In 1977, the team behind Thames’ Television’s This Week spent time at the Ogilvie Colliery in Deri documenting a revealing period in the slow decline of the Welsh coal industry. The film shows the essence of a community, of the mining experience, and of the management shortfalls and governmental incapabilities, naivety, and cynicism.
In the first of a new series by Wales Arts Review presenting rare and forgotten archive film spotlighting a diverse range of cultural subjects connected to Wales’ past, this episode of This Week is a fascinating, well-rounded and politically-balanced exploration of the people as well as the wider picture, and shows a shift in industry in Wales that is now largely gone altogether. It also works as a fascinating companion piece to Chris Urch’s hit play, Land of Our Fathers, recently presented as a live-stream on Wales Arts Review. Very different films, and very different evocations of the mining communities of South Wales.
In South Wales alone, by the time this film at the Ogilvie Colliery was made, the Welsh mining industry was losing a hundred men a week to commercial businesses such as Hoover. One of the most revealing interviews with miner of 27 years Terry Morris who had quite just 10 days before the interview. At the end, Morris makes some very revealing observations:
…but what type of man is going to go back to the pits?… once a miner has had a taste of how the other half lives, I can’t see them going back; and that’s from experience.
No rose-tinted exercise in nostalgia, this. Here, miners work for the money, and they leave mining because of the low pay. It is as simple as that. This is a film about an industry in crisis, an industry which has largely defined modern Wales, and it should not be missed.