Emma Geliot's picture

Becky Adams, Tredgar,Discover the Valleys

The South Wales Valleys have struggled in the past to shake off a negative image that persisted well in to this century. A raft of projects and initiatives, backed by inter-agency working on an impressive scale, seems set to change that image.

An exhibition that has just opened at Bedwellty House in Tredegar, Discover the Valleys, features the work of 11 artists who were invited to create posters depicting the Valleys echoing the iconic Shell posters of the 1930s.

As with the Shell campaign, aimed at encouraging Britons to get out into the countryside, this project seeks to inspire and excite people, within and outside the valleys, to take a fresh look at the Valleys landscapes, to question their perceptions, and to spur them to rediscover and explore a unique part of the world.

The area has always offered rich source material for artists. In the 1980s Ffotogallery invited a group of photographers to document the area as it was then, with a project that built into a remarkable archive spanning a decade. This project was recently re-visited and refreshed with new commissions, shown alongside the original images for the Diffusion Festival ()in Cardiff in May 2013.

Led by Welsh Government, Valleys Regional Park is a consortium of 40 agencies working in the Valleys, aimed at developing this vast geographical area into a sustainable destination for tourism and regenerating the economy of an area that was hard hit by the demise of the traditional heavy industries in Wales.

Bordered by the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains at the top and the M4 corridor from Newport westwards at the bottom and taking in 16 valleys, the area is already rich with artists projects, public art, theatres, galleries and artistic interventions. Next year there ll be a new arts hub in Merthyr Tydfil when Redhouse opens on St David s Day (01 March) 2014, and it seems that the arts are very much a part of the drive to change old thinking about the valleys forever.