Community Life

The Village Street is an exhibit that shows shops from the 1920’s such as, butchers, general store, household store, clothes and shoe shops and general exhibits. There were many consumer products available e. g. : – a vacuum however there were many pawnbrokers receipts (with people pawning their own clothes for money) which is evidence that there was poverty in the area. The shops inside were quite cramped and dirty, full of produce and informative text boards. Although the boards contained a lot of information they were very long and didn’t hold the visitor’s attention.

It could benefit by having interactive people talking to the visitors to make it more realistic, St Fagans has this and is a more enjoyable experience because of this. It creates a more authentic atmosphere and allows the visitors to ask questions if needed. The Rhondda Heritage Park Leaflet said we could ‘explore the domestic and commercial aspect of valleys life’ and see ‘unusual room sets’ (C1), in real life the rooms and objects were not exhibited very well and it was not very clear where you were or what certain items were.

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In some of the house interiors the furniture and objects were quite realistic but I feel the use of cheap models and plastic produce and items brought down the quality of the exhibition. It would have benefited from some quality props and once again, live assistants as the St Fagans Gwalia stores holds. The Fan House video tried to show what life was like in the mining community. In particular how people worked together in times of crisis in the 1920’s and 1980’s, as Neil Kinnoch said they held ‘comradeship, neighbourliness, courage, survival’ (C2).

The woman’s support group from Maerdy sand ‘You can’t kill the spirit’ (C2) and used quotes like ‘Cole not dole’ (C3) on posters to help the community progress. There was a special focus on woman’s life, how it seemed harder than her husbands did and how women had often died young because of constant work. However, although information was included- the video did not mention in depth the activities women took part in which were separate from home life. Such as in ‘David Egans CS pg129’ it talks of how women ‘were particularly active in ventures’ and how they carried out a lot of ‘relief work’ during hard times.

The video described the good and happy community but community life was not always as it was portrayed. It did not fully mention problems in the community (1920-30’s), with rival unions and scab labour (how miners turned against each other when certain miners worked) – CS pg. 131-2. Nor did it mention picket riots in the 1980’s (C5), which included great, violence and certainly not a happy community. Neil Kinnock is probably a reliable narrator as he comes from the valley’s (C2) and may have first hand experience of the matters he talks about.

However, many people may find him untrustworthy as he has had a political background and they may think he may deliver wrong facts or lie (as politicians have a bad reputation for this). I think the video was an enjoyable experience but I found it lacked certain vital information, women’s free time, scab rivalry and especially the huge changes after 1985 (C6) where communities collapsed and areas were devastated. Conclusion When mining in the south Wales valleys ended it caused many depressing effects (people moving out and building running down) however, it also provoked great changes.

Theme Parks, museums and heritage trips have appeared, such as, the Rhondda Heritage Park, Big Pit, Cefn Coed and Afan Argoed Country Park (D2). These provide entertainment for visitors and income for the valleys but not everyone is in favour of them – in particular John Evans on the Rhondda Heritage Park. This is a quote from his book ‘How real is my Valley’. ‘A romanticised mythical view of the valley life’ John Evans, How Real Is my Valley, 1994 pg22. In my opinion the park was ‘romanticised’ as it largely missed the poverty, struggle and violence in the valleys (C3, C5, and B6).

Also, the thrill ride (B2) was unrealistic and out of context to the rest of the tour. I feel it may have pleased younger, school visitor’s (B3). The ride might have left younger visitors with the wrong impression and view of the miners – certainly a romanticised view- of fun tram rides and excitement which was not true, as in conditions described in B6. However, the view on valley life contained a lot of substantial information – our guide told us in length about the deaths and dangers in the mines and his information matched B5 and CS pg60 (deaths and accidents figures).

I believe the section on Miners Work was fairly accurate, as it contained some good information that matched with school texts and the Coal Society. It also consulted miners and used a lot of their information (A6) such as the old real miner guides. I believe this section failed to keep up its high standard when it used tatty models and live canaries in their exhibits. The Community Life contained a lot of information and was very detailed- taking its material from news clippings and video sources, I think it became a little boring in some places though and didn’t hold visitors attention.

This section was probably less of an attraction than the Miners Work as it did not include the underground tour but may have included more information using displays, videos and props. The tour guide on the underground tour is interesting and accurate (containing similar information as B6) but it soon become cheesy as explained in D2 when the models are lit up and fake explosions sound. The cage on the tour only goes down a very small depth and this seems unrealistic and disappointing. However, the tour-guide informed me that the real mine had now become flooded and infested.

This made it impossible and dangerous to enter and safety regulations would definitely not allow this. The Big Pit uses the original mine and because of this they need to follow all of the safety precautions exactly, they also spend a lot of money on pumping out unwanted water. The Big Pit would be more authentic because of this and The Rhondda Heritage Park does not have that detail (D2). The Rhondda Heritage Park needs to use their models, sounds effects and colours, as they need to attract visitors and tourists to obtain income. They also provide ‘fun’ for all ages (A5) and for extra income attract school children (B3).

The Rhondda Heritage Park is an attraction that uses many references and medians (video-guide-leaflets-displays-texts) to ensure accuracy and accessibility. It has a family entertainment element with its use of the ‘energy zone’ attraction but still retains it seriousness in Neil Kinnocks video. From visiting and reviewing the parks many aspects I believe that it is a refreshing mix of family entertainment and serious hard-hitting history that is presented in various manners. I think that it maintains its high standard of accuracy and use of sources and for the main part holds the visitor’s interest.