Remembering Terry Thomas

by Patricia Beaver and Tom Hansell.

This Friday, January 20, a ceremony will be held at the Gorseinon Workingmen’s Club near Swansea to honor the life of miner and labor organizer Terry Thomas, who died this fall at the age of 78. Terry was an important voice in the After Coal documentary.

Terry went into the coal mines in his native Wales in 1960, working underground, and became involved in the National Union of Mineworkers, as local branch secretary. Terry went on to serve as Vice President of the South Wales NUM between 1983 and 1989, coordinating strikes and difficult negotiations throughout the 1984-85 strike year. He then served as a chairman of the Wales Executive Committee of the Labour Party.

In After Coal we first see Terry in 1974, interviewed by John Gaventa, in the successful strike which brought in the Labour Government. Terry is also on screen responding to the exchange of videos between Appalachia and Wales on the Brookside strike in Appalachia.

TerryThomasTribute from T. Hansell on Vimeo.

We met Terry while researching this film. We visited his home in Gowerton, where we admired his lovely garden. As we toured South Wales mining sites he taught us about the solidarity of Welsh miners, about the strength of Welsh Labour, and the hardships and devotion of Welsh families.

We filmed Terry on an abandoned mine site, and with Hywel Francis at the Miners library. Terry also came to Appalachia, where he joined us for a presentation on After Coal at the University of Kentucky, speaking with fervor about the strength of communities and the hard organizing work of Welsh labor during the past century. Then he travelled to Harlan County, Kentucky, where retired miner Carl Shoupe met him for a spirited exchange and tour of mining sites in Benham, Kentucky.

Terry was a key figure in the NUM, then in the Labour Party in Wales over many decades. He was also devoted to his family. He travelled to California to winter with his relative, winning bowls competitions and arguing with republicans for the wisdom of socialized medicine.

Terry was wise, passionate, adventurous, and full of stories, and we will miss him.

Happy New Year from After Coal

Thanks to all of you who helped make the release of After Coal successful in 2016.

Over the past year, we have screened the After Coal at 6 festivals in the U.S. and the U.K., organized a musical exchange between the coalfields of Appalachia and Wales and broadcast the film on public television in West Virginia and Kentucky. We welcome your ideas for future screenings and events.

In 2017, we look forward to helping coalfield communities chart a just and equitable path to a healthy future. A companion book for After Coal is in the works and we will share details once the publishing schedule is set.

Finally, After Coal is now available for online credit card purchase through our distribution partners at Appalshop. Here is a link to the Appalshop Store.

Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2017,

Tom Hansell and the After Coal team

Southern Appalachian Labor school hosts WV premiere of After Coal

The 25th Annual Southern Appalachian Labor School Solidarity Cultural Festival will consist of a Dinner and Premiere Film showing of “After Coal” at 5:30 p.m. on July 12, 2016 at the Historic Oak Hill School in Oak Hill, West Virginia.

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 2.30.28 PM

“After Coal” profiles inspiring individuals who are building a new future in the Appalachian coalfields and South Wales. Music plays a major role in this documentary essay, produced at Appalachian State University by faculty member/film maker Tom Hansell who once was with Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky. The film has fiscal sponsorship from the Southern Appalachian Labor School, and received financial support from the Chorus Foundation, United States Artists, and the West Virginia Humanities Council.

The roots of the film goes back several decades when Appalachian scholar Helen Lewis, SALS co-founder David Greene, and others in a small group went to Wales when coal mines were being shuttered. In essence, the riveting film now returns to Wales to view the aftermath in the context of the current situation that is unfolding in the Appalachian coalfields. The film has already been screened at international film festivals.

The Dinner and Film tickets are $25 at the door, by mail, or on line. Tickets for Unemployed Coal Mining Family Members and Students are $15. Scholarships are available and SALS has solicited donors for the scholarship fund.

    For more information:

Croeso Seedtime: Celebrating Home & Global Community

by Tanya Bernice Turner

In June of 2016, we not only celebrated the 30th Anniversary of Seedtime on the Cumberland, we welcomed (or croeso in Welsh) to Whitesburg, friends from very familiar looking communities in South Wales. Last summer my best friend Elizabeth and I had one of those rare, life-changing chances to visit another country, not as mere tourists, but as guests in the homes of musicians, artists, community leaders, and members of British Parliament. After days of travel on planes, trains, and buses from Whitesburg to Wales, we found ourselves rolling through hills that looked like home.

After Coal director Tom Hansell introduces Lesley Smith and the staff of the DOVE workshops in Wales, to Tanya Turner and Elizabeth Sanders from Kentucky
After Coal director Tom Hansell introduces Lesley Smith and the staff of the DOVE workshops in Wales, to Tanya Turner and Elizabeth Sanders from Kentucky

Our adventure took us to historical churches turned community theaters, kitchen tables filled with tea cups and Welsh cakes, and even an outdoor Welsh culture festival, Tafwyl, inside the walls of Cardiff Castle. Tafwyl featured food, art, amazing local musicians performing both traditional and modern Welsh music, and was free to everyone. Just like Seedtime! This was all possible for us because of After Coal, a feature length documentary and community engagement project, and the Chorus Foundation, committed to a just economic transition in our region.

