Whichever way you travel through Nelson it’s hard not to notice the open air handball (‘Pêl-law’) court that is situated on the high street. The listed building is the last surviving handball court in Wales and is testament to a sport that was once hugely popular. It was built for the entertainment of miners, following the miners’ strike of 1858 and has been continuously played on since its construction. Handball is played using a hard, leather-cased ball and using the palm of the hand the ball is hit against the front wall before or after it had struck the floor once. Similar to squash without the rackets, the object is to keep the ball out of the opponent’s reach but inside the bounds of the court and play continues until a competitor fails to return a ball. ‘Eton Fives’ was played at grammar schools in Wales but varied greatly from the working-class, often professional, game of handball that was played throughout Glamorgan.
Bobby Brain, Welsh Handball Champion 1982.
In the nineteenth century handball was played in the yards of pubs in front of betting spectators. At Nelson (circa 1860) Henry Roberts, the landlord of the Royal Oak, built his own bigger court to poach the lucrative handball trade away from his rival landlord at the nearby Nelson Inn. The new court proved popular and the game in Nelson flourished.
The Nelson Handball Final in 1949 with scores chalked on the front wall in traditional box tallies. Matches marked this way gave rise to the term ‘winning by a long chalk’.
Lee Davies, Welsh handball champion 1990’s and World Champion 1997.
Nelson handball doubles players in 1985.
In May 1995 the first European Handball Tournament was held at Nelson and was attended by American, Belgian, English, Irish and Welsh teams. The Eton Fives Yearbook (1994-95) commented, “admittedly the weather was excellent, but I would ask you to envisage a court situated right in the middle of a Welsh village, with a local pub literally on the left hand side of the court and a row of terraced houses on the right, and the main road and shops behind. On Finals day you could mingle with the local spectators. We saw the soul of handball in Wales this May. This year the court there became the centre of village life. We saw the game as it was originally devised, a street game, a game of the people.”
Former Nelson handball secretary Howard Jones.
Lee Davies, Welsh handball champion 1990’s and World Champion 1997.
With thanks to Kevin Dicks whose book ‘Handball. The Story of Wales’ First National Sport’ will be published in 2016 by Y Llolfa.
James O Jenkins is a photographer working for a wide variety of clients and publications. He has exhibited widely and in 2012 he published his first book ‘United Kingdom’, a visual study of traditional annual UK customs. James is also co-founder of Portrait Salon, a Salon des Refusés for work rejected from the National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize. James is one of the founding members of A Fine Beginning.
A Line Runs Through Us uses the backdrop of the Valley transit system to explore the idea of disassociation and belonging within a small nation. The landscape of South Wales, is in part transformed into a fleeting metaphor of a once loved space, familiar and embedded in memory, the home takes on a transitory role.
Lad in Clydach, 2015
Before the Bwlch, 2015
Abandoned railway channels that once connected the thriving townships of the Rhondda are explored in search of the enduring communities and how they’ve evolved against a modern Wales. The backdrop to the story is the seemingly transient nature of youth, which in actuality has a common and typically recognisable aesthetic as the slow but shifting South Wales landscape.
Thinking of Moving, Rhondda, 2015
Gap in Grass
A Line Runs Through Us is an ongoing body of work exploring recollections of youth and place. While my photographs are all taken within the Rhondda Valley, they are more personal illustrations of memory and experience than an attempt to document the current people and landscape of a place.
Gateways Carpark, Tonypandy, 2015
Bike Boys, Clydach, 2011
My aim is to draw upon transitional echoes, those shifting memories that allow us to define who we are and where we have come from based upon a familiar setting and recollections from youth.
Two Girls in Trehafod Park, 2011
Gawain Barnard (b. Rhondda) completed an MFA in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport in 2009. His Photographic work and research has mainly focused around the environment and people of his youth. Making quiet portraits of adolescence and precise observations of their surroundings Gawain brings new and fresh reflections of the once industrialised regions of South Wales. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is represented by Millennium Images. Gawain is one of the founding members of A Fine Beginning.
Photographer Brian David Stevens was part of our first group show Made in Wales in 2014, exhibiting work from his Brighter Later series. Brian currently has an exhibition entitled Heavenly Portraits at Rough Trade East in London until 30th September, which includes portraits of Welsh musicians.
The exhibition celebrates Heavenly Recordings and Rough Trade Shops 25th anniversary by exhibiting 54 photographic portraits of every artist signed to the label in this anniversary year. Accompanying the exhibition is a Heavenly 25 yearbook including all the portraits which is available from Rough Trade shops and the Heavenly website.
