Home and Hinterland

Home and Hinterland is a community arts project I started working on in November 2021 and I’ll be working here until March 1st 2022. Based in the Waun Wen area of Swansea, I’m using art to explore the lack of representation of working class people in culture and media. We’re demonised by the right and fetishised by the left, turned into a monster of stereotypes by the UK bourgeoisie and largely excluded by and from the Arts. If you would like to see all my blogs about this project please click on the image below.

HOME: THE WHITE MEADOW AND THE BLACK DUST

Waun Wen is a traditional working class area in Swansea’s Castle Ward. Local place names show how beautiful it once must have been – Ysgubor Fach (Little Barn), Cwmfelin and Brynmelin (valley with a mill, hill with a mill), Caepistyll (field with a waterfall), Pontyglasdwr (bridge over the blue water), Pentre Hafod (Village of the Summer Pasture), while Waun Wen itself means White Meadow.

Unfortunately, this idyll didn’t survive the Industrial Revolution and when I was growing up on the outskirts of the area, Cwmfelin was an inner-city steelworks and Pentre Hafod the biggest slag tip in Europe, both covering the washing on lines for miles around with black dust. They were eventually cleared (after the tragedy of Aberfan pricked the conscience of the government) and the sites have been used for social housing and a comprehensive school respectively.

Yet despite the ugly heritage, it’s gorgeous (apart from the busy dual carriageway that cuts through the area) with wonderful views up the valley and down to the sea. There’s a park with a popular community centre. St. Joseph’s Cathedral and school serve the wider Catholic communities; the little state primary has a multi-cultural cohort reflecting the area, and both schools use the park.

It’s known as demographic area Castle 1, and it has the highest percentage of income deprivation in the Castle Ward area of Swansea. But Castle Ward also includes the well-heeled area of The Marina and guess who gets the bulk of public art investment then? Not Waun Wen. But there’s loads of public art all over the posh area.

This sort of inequality is what really makes me angry and is what has motivated me to do this work.

HINTERLAND: SOMETHING THAT LIES BEYOND WHAT IS VISIBLE OR KNOWN.

Class discrimination in the UK, in Wales, is rife! Just 16% of people working in the creative industries are from a working-class background.

I’m one of them.

Only about a third of adults in socio-economic groups C2DE participate in arts activities at least once a year.

I’m one of those too.

And I think it’s wrong. Hinterland, for me, is about this class discrimination, this big division between working class and bourgeois access to cultural activities.

WHAT AM I DOING?

I‘ve done a lot of walking, drawing and thinking in Waun Wen to try to come up with some plans for this project. Mostly I’ve been thinking about my chats with people in the community and taking Covid19 into account when i’m planning to do things. I’ve been walking around Waun Wen every Sunday, sketching into my little sketchbook, capturing little nooks and crannies I didn’t know were there.

I’ve booked the Waun Wen/Brynmelyn community centre twice a week, Tuesday and Sunday afternoons for 3 hours through January and February. I’ll be using it as my base to work out of, to prepare my materials and make art, and I’d like to carry on meeting up with residents of all ages, to listen to peoples stories and opinions, have some tea and cake.

If Covid19 restrictions allow it, people in the community can drop in, have a cuppa and cake and have a look at how art is made. There will also be some art sessions for people to join in with. And if the weather is fine, I’ll be coming out into Waun Wen, taking art out into the street.

I would love to speak to people in the area about their memories of growing up in Waun Wen – good and bad – as well as their thoughts on what is needed to improve their community. What does it need more of and what does it need less of?

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