Christmas is fast approaching and it’s a gloomy Sunday afternoon here in Cardiff, so I have just lit the candles, turned on the lights on the tree and am about to start wrapping presents in front of my lovely open fire. I am burning eco friendly logs, but I can’t resist adding a few lumps of shiny black coal that I have just found in the old coal scuttle at the back of the shed. Burning coal now has a very different resonance for me compared to the days of my childhood, when everything was about keeping the coal fire stoked so that the house would stay warm – at least the living room containing the fire would be warm anyway, even if there was ice on the inside of the bedroom windows. Coming from a family of miners in south Wales, coal was something I took for granted; it’s what my granddad and uncle came home covered in every day and it’s what turned the hills and the rivers black. It was often referred to as Black Gold in those days – the livelihood of whole communities was built on it and it fed many mouths. But those hills have now been ‘reclaimed’ and the landscape looks very different. Green. Communities no longer have the coal-fired hearth at their centre and men have struggled to find alternative ways of making a living. And today I feel guilty for using coal on my fire; it’s a very different time in history as we experience shifts in our relationship with energy, seeking alternatives to fossil fuels in order to move towards a low carbon future.
Mining communities across the globe are struggling to come to terms with a future without coal and there is a fascinating project using film, archive material and photographs to connect (former) mining communities in South Wales with those in Kentucky. The idea is to see what knowledge and experience can be exchanged between the communities to help build resilience and capacity as they face an uncertain future.
I met the team behind this project over a year ago and I have been following their work with interest, as they use media and technology to bring together two very different communities that each have to face a future without coal. Take a look here: http://aftercoal.com/about