Gruff Rhys. Welsh musician, composer, producer, filmmaker and author.
Gwenno Saunders. Music producer, DJ, radio presenter and singer from Cardiff.
H. Hawkline. Welsh singer-songwriter.
Brian David Stevens is a photographer working in London. He was born in Cambridge of Welsh parents and brought up in Yorkshire as a cruel genetic experiment. He is currently finishing his first book, Brighter Later, a portrait of Britain looking out to sea. Brian has completed and exhibited a ten year project shooting war veterans entitled They that are Left, his most recent exhibition at the Heavenly Social was Notting Hill Sound Systems. His portrait of Wilko Johnson is in the national collection.
Heavenly Portraits is at Rough Trade East, Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London, E1 6QL until 30th September.
‘The landscape of mid Wales, with its historical and cultural background, and the contemporary human relationship with it, has influenced my research and photographic exploration during the last two years of study on the BA (Hons) Documentary Photography course in Newport. For my final work I focused on the prevailing matriarchal society of Borth, an isolated coastal village.’
‘Inspired by the natural phenomena surrounding Borth, such as Cors Fochno, the only peat mire biosphere reserve in Wales, as well as and the ancient submerged forest which can be seen during low tides, I have followed a particular light source. The light of the blue hour was a crucial element for the aesthetics of this body of work. This particular light occurs just before sunrise or just after sunset. Parallel to this I have questioned my portrait making practice and I have gained an understanding about how the tiniests of facial movements can change the meaning of an image.’
‘During the era of seafaring in the 19th and 20th centuries Borth was an isolated community living mainly from harvesting herring and cockles. It was the women of Borth who walked the cliff path to Aberystwyth to sell their catch. Named by the Aberystwyth folk, the Borth women became known as The Black Crows, due to their close grouping and their fluttering black clothing.’
‘On ‘The Cliff of Vigil’ – the highest vantage point of Borth – the women often surveyed the wide open sea in the hope that their men would return. Almost all of the menfolk went to sea in order to nourish their families and yet a great number were consumed by the ocean. Many women were widowed – a fact that brought the womenfolk closer together and forced them to adapt to a more self-sustaining lifestyle from where the strong matriarchal society is still evident today.’
‘Borth has changed from a seafaring village to a mecca for artistic self-sufficient women who share ecological and spiritual principles within the close knit community. Borth’s communal autonomy and also the strong bond between the old and young generations, which expands throughout the family circle, combine and represent an open minded Zeitgeist reflecting their spiritual and artistic freedom.’
‘Many of the women of Borth express themselves through art visualising their close relationship with the sea and the encircled landscape around Borth. Ranging from driftwood recycling, to paintings, sculptures and music, the contemporary Black Crows make a living harvesting from the sea, as did their historical ancestors. They have decided to establish a lifestyle within the fierce and bleak coastal village, a location which has always been endangered by floods and storms. With the sea levels on the rise Borth’s future is in unknown hands.’
‘The Black Crows of Borth is a project that explores the persisting landscape and draws a parallel between past and present in order to portray the preserved spirit of Borth’s matriarchal society. With its prevailing roots within the maritime context, the contemporary Black Crows depend as much on the sea as on each other and their artistic expression as well as their social cohesion is of natural precedence.’
Mira Andres is a Swiss photographer currently working and living in West Wales and has graduated with a First Class Honours from the BA (Hons) Documentary Photography course at Newport. The Black Crows of Borth will be exhibited at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff from the 11th of September to the 15th of November.
We’re pleased to share the invite for this year’s Made in Wales exhibitions at Cardiff MADE, Carousel London and Oriel Colwyn. The exhibitions will include new work from members of the collective plus 27 photographers who’ve featured on our blog. Feel free to share this and we hope you will join us at one of the openings. Our invitation is available to download here.
We saw Tony Othen’s photographs of Cardiff on the Instagram feed for The Photographers Gallery as part of the promotion for their current exhibition Women, Children and Loitering Men by Shirley Baker. Tony’s photographs of Cardiff are currently on show in Stuttgart as part of A Tale of Two Cities which is a joint exhibition of Fotosummer Stuttgart and Ffotogallery Cardiff. The exhibition is at Kunstbezirk Galerie im Gustav-Siegle-Haus until September 5th and features 23 photographers focusing on Cardiff and Stuttgart over the last sixty years.
‘These photographs were taken in Cardiff – the city in which I grew up. I lived there from 1953-1970. I studied Photography at the London College of Printing and, amongst some commissions that I undertook, one was for an organisation called Task Force that sought to encourage young people to volunteer to help in their community. My brief was to photograph in various parts of the UK and to show community life.’
