The following images were taken between March 2014 and March 2015in the ex-mining village of Treharris in South Wales. They represent a personal journey situated within a wider narrative. I was born in Cardiff and spent the first two years of my life in Treharris, before moving away when my parents got jobs in the midlands.
To live and work in a mining town was difficult, but a source of great pride for British miners. Now the mining towns of South Wales occupy a geographical and cultural limbo. Treharris is a town still struggling to come to terms with itself. There have been some regeneration efforts, but nothing that has created meaningful or sustainable jobs. Traces of Deep Navigation have been wiped away, with Parc Taff Bargoed now sitting on top of the coal seam that was once the beating heart of the area.
When I first lived in Treharris I was barely a few months old. Deep Navigation was still open, but only by the skin of its teeth and I have no memories of it. I haven’t lived in Wales since my parents and I moved, but we frequently visited my Nan who lived on Webster Street, a stone’s throw away from Deep Navigation.
My Nan passed away in 2009. Apart from a brief return visit that year to bury her ashes, I had not been back to Treharris until I decided to embark upon this project.
It was the combined freedom and poignancy of my initial trip – the first time I had been back to Treharris knowing no-one there, that interested me in the bigger picture. I want to use this work to create a dialogue about Treharris and so many other towns of its kind, that have seemingly been forgotten by all but those that live there; written off as a bad cause by those with the power to help. Towns that are haunted by the ghosts of industry, ghosts who sign on, ghosts who rely on social housing, food banks and benefits, ghosts who put their families first, ghosts who still don’t lock their doors, ghosts who trust their neighbours, ghosts of fathers who went underground and ghosts of sons with no profession.
Over the course of this project I have endeavoured to re-examine and represent my own image of Treharris – a place proud of its history but trapped in a limbo in which neither history nor future is fully recognised, and a place with some of the most incredibly kind and generous people I’ve ever met. They deserve better than the ruin of the industrial age, and they know it. They live in an area of stunning natural beauty at odds with desperate social poverty. I hope I can do them and their town justice and I’m thankful that, if nothing else, this project has given me a reason to return to the land of my father.
Ellie’s work will be on exhibition at the Glasgow School of Art Degree Show from 11th-18th September.