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South Wales Miners’ Library marks 50 years of celebrating the region’s industrial heritage

Abercraf Banner from the library’s unique collection of miners’ lodge banners

The South Wales Miners’ Library is celebrating half a century of collecting and preserving crucial memories of the region’s proud industrial past.

Based at Swansea University, the South Wales Miners’ Library marks its 50th anniversary on Friday, October 20 by hosting the Rhys Davies Lecture at the South Wales Miners’ Library, which this year is being held at the Great Hall of the Bay Campus at 6.30pm.

J. Willgoose, Esq of Public Service Broadcasting, who is delivering the lecture (photo credit: Rob Baker Ashton)

Delivered by John Willgoose – better known as J.Willgoose Esq, frontman of band Public Service Broadcasting – the free lecture is entitled Fifty Years at the South Wales Miners’ Library: telling the story of the coalfields through music and memories. It is being held in collaboration with the University’s Cultural Institute and is generously supported by the Rhys Davies Trust.

South Wales Miners’ Library opened in 1973 to house material collected during the three-year Coalfield History Project, which was funded by the Social Science Research Council and supported by the South Wales Area of the National Union of Mineworkers and the Coal Industries Social Welfare Organisation.

This project set out to collect records of individuals and the institutions they had created, such as the miners’ libraries, choirs, and NUM lodges.  The books, pamphlets, posters, banners, oral and video collections are held at the South Wales Miners’ Library while the written records and photographs collected are held in the Richard Burton Archives also based at Swansea University.  With the contraction of the mining industry, these coalfield communities were rapidly changing, and their records were in danger of being lost.

Besides being the focal point for research into the social, political, cultural and educational aspects of the south Wales coalfield, the Library was developed as a centre for adult and community-based education and is very much a legacy of the miners’ institutes found in communities across south Wales.

At its home in Henderfoilan, the South Wales Miners’ Library now houses a unique and internationally important research collection relating to the industrial, educational, social, cultural and political history of south Wales.

Open to the public, it plays a prominent role in adult education, community learning and engagement initiatives across south west Wales. It also supports the work of academics, students and visiting researchers. These have included J.Willgoose Esq who used the resource to research his band’s hit album Every Valley in 2017 which ended up featuring several clips from the Library’s oral history collection.