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What happens when fossil fuels such as coal and oil are depleted? How do coal mining communities adapt and survive? As a filmmaker who has spent my career living and working in the coalfields of eastern Kentucky, these questions are close to my heart. I have a stake in the communities that are facing the limits of our fossil fueled economy.
To explore the challenges facing communities in transition, I traveled to South Wales, where most coal mines shut down after the 1984-1985 miners’ strike, and met inspiring individuals who have fought to rebuild their local economy. After Coal explores the successes and the failures of Welsh programs to clean up mine waste, retrain miners, and develop wind farms – comparing these efforts to similar projects planned in Appalachia. Music and language specific to each culture underscores stories of tragedy laced with hope, revealing the uncommon strength that has allowed these two cultures to survive in the harshest of conditions. I believe that comparing the Welsh and Appalachian experience with coal will help us see a future beyond fossil fuels.
To see my past work, go to www.tomhansell.net
The roots of the After Coal project date to 1974, when political sociologist John Gaventa initiated a videotape conversation between coal miners in Wales and Appalachia. Appalachian scholar Helen Lewis expanded the exchange when she moved to Wales in 1975 to research coal mining culture. Working with filmmaker Richard Greatrex, Gaventa and Lewis made over 150 videotapes of daily life in South Wales. Historian Hywel Francis helped provide support for the team. A short documentary about their work produced by Tom Hansell, Patricia Beaver, and Angela Wiley was published by the Southern Spaces online journal in 2015.
Dr. Patricia Beaver is emeritus Professor of Anthropology and the former Director of the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University.
Dr. Ronald Eller is Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Kentucky, where he served for 15 years as the Director of the UK Appalachian Center.
Dr. Hywel Francis is Labour Member of Parliament for Aberavon since 2001. He was the founder of the South Wales Miners’ Library (1973).
Ms. Mair Francis is a community organizer, activist and author of numerous articles on women’s training and lifelong learning, including her history of the DOVE Workshop in Banwen.
Dr. Helen Lewis has taught, organized, conducted research, and published numerous books and articles in Appalachia since the 1950s. As Director of Highlander Center in New Market, Tennessee, she organized exchanges involving U.S. and Welsh coal miners.
Dr. John Gaventa is the director of Coady International Institute at St Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
Dr. William Schumann is the Director of the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University, and lead teacher in Appalachian State University’s Study Abroad in Wales since 2003.
Dr. Victoria Winckler is director of the Bevan Foundation, is a leading contributor to public policy in Wales, with particular expertise on poverty, regeneration and equality issues.
Dr. Brian Winston is Lincoln Chair of Communications at the University of Lincoln, UK.
Mr. Tom Hansell is a documentary filmmaker who teaches at Appalachian State University. His most recent documentary project, The Electricity Fairy, premièred at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010.
Ms. Elizabeth Barret is director of Appalshop’s Archives. A veteran documentary filmmaker, she is the producer and director of Stranger With A Camera, which premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival.
Mr. Richard Greatrex, BSC, is a cinematographer raised in South Wales with more than 45 titles to his credit. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on Shakespeare in Love. During the 1970’s, Greatrex created video and film works for the United Mine Workers of America and anti-strip mining projects in Tennessee, as well as the 1974-1976 videotapes of South Wales mining communities.
Mr. Frank Hennessy presents BBC Radio Wales’ folk music show, Celtic Heartbeat. Other music series for BBC Wales TV include Way Out West – tracing the roots of Cajun, Appalachian and Cape Breton music, and Way Down Under, a look at the music and culture of Australia.
Mr. Rich Kirby is a musician and radio producer from Dungannon, Virginia. Working at WMMT-FM, the public radio service of Appalshop Media Arts Center since 1990, he has produced several radio series on traditional Appalachian music for national broadcast.
Mr. Jack Wright is an actor, documentary filmmaker, and musician. His recent projects include producing Music of Coal: Mining Songs from the Appalachian Coalfields, a two CD anthology.
What happens when fossil fuels run out? After Coal profiles inspiring individuals who are building a new future in the coalfields of eastern Kentucky and South Wales.
This hour long documentary brings viewers to the front lines of the transition away from fossil fuels. The stories of coalfield residents who must abandon traditional livelihoods will resonate with viewers across the country who face a dramatically changing economy.
After Coal is a project of the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University
After Coal is a sponsored project of the Southern Documentary Fund
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