with Linda B. Engelberth
February 25-28, 2016
Lofoten International Photo Festival
Lofoten Islands, Norway
South Wales Valleys, known locally as “The Valleys,” is the former industrial area of South Wales in the UK and is currently home to around 30% of the Welsh population. The scenic countryside was first inhabited during the industrialization of the UK, and it was at this time that the characteristic workers’ houses were built. After this period, The Valleys is known for their vast coalmine industry. When Margaret Thatcher took office as prime minister in 1979 and opened the UK to free market policies, many problems arose for the state-owned mining industry. When Thatcher announced plans to close the majority of the coalmines in 1984-85, miners across the country went on strike. Ultimately, the strike failed and most of the mines were closed, resulting in unemployment rates among the highest in the UK, as well as a steep rise in drug abuse. The destinies of the people of The Valleys are the legacy of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, and are illustrative of what happened to a society built on industry when met with a right wing political reality. Today, The Valleys remain a shadow of what they once were. There are many who live difficult lives, but there are also a strong sense of community and a warmth between people who are trying get the valleys to rise again.