If you’ve been on a train in or out of Cardiff recently, you may have noticed an enormous billboard just outside Cardiff Central promoting a television show of dubious – well, dubious everything – called MTV – The Valleys. As yet another example of lazy, poorly executed ‘reality’ brain mush that misappropriates everything about the place we live (the valleys are part of south Wales, after all, just like Cardiff is), you can imagine how annoyed we were to see it was being produced.
If any of you have watched the programme, you have our sympathies. For those who have managed to avoid it and are as angry about it as we are, then take hope from local underground theatre group Dirty Protest, who are reclaiming the valleys through an event being held on 25 October 2012 called ‘The Real Valleys’. The event is being held at the Bunkhouse in Cardiff, 7.30pm, tickets £5. For more anti-MTV valleys discussion, read this Radical Wales article and please support The Valleys Are Here campaign.
To show our support for the real valleys and these events, we’re publishing our first ever non-Cardiff story – Rachel Trezise, about her home town of Treorchy.
Treorchy is a small town, (pop. 8,105) at the upper edge of the Rhondda Valley, 14 miles north of Cardiff, cushioned on all four sides by great looming mountains that turn ablaze every spring and summer. It’s famous for three things; the commanding grey stone of the Edwardian Park & Dare theatre; its 1913 construction funded entirely by mine workers, a male voice choir founded in 1883 and described by Anthony Hopkins as ‘the master choir of them all’, and a seminal album by Max Boyce called Live at Treorchy, recorded in the town’s rugby club in 1974, (in the presence, I might add, of my stout-drunken grandmother).
Aside from brief stints studying in Ireland and teaching in America, I’ve lived in and around Treorchy all my life, growing and learning amid the hotchpotch of the old and the new, the melting pot of Welsh, Anglicized and immigrant culture: swimming in the sheep dip at the foot of the Bwlch, bunking off school in the sunken bomb shelter under the rugby pitch, drinking frothy coffee in the Italian ‘bracci’ long before Britain came to terms with the word cappuccino, staging-diving through band sets at the Pig and Whistle, hanging out in the library reading Flannery O’Connor, or tattoo magazines in my brother’s tattoo parlour. My first short story collection Fresh Apples was inspired, in part, by the yips of Treorchy Comprehensive School pupils drifting through my study window.
Early on a Sunday morning I roller skate in the park where, as a child, I learned to tread water in the open air paddling pool, where I first tasted salmon in a friend’s unwanted sandwich. I use the food trays and lager cans left by teenagers for floor markers to practice my weaving. I like eating Victoria Sponge at Wondersuff on the High Street. There is nothing more homely or satisfying than finding oneself cwtched-up in bed at 11.04 at night, hearing the whistle of the last train from Cardiff pulling into the railway station; the day ended, permission to fall fast asleep granted.
Rachel Trezise’s debut novel In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl won the Orange Futures Award in 2001. Her debut collection of short stories Fresh Apples won the inaugural Dylan Thomas Prize in 2006. Her debut non-fiction work Dial M for Merthyr won the Max Boyce Prize in 2010. Her current novel is Sixteen Shades of Crazy. Her second collection of stories Cosmic Latte will be published by Parthian in 2013. She hails from Treorchy.