On Friday, June 3 2016, After Coal creator Tom Hansel, Welsh singer/ songwriter Chris King, and Welsh artist/ educator Richard Davies presented a special Appalshop Theater screening of After Coal. “The documentary profiles inspiring individuals who are building a new future in the coalfields of eastern Kentucky and South Wales. Shot on location in neighboring Harlan County and the Dulais Valley of South Wales, After Coal introduces viewers to former miners using theater to rebuild community infrastructure, women transforming a former coal board office into an education hub, and young people striving to stay in their home communities.”

Tanya Bernice Turner interviews musicians Chris King and Nigel Jones at WMMT during Seedtime in 2016.
Tanya Bernice Turner interviews musicians Chris King and Nigel Jones at WMMT during Seedtime in 2016.

Straight from the Seedtime website, a thing of beauty, ‘Seedtime’s goal is to be a mirror for mountain people and communities. To remind folks here of our cultural riches and traditions that make this region vibrant and always growing. Seedtime on the Cumberland brings the arts of the community to the community. By broadcasting this festival live on the airwaves of WMMT and on the internet at, we present ourselves to the entire world.’

Chris King grew up in Wales during the 1980s and the memory of the 1984 Welsh miner’s strike. Chris’ Grandfather, Bill King, was Secretary of The National Union of Miners Merthyr Tydfil Lodge at the time. He performs a mix of original and folk songs, and his song Salt Of The Earth revisits Chris’ memories of his grandfather during the 1984 miners’ strike. Welsh musicians Chis King and Nigel Jones graced the Seedtime Main Stage Saturday afternoon, following Letcher County legend Lee Sexton. Other local favorites like Brett Ratliff, Kevin Howard, and Sunrise Ridge took the Main Stage on Friday at Seedtime.

On Saturday the old Boone Motor Building, across from Appalshop, housed the Annual Punk Show and flea market, as much a Seedtime staple as the Carcassonne Square Dance that same night. Regional treasures Sam Gleaves and Amythyst Kiah returned by popular demand this year, and new Seedtime stars such as the Local Honeys, Price Sisters, and Jericho Woods gave us all something to talk about into the summer.

When Elizabeth and I were hopping off our last train, to our plane home, a man saw us sling our backpacks onto our shoulders and asked “going anywhere nice?” She could have told him any number of unbelievable places we’d seen over the last two weeks of travel but she just said “home.” Because no matter how far you go from east Kentucky, there is nowhere quite like home. We’re so lucky for festivals like Seedtime and projects like After Coal that bridge our global community and celebrate home.

After Coal Presents: Spring and Summer Screenings!

After several years of filming, editing, work-in-progress discussions, and revisions, After Coal is hitting the silver screen! We had successful screenings at the Athens International Film & Video Festival and the Princeton Environmental Film Festival on April 7 -- and we're excited for more to come.

Join us at one of the following events. If you are interested in hosting a screening near you, order a license on our purchase page.

May 27 - Hay Festival - Hay-On-Wye, Wales

June 3-4 - Appalshop Seedtime Festival - Whitesburg, Kentucky

June 6 - Kentucky Theatre - Lexington, Kentucky

June 28 - E Street Cinema - Washington, D.C. - Sponsored by the Heinrich Böll Foundation

UK Premiere of After Coal @ Hay Festival, May 27

festival-walesWe are pleased to announce that After Coal will have a UK premiere on May 27, 2016 at the internationally renown Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye, Wales.  The festival has planned a full evening that includes a film screening, a panel discussion, and live music.

All of the individuals who participated in the historic exchange that inspired After Coal will participate in a post screening discussion.  This group includes Helen Matthews Lewis, John Gaventa, Richard Greatrex, Hywel Francis, and Mair Francis.

After the film screening and panel discussion, musicians from the valleys of South Wales and the mountains of Appalachia will share coal mining music.  Welsh performers include Frank Hennessy and Dave Burns whose song Farewell to the Rhondda appears in After Coal.  Appalachian musicians Rebecca Branson Jones and Trevor McKenzie will perform traditional songs including their version of Looking for the Stone which appears in the documentary.

We look forward to launching After Coal  with our partners in Wales.  More information about After Coal screenings in the US is coming soon.

The After Coal team wishes you a happy 2016

Happy New Year from the After Coal team!

2015 was an eventful year for the After Coal project. We have wrapped up production and are ready to release the film in early 2016.  Here are some highlights from the past year:

After Coal director Tom Hansell introduces Lesley Smith and the staff of the DOVE workshops in Wales, to Tanya Turner and Elizabeth Sanders from Kentucky
After Coal director Tom Hansell introduces Lesley Smith and the staff of the DOVE workshops in Wales, to Tanya Turner and Elizabeth Sanders from Kentucky

1. Presenting a work-in-progress of the After Coal documentary at DOVE workshops, Theatr Soar, and Swansea University in Wales.

Two of our partners in Kentucky, Elizabeth Sanders and Tanya Turner, travelled with After Coal director Tom Hansell to meet our partners in Wales and discuss a post coal economy.

