04th April 2022

Valleys history exhibition arrives at St Fagans

An exhibition of artwork, creative writing, film and music produced by residents of Blaenau Gwent will be shown at St Fagans National Museum of History, running from 2 April to 3 July 2021.

The installation has been organised by Blaenau Gwent REACH (Residents Engaging in Arts, Community and Heritage), a collaboration between Aberbeeg Community Group, Linc Cymru Housing Association (Linc) and The Open University (OU) in Wales.

Nia Williams, Director of Learning and Public Programmes said:

“We are delighted that Blaenau Gwent REACH partnership choose to display their exhibition here at St Fagans. This creative celebration of local heritage by the community will, I’m sure, be explored and enjoyed by visitors from across Wales and beyond.”

BG REACH was established in 2020 and began with a series of face-to-face creative arts workshops delivered by OU academics to local residents at Aberbeeg community centre. The coronavirus pandemic put a hold on in-person sessions, but the group decided to continue working together. In total, 63 people took part in the sessions. More face-to-face sessions are due to take place in the area this year.

In addition to being exhibited at St Fagans, the collection is also housed on the OU’s free learning platform OpenLearn. It features film and audio, creative writing, visual art, digital stories, as well as resources on the history of Blaenau Gwent.   

Dr Richard Marsden, Director of Teaching for the School of Arts and Humanities at The Open University and academic lead on Blaenau Gwent REACH said:

“BG REACH is a great example of what can happen when a community comes together to celebrate the heritage of their area through the creative arts. Because it’s been developed by local people, the exhibition reveals a lot about how they see Blaenau Gwent’s past and what it means to them. There is such a strong link between history and identity – the way people think about the past often shapes how they feel about the present.

“For many years now, St Fagans National Museum of History has been a key player in enabling the people of Wales to engage with their past. That’s why it’s the perfect location for this exhibition, which gives an insight into one of the most fascinating but under-appreciated places in Wales. I encourage anyone with a link to Blaenau Gwent or an interest in Welsh history to come along if they can.”

Pat Tovey, from Aberbeeg was one of the participants in the projects. She said:

“We have had a great experience working on the project exhibition. It has been wonderful to be involved in designing it. We can’t wait to see it, and to bring our families and friends along to St Fagans as well. We’re also really looking forward to the next set of BG REACH workshops starting this spring. I really believe that they will inspire more people to believe in themselves.”

Suzanne Bowers, Community Engagement Officer at Linc, said:

“The BG REACH project has not only highlighted the importance of heritage and identity, but it has also enabled this wonderful community to learn new skills while bringing further benefits to their wellbeing. The BG REACH participants have relished the opportunity to get together and share their memories and stories of Blaenau Gwent, culminating in an insightful and engaging exhibition that really is a must-see.”

Entry to St Fagans National Museum of History is free. Find out how to get there by car, train, bus or bike.

Blaenau Gwent REACH was funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), with additional funds supplied by the Open University and Linc. The project has also been reviewed by the Open University’s Human Research Ethics Committee.

Blaenau Gwent REACH is a partnership between Aberbeeg Community Group, Linc Housing Association and The Open University in Wales, funded by UKRI and supported by Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

Share this post