A new project looking at the history of Tiger Bay, through the eyes of people who came from across the world to work in Cardiff, is getting underway thanks to National Lottery funding.
The ‘Tiger Bay – Preserving the Stories’ project will build on an archive begun in the 1980s,expanding the collection to include maritime and industrial history and collecting memories and historic images of the former docklands to tell the story of Wales’s industrial past.
A story worth telling
Working with around 7,000 photographs as well as audio and videotaped interviews of former local residents whose families moved to the area from across the UK and overseas, a team of volunteers led by a professional will help digitise and preserve the stories of those who played a pivotal role in the area’s history.
Some information and artefacts were first collected in the 1980s, but have never been properly organised or stored and are now at risk of being lost if not cared for appropriately.
Newer memories will also be recorded and added to this unique collection, from Tiger Bay residents born in the 1950s and ‘60s and those who worked in the docks and supporting industries.
They will then be featured in an exhibition to go on show in Cardiff, when the project is completed a year from now.
A race against time
Gaynor Legall, who is coordinating the project, explains why it’s so important this work happens now: “Memories belonging to older members of the Butetown community are steadily being lost, as many of them have moved away or are no longer with us, taking their stories with them.
“Tiger Bay was a thriving industrial hub and community, home to thousands of people from different parts of the UKand around the world who came to Wales to make a new life here. Their contribution played a pivotal role in Wales’s industrialisation – and we must act now to keep these stories safe for future generations, which just wouldn’t be possible without this National Lottery funding.”
Money brought into Cardiff through the docks in the 19th and early 20th centuries, from the shipping of Welsh coal mined in the South Wales valleys, put the city on the map and contributed massively to its growth as the capital of Wales.
No one knows where the name Tiger Bay came from but the name became legendary and workers came from rural Wales, Cornwall, Ireland, Africa, Asia the Middle East, Norway, Spain, Italy and the Caribbean to earn steady wages and start a new life on the outskirts of the city.
Now, volunteers will receive specialist training in how to correctly archive the old and new materials, creating digital copies that will be available online, and interviewing people to add new memories to the collection.
Richard Bellamy, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Wales, said:
“The rich history of Tiger Bay is crucial to understanding the Wales we live in today – the make-up of so many different people from diverse communities beginning their new life in Wales has shaped and enriched our country.
“These stories are in real danger of being lost to time if we do not take action now, but thanks to National Lottery players we can make sure they’re kept safe for many more years to come, and the spirit of this characterful area is not forgotten.”
Vaughan Gething, Assembly Member for Cardiff South and Penarth, added:
“It is hugely important that we protect and preserve memories from our communities. While this is an important project for Tiger Bay and Cardiff, it also resonates across Wales, as the work carried out on the docks by workers from across the globe forged our industrial and national economy. That group of workers changed our communities and they changed it for the better. I’m already looking forward to visiting the exhibition, which is sure to be a fascinating display of images, objects and real life stories depicting our rich heritage.”