‘I was happy to be able to photograph in my home town, and I tried to capture images that showed details of the day to day life in various parts of Cardiff. Most of the images on show were taken in the late 60s and record elements of a life style some 50 years ago.’
‘Described by some as Social Action Photography, my images served a purpose for those that commissioned the work – mainly charities and educational bodies. Currently, they can be seen as having captured rather quaint and even iconic moments in time and those that have seen them exhibited in Britain and in Europe have enjoyed the reminiscences that they trigger as well as the exploration of times past.’
‘Discovering my negatives, stored away so long ago, I have begun the process of cataloguing and sorting tens of thousands of images in the hope that, as communities, we can base some of our future decisions on our past experiences.’
Photographer Mark Griffiths tells about his work ‘The Healing Land’ where 8 children from Chernobyl visited Wales on a four week holiday to improve their immune system by spending a prolonged period in a clean environment.
‘The Chernobyl meltdown was the biggest nuclear catastrophe in world history. Ninety nine percent of the Belarusian land has been contaminated to varying degrees above internationally accepted levels as a direct result of the disaster. The villages and towns that are in close proximity to the epicentre of the reactor have been eerily abandoned and remain desolate. The people of Belarus are very self sufficient, they grow their own crops and vegetables, farm livestock and source water from nearby lakes and reservoirs. With 70% of contamination coming from food and water however, the poisoned earth continues to infect those that depend on it.’
‘An astonishing 85% of Belarusian children are deemed to be Chernobyl victims: they carry “genetic markers” that could affect their health at any time and can be passed on to the next generation. A vicious cycle that unfortunately could continue for hundreds if not thousands of years. The government of Belarus and the Ukraine established that all affected children should leave the contaminated regions for at least one month abroad every year. They believed the fresh air and uncontaminated food would give the children a vital boost to their immune system.’
‘The Chernobyl’s Children’s Lifeline was founded to help affected children receive the recuperation they so vitally needed. The charity carried out scientific research to determine whether a clean environment would benefit those affected. From 4000 children that were examined the results determined that the radioactive elements in a child before and after a four week visit to the UK dropped by an average of sixty eight percent. The immune system of a Chernobyl child needs a kickstart to help fight potential illness and disease.’
‘This year eight children were brought to the pristine county of Pembrokeshire in West Wales. The region is considered an area of outstanding natural beauty. The environment boasts clean air quality, blue flag beaches and spectacularly dense woodland and breathtaking countryside views.’
‘The children participate in a number of recreational and educational activities and outings during their stay, from long sunny days at the beach to go karting. They also receive free medical check ups including eye tests and dental appointments to ensure a clean bill of health. The aim of the charity is to make the experience as enjoyable as possible, while clean air and unpolluted land takes its natural course of healing the wounds.’
Mark Griffiths is a photographer based in South Wales available for editorial and commercial assignments and commissions.
Last November we were pleased to speak at the ‘Lens 2014: Festival of Welsh Documentary Photography’ where another of the speakers was photographer Amanda Jackson. On Friday 25th July Amanda’s work ‘To Build a Home’ opened at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. The series is a study of the people of Lammas Tir Y Gafel Eco Village and the surrounding community, focusing on the North Pembrokeshire settlement near Glandwr.
Coed Y Tylluan
‘Amanda’s approach to photography is to get to know her subjects well, allowing her to create intimate portraits of the people within their surroundings. With previous series’ including The British Eccentrics and Alternative Living, she has always been interested in people living on the edges of mainstream society. During her first photography shoot with Lammas in 2009, Amanda fell in love with the area, the people and the way of life. So much so that in early 2010, she relocated to land beside the village, and now has her own land nearby. She was delighted to receive a grant in 2013 from The Arts Council of Wales to produce the series shown here. All the photographs are shot on medium format colour film, a process Amanda favours over digital. At a time when people are so bombarded by digital technology and images, she feels that film photography still has an artistic edge and forces a more considered approach to creating a body of work.’
‘As well as capturing the day to day activities, Amanda aims to show a mix of community life through the people that live there. Some of the photographers will not only meet expectations of what living in an Eco Village would be like, but feel familiar; others will surprise. In photographs such as “YouTube Friday” we see how the people are embracing modern day technology but in a sustainable way, using hydroelectricity.’
Tyddyn Hedd 2
‘In a society that increasingly shelters children from harm, perhaps at the expense of freedom, the photographs of the children of the village may invoke anything from wistfulness to fear in the viewers. These children are free to roam away from busy main roads, but also live and play in an ongoing construction site. We also see adults, including parents, working their plots or enjoying some down time.’
