or this one, delivered in response to our statement that people in Cardiff didn't always say very nice things about Valleys people.

"WE sometimes don't say nice things about Valleys people."

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Are you sitting comfortably? We were

We were welcomed into Derek's fire warmed room, drying out after the Cwmtillery rain.

Mythbusting had taken us back to Derek's farm in Cwmtillery. Mythically Welsh, his wife apologised, "A farm house and I'm not offering you home-made cakes." The pair of them piled us up with photos to go with the stories Derek had recorded earlier.

Flynn, the trainee sheepdog, gave us a demo, Derek working him until he had penned four sheep. Mind you, we weren't so comfortable by then. Our shoes were soaked by the time we were back in the van.

Next came Reverend Patrick, who may have felt that his wish to welcome us was scuppered by his uncooperative espresso machine, but his amazing range of interests and imagination more than made up for the lack of beverage. His welcome was more than food and drink. He fired us up with his visions of vintage buses and potential future support for Mythbusters.

Noting classic Valleys entrepreneurial spirit as we passed, we made ourselves comfortable in a cafe to plan the next few days. Speedily, a man came over to us. We listened carefully as he regaled us with his woes.

"I'm sorry if I was interrupting you on the phone. I'm a bit deaf..... 
I'm so disappointed in the UK. There's no reason we should be in the state we are. 
We're the hardest working nation.....

"I used to want Such a nice man as the epitaph on my tombstone.
Now it'll have to be, I tried my best but I failed."

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

A tiny titbit

One of the Mythbusters we met today declared, "Blaenau Gwent's the poorest part of the United Kingdom, but there's a smile on everyone's face."