1186071_569858173073090_2013323936_n 1237182_569858759739698_955434018_n‘Come to Ynysybwl’ said Tony Burnell, ‘it’s twenty five years since they closed Lady Windsor Colliery and we’re having a festival. You can do something with the kids.’ Over forty years ago Tony had organised a bus to take a gang of teenage hippies to see the Pink Floyd at the Afan Lido in Aberavon. It never turned up. I never forgave him. Now he was tempting me with a commission and a temporary work permit in ‘The Bwl’. Time for peace and reconciliation.

Ynysybwl is another valley village without a vowel and one where the tarmac doesn’t quite run out but fractures, ruptures, then winds to a pub and a church with a breathtaking view. It was the end of term and time was running out to do anything with the kids at Trerobart Primary School and they were already mentally running down the road to the big school in Ponty.  But they were a bright and lively bunch in a vibrant school in a real community clinging on to a sense of itself. The pit had been grassed over and reduced to single dram as a memorial and there was hardly a single job left in the village. But still embedded in the fabric were the remains of a thousand strong work force waiting to tell their story. Round them up, bring them together with the school kids and make a film. Simple.

Like An Egg, a young film company based in Pontypridd, are so rooted in the community that in the recent Manic Street Preachers music video that they shot, they used a workingmens’ club in Porth and persuaded two hundred friends and family to squeeze into a hot, sweaty room for twelve hours just for the fun of it. They joined me in Ynysybwl. An act of blind faith. I pointed Rob and his camera at schoolkids, mountains, ex miners and deserted streets and told him I knew what I was doing. He smiled, sweated, and shot. We very quickly learnt two things. Never film kids in a heatwave and never point a camera at an overworked teacher.

After three weeks cutting, without scissors or tape, (film-making has changed) we emerge with a film fit for purpose and, we hope, entertainment. We are to show it at the Con Club as part of the festivities, shoehorned into an evening of music and storytelling. I have never been so nervous. I have never made a film but even more frightening I’m an outsider telling a story about The Bwl to the people of the Bwl. In the film making I have been surrounded by experts but as regards the story, I’m walking the plank alone.

In a packed hall they watch the film in silence. Everyone. Even the bar staff have left their positions for a better view of a Ponty boy falling into a sea of sharks. The film ends and the silence is broken by what sounds like a stifled  sob. Then applause. The lights come up to reveal several women and a  lot more men wiping away tears. We’ve managed to pull it off.

Ynysybwl is a special place. There’s lots of them in Wales. They’ve been messed about for decades. Well, you don’t mess with people from the Bwl. We hope we didn’t.

Watch the final film here: The Bells Ring Alone


  1. Clive Pritchard

    Looking forward to seeing the film eventually and have heard some good things. It must have been good because Bwl people saying nice things about a Ponty boy almost beggars belief! Well done Larry, hope its the first of many.

  2. Gareth Price

    Not a Bwl boy.not even close but my wife is and she endorsed it so you’re winning the village over one by one.Well done boy,We both loved it and wish we could have been at the larger celebration on the Sunday and that the film had been played there. Definitely needs a wider audience

  3. Tony Burnell

    Hi Larry,

    Gareth is right! It certainly does need a wider audience,as you have done the village of Ynysybwl proud.
    I am not ashamed to say, i was one of those grown men wiping away the tears in the Con club on Thursday 22nd of August when i saw the finished product.
    Trerobart and the parents of the young people that participated in the production,should be proud of these youngsters in telling the tale and keeping the spirit alive.
    The adults also gave their true feelings. The HWL was there, it was not acting,but came strait from the heart.
    You and the production team did a brilliant job,thanks also to Philip Buttler, who should also be proud of the effort and love that his class obviously put into this.
    Our plan now is to get the film to a wider “national audience”

    With regards to your comments about “BWL BOY” you may recall most mornings in Grammar school, the famous phrase after morning assembly “would the Ynysybwl boys please stay behind” always the first to be blamed for any wrong doings either in the school or the surrounding area. Like packs of wolves hunting, we would fight amongst each other, but always stick together.

    As for the bus trip, after all these years, i will apologise in public.
    Again, it was a bus booked in Ynysybwl from Jones the buses that had broken down.

    Sorry o say, but no mobile phones in those days,(some did not have phones in their houses)
    Time to be honest…I went onto the concert with Robert Lucas, getting a lift off his brother John.

    From my hazy recollection, it was the old sports hall and the echo was terrible. Floyd were not that brilliant. Also on the bill were Pentangle, Sam Apple Pie, and an American Band called Dadda, who stuck out in my mind, as there were a good blues /boogie based fun band. Saw them in the old Polytec in Treforest a few years later.

    Looking forward to village voices 2, in December…


  4. Gareth Price

    Glad there are plans to get the film to a wider audience Tony.
    Good memories of the Bwl boys as a bit of a race apart in the grammar school. My memory is of us all waiting for you all to walk in on snowy days and the school starting when you arrived!! How things have changed!!
    Apology accepted on the bus Tony. Your memory of the support acts is clearer than mine. I remember Pentangle were without a sick Danny Thompson so played without a bass altogether. It was my first ever live gig and remember being tremendously impressed by the Floyd but had nothing to compare them with obviously. Larry and I and Stephen Veal and Edgar Manders saw them the following year in Bath and myself, Chad, Robbie Lucas and Edgar went up to Crystal Palace bowl to see them shortly after too, Not quite sure how we got to Aberavon and back that night but your name (and by extension all Bwl boys ) name was mud!! Good times !!

  5. Caroline Jones - Hanlon

    I loved this film especially as my dad too was a miner and worked in his early days at the Lady Windsor Colliery. My eldest brother Trevor also spent a short time down the pit at Lady Windsor before he trained to become a bricklayer and then went to London.

    I’m from Ynysybwl but living in London and I’m a member of a local Arts House here nearby where I live. They may be interested in your film as they have such interesting films on there etc. I go regularly so you are welcome to use my name as an introduction and say I’m from Ynysybwl. Tom is the manager and you can also mention that I’m a local Art Teacher as I’ve approached him before about poss exhibitions for my students etc. so he will remember me through this. If you want me to pass any info on to try and get your film shown there let me know and I’ll pop in and speak to Tom. Have a look at their website. They recently showed ‘Pride’ which was a huge success.

    All the very best with it



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