Cân Yr Adar
Plas Helyg 2
‘Through these photos, the photographer shows the viewer a glimpse of the lives of these people living a way of life that used to be ordinary but now must be chosen. Sometimes contradictory, often humorous, these photographs evoke a timelessness while capturing a growing modern movement.’
Berllan Dawel (You Tube Friday)
Amanda Jackson is a Midlands and Pembrokeshire based photographer, specializing in portraiture and interiors. Early on in her career she realised her passion lay with photographing people and places on the edges of mainstream society. After completing an HND in photography in 2003, Amanda spent 4 years in London working as a freelance photographer’s assistant. She returned to Hereford and completed a photography degree in 2008, gaining a First Class hons. Amanda’s work has been exhibited at The Empire Gallery in London where she won the portraiture category of the 2008 DegreeArt Signature Photography Awards.
Other exhibitions include The Hereford Photo Festival, Rhubarb Rhubarb (Birmingham), D&AD (London), The New Designers exhibition (Islington Business Centre) and DKNY in Bond Street’s New Designer’s Showcase. Amanda is represented by Young Photographers United (YPU) and DegreeArt.
In 2013 Amanda was awarded a grant from The Arts Council of Wales for a photographic project based on the Lammas Eco Village and the surrounding community which forms the series “To Build A Home” which is on show at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre until September 19th 2015.
Caldey is a small island located south of Tenby in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. Photographer Francesca Jones spent two years arranging her permission to stay on the island and was allowed to spend two weeks there working as a volunteer and photographing its inhabitants in 2015.
‘Home to roughly 25-30 permanent residents and a monastic order of 10 Cistercian monks, Caldey is classed as one of the Holy Islands of Britain and has a history spanning 1500 years. Lying 3 miles off the coast of Pembrokeshire, Caldey is reachable by a 25 min boat trip. Home to diverse wildlife, rare fauna and rich in architectural history, the unique atmosphere and enchantment of the Island is almost tangible.’
Sea mist on Caldey’s north shore.
Father Gildas is responsible for the laundry and is also the cook. He first came to Caldey in 1983.
‘Having first visited as a child, I felt compelled to return driven by a long held fascination about the people who choose Caldey as a home and the intricacies of life there. I spent 2 weeks, working as a volunteer in the garden or helping with housekeeping in my spare time. Alongside this I was able to connect with and document some of the residents and monks, whilst having the time and space to discover the beauty and fragility of the island for myself.’
Bethan, who was once a resident and pupil at the closed school house, works in the cafe. She lives on the mainland but travels to work by boat each day during the summer.
Dining Hall of the monastery.
Father Jan from Holland trained as a calligrapher and stone carver which he still practices in the Abbey workshop.
‘To be a resident on the island means to have a role; aiding the monastery to continue in it’s existence as well as supporting one another as a community. A practical disposition is a prerequisite as well as a resilient nature. The residents who stay the longest are the ones who are in possession of an ability to adapt to and embrace the unpredictable nature of the environment. Winters can be harsh and prolonged. In 2014, the cargo boats were unable to sail for 7 weeks leaving the residents cut off from the mainland and destructive storms caused massive coastal damage and severe flooding.’
John has lived on the island with his wife Veronica for 40 years and is the commerce manager. He is also the point of contact for Trinity House regarding the island lighthouse which was build in 1829 and was powered by gas until 1997.
Brother Titus, who is the guest master, holds discussions with his guests in the monastic library.
Brother Luca is the accountant and gardener.
‘I endeavoured to learn about the human experience of living on Caldey; the frameworks to which daily lives adhere to, interactions with one another and how the population inhabit their environment. Although, to the outside world, it can appear an isolated place, many people I encountered expressed an overriding sense of freedom. I learned that the population are linked by a common desire; one of a simpler and more spiritual existence.’
Father Daniel is the Abbot and the baker. Shortbread from the Abbey is sold in the shop.
Rita is a resident of Caldey for over 35 years and lives alone in a bungalow just outside the village. Although long retired she still oversees the management of the water supply and is the organist.
Access to ‘Sandtop’ was severely limited due to the storms in 2014 and is now accessible by rope.
Francesca Jones lives in Cardiff and works throughout the UK. She began working as a photographer’s assistant three years ago whilst working on her own projects and portfolio.
Her work has been exhibited nationally as part of Portrait Salon 2014 as well as part of a group show at The Abacus in Cardiff. She was also a finalist in the 2013 Association of Photographers Awards and in January 2015 was selected to attend the Magnum Professional Practice in London.