Documentary Filmmaker to Explore Parallels Between Welsh, Appalachian Mining Communities
The coalfields of Appalachia are running out of coal, and there’s not a large-scale effort to diversify the region’s economy. But there are lessons to be learned from a similar transition in an unlikely place: the small United Kingdom country of Wales. Now, a documentary filmmaker is exploring parallels between 1980s Wales and modern-day Appalachia.
Tom Hansell is a former Kentucky resident and a documentary filmmaker at App State’sAppalachian Studies Center. In After Coal: Welsh and Appalachian Mining Communities, he’ll look for lessons from Wales’ transition away from coal that could be applicable in Appalachia.
“So often you hear about coal issues, particularly in Kentucky, as very emotional ‘jobs versus environment,’” he said. “And I think there are real reasons for that, but what I’m hoping to do in this project is actually look beyond that immediate conflict.
“Because we know that coal is a finite resource. So what I want to do is look beyond that and imagine a future after coal and use the Welsh experience to start people talking about ‘what can we do when the mines run out?’”
Up until the 1970s and 1980s, many regions of Wales were dependent on coal. When the mines began closing, unemployment rose to over 50 percent and poverty rates skyrocketed. Hansell says the Welsh government began the recovery by instituting programs to clean up the “coal tips,” or environmentally-destructive piles of coal waste.
He is raising money here