2. Presenting at the Its Good To Be Young In The Mountains (IG2BYITM) in Harlan Kentucky.



3.Traveling to Romania to present at the Appalachian / Carpathian Conference.

4. Presenting at the West Virginia International Film Festival and at a FreshDocs screening sponsored by the Center for Documentary Studies and the Southern Documentary Fund.



It has been a busy year, we look forward to keeping in touch in as we officially release the documentary in 2016. Please contact us at if you want to sponsor a screening in your community

Tom, Pat, and Angela for After Coal

Romania’s Jiu Valley Looks at Life After Coal

by Tom Hansell, After Coal director.

I recently travelled to the Carpathian mountains of Romania to present the After Coal project at a conference titled Appalachians/Carpathians: Researching, Documenting, and Preserving Highland Traditions.

Like many Americans, I knew little about the Carpathian mountains, the range that stretches across Central Europe, including parts of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, and most of Romania.  At the conference, biologist John Akeroyd from the Adept foundation described the region as “the last of old world Europe” and a hotbed of biodiversity. The fact that Romania was part of the Soviet controlled Eastern Bloc until their 1989 revolution means that many rural areas are not developed.  Horse drawn carts and handmade haystacks are still a common sight in the countryside.

Overlooking a coal mine in the Jiu Valley. Photo by Gabriel Amza

However, the Soviets also built immense industrial centers in parts of Romania. The Jiu valley is a coal-mining region on the edge of the Carpathians. Under Soviet control, the largest mine employed tens of thousands of workers. After the revolution, the mines were privatized and workers lost their jobs. Declining coal markets and international competition mean that the last mine in the Jiu Valley closed in October of 2015.

At the Appalachians/Carpathians conference I presented After Coal along side Romanian photographer Gabriel Amza, who has spent years documenting the Jiu Valley for a project he calls Genius Loci – or spirit of place. Genius Loci is beautifully haunting work that captures the despair and abandonment that many mining communities feel, without resorting to stereotypes.

Gabriel Amza explained some of the complexities of his project to me:

cleaning the locker room of a mine in Romania's Jiu valley
Cleaning the locker room of a mine in Romania’s Jiu valley. Photo by Gabriel Amza

I think coal is dirty. But, coal is an important part of our recent history. And the reason projects such as Genius Loci and After Coal are important is that just because coal is dirty reality, it shouldn’t be forgotten. We need to remember where these communities started. It’s not always a pretty beginning, but it’s a necessary part of the story.

Where they go from here? It’s the communities own business, and their responsibility to create a new future. But it’s up to us to document these things because other people aren’t going to do it, and not everyone wants to remember the dirtiness of coal.”


As Gabriel and I discussed the situation in the Jiu Valley, we agreed that the outlook in Romania’s Jiu Valley is bleak when compared to central Appalachia or South Wales. Although Romania’s economy has improved since joining the European Union, the national economy is much weaker than the US or UK, and fewer resources are available to reclaim mines, retrain workers, or regenerate coalfield communities.  The cycle of deindustrialization has hit the Jiu Valley much later than Wales or Appalachia.

By discussing similarities and differences among coal mining regions in Appalachia, Wales, and Romania, this kind of international exchange can help provide people in each region valuable insight. Opening up a dialogue between coalfield residents can inspire communities to create their own solutions for a future after coal.

For more information about photographer Gabriel Amza’s Genius Loci project, go to

To see Amza’s photos of the last shift in the Petrilla mine, go to

Catch a Work in Progress Screening this Fall!


As the After Coal team wraps up editing, we are seeking feedback from participants and community members. We hope you will join us at a work in progress screening to take part in discussion, and to be part of a collaborative filmmaking process.

Here is what we have lined up so far. Check Facebook or Twitter for more details:

September 23, 7pm – Boone, NC – Appalachian State University 

September 24, 7pm – Radford, VA – Radford University

September 24, 8pm – Fayettevile, WV – Create WV Conference 

October 7 – Brasov, Romania – Appalachian-Carpathian Conference at Transilvania University of Brasov

October 21 – Charleston, WV – West Virginia International Film Festival

October 30 – Durham, NC – Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University 

November 4, 7pm – Morgantown, WV – West Virginia University

Music of After Coal featured in Southern Spaces online journal.

We are honored that a multi-media essay produced by the After Coal team has just been published in Southern Spaces, an interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.52.09 AMThis title of this short piece, Keep Your Eye Upon The Scale is drawn from the song known as “Miners’ Lifeguard” or “Miners’ Song” a union anthem sung in both Appalachia and Wales.   Keep Your Eye Upon The Scale focuses on music collected by After Coal project advisors Helen Lewis, John Gaventa, and Richard Greatrex as they developed a groundbreaking video exchange between the coalfields of central Appalachia and south Wales between 1974 and 1976.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.49.00 AMBe sure to scroll to the bottom of the webpage for additional music clips from The Strange Creek Singers, Cor Meibion Onllwyn, and Rich Kirby.   Many of these musical gems will find their way into the soundtrack of the After Coal documentary.

– Tom Hansell for After Coal