Discovering Eisteddfod: An Appalachian Student’s Exploration in Wales

by Mary Pope A class of students from Appalachian State University traveled to Wales for a summer study abroad program in June of 2013.  The Wales study abroad program has been coordinated by the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University since 2001.  This summer, students started a project to map historic sites in former mining communities in South Wales.   This is the first in a series of three blog posts written by the students about their experience.  On one of our group’s first days in Wales, we all piled into our mini- bus to ride down the hill into the village of Ystradgynlais. It was our first exploratory mission to find points of historical and cultural interest to map on TrailMaker, the smartphone application we used to map historic sites in South Wales. Upon arriving in the village, we split into teams of two and set off in all directions. With […]

After Coal: Finding “Higher Ground”

Higher Ground is a community based arts initiative that the After Coal project has been following in Harlan County, Kentucky.  Higher Ground is a project of the Appalachian Program at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Cumberland, KY. Higher Ground started in 2003 and has gathered oral histories, taught photography, made sculpture, and staged original plays designed to help residents of Harlan County create a better future for their communities.  In 2012, Higher Ground received the prestigious ArtPlace grant to “catalyze economic development by connecting art, design and commerce in a rural Appalachian coalfield county” We believe Higher Ground provides a model for how the arts can bring together diverse groups to create healthy communities in the coalfields.  This video clip explains more about the project:

Coal and After Coal

by Dean Cawsey What does the world look like ‘after’ coal? It goes without saying that the industry in Wales certainly isn’t what it used to be. When the industry employed a vast majority of working men in Wales, it provided cultural, social and economic growth in valleys across the country.  A central component to transatlantic analysis of coal stems from the understanding that Wales’ western coalfields are, indeed, in a state of ‘after coal’. This differs from their Appalachian equivalents that are still very much ‘with coal’ and at the start of their journey of transition. People sometimes forget that the decline in the Welsh industry began as early as the 1910s, and not as a result of the eventual death knell sounded by a certain Mrs Thatcher. During this period production peaked and more than 57 million tonnes of coal were produced by 232,000 men working in 620 […]

Coal and Community, From China to Wales

After Coal producer Pat Beaver reflects on her recent return to China while on a production trip to Wales in June, 2013. In May of  2013 I had the opportunity to travel to Shenyang, China, to talk about After Coal.  Shenyang is in Liaoning Province, in the northeast, and is a major coal mining area of China.  My family and I lived in China in 1983-1984 and again in 1990-1991.  This was my first return to experience the radical changes in China in the past decades. In 1983 China was dismantling the communes and economic reform was an idea.  Many of Shenyang’s three million residents cooked and kept warm with small stoves fueled by pressed coal briquettes, not unlike previous decades in Wales and in Appalachia.  Early mornings saw millions of bicyclists making their way to work, their faces shielded with cotton masks against the coal smoke which hung heavily over the city. […]

What Mark Does Industry Make? Cedar Grove Project Explores Community Identity in West Virginia

Interview and editing by Angela Wiley In an interview with the After Coal production team, Catherine Moore shared, “I’m one of those who believe that truly understanding how we got to where we are today can better position us to find a way forward.” Moore, a West Virginia native, is producing Cedar Grove, an hour-long radio documentary featuring women’s stories in the staunchly industrial (and often overlooked) Upper Kanawha Valley. While Cedar Grove offers a rich analysis of one valley, it also delivers an invitation for audiences to explore their own relationship to place, industry, and community resilience in the face of uncertainty. Slated for release in 2014, Cedar Grove captures memories of “the good ‘ole days” and visions for the future through contemporary interviews and archival material. The project pulls inspiration from renowned local author Mary Lee Settle, who published five historical novels known collectively as The Beulah Quintet. […]