A little over a hundred years ago, Miners from the Park and Der collieries in the Rhondda valleys gave a penny in each pound they earned towards building themselves a library which they also made into a theatre in 1913.
Last week we performed four performances at the theatre in Treorchy of a project I had been working on with schools in Tonypandy for twelve months. Strange too that an album recorded in Treorchy by the mighty Max Boyce was to have such a big influence on me picking up a guitar at the age of ten. I’m referring to the ‘sad’ songs on the album about Max’s mining roots which, whilst I didn’t understand them then, I knew they were important. Funny what sticks.
I’m not sure I can articulate my feelings of pride in the young people I worked with on the Tonypandy project. I do know that it will always remain of the most memorable moments of this musicians career. I think these great pictures say so much and yet they cannot say enough of what I think we all felt. What I will never forget is the aptitude, enthusiasm, passion and commitment from the young people of the Rhondda who I think discovered a pride in their heritage and bonded together to tell a brave and brutal story. I was so impressed as well by their spirit, there caring for each other, the laughter we all shared and the sadness we felt at knowing the journey had to come to an end. If you give young folk a chance, give them the opportunity to do things of value, be there to encourage and teach and not be afraid to learn from them yourself, and show them that they each have a role to play then I honestly believe the future can be bright. I learned so much and still feel it all. My heart is full. Each night now on the UK tour I sing a song from Broken Peace called ‘Twelve Years Old’. I sang it with twelve year old Morgan Westicott and when I now look to my right where he stood I miss him. Diolch my young friends. I must also say a huge thanks to Geoff Cripps, Rachel Kilby and Andrew Griffiths for huge input and effort. I think those that marched and said ‘enough is enough’ one hundred years ago would have been pleased with our efforts to remember them and empathise with all they stood for.
That emotion is carrying through into the current tour dates. Thanks for coming out in such numbers..Frome, Rugby, Southampton (live DVD filmed), Chester, Sandwich and Reading (just come off stage) and carrying on the conversation. Yes, the heart is full.