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.
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.”
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 wmmt.org, 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.