Written in Stone

  Ric Hool

In the past the Blaenavon landscape provided the resources for the development of the industrial technology that kick-started the industrial revolution, with an impact that reached far and wide across the world.

Today, the industrial landscape of Blaenavon has World Heritage site status, acknowledging the town’s important contribution to world history and science.

“Written in Stone” was a community writing project exploring people’s interaction with the Blaenavon landscape and used the elements as the inspiration for a starting point for creative writing. This encompassed the geological make-up of the land that provided the raw materials for the technological advances pioneered in Blaenavon, and also the four classical elements: earth, air, fire and water – all of which were used in the industrial processes developed there.

The first phase of the project employed Ric Hool as writer in residence to deliver a series of community writing workshops to assist in the creation of poetry and prose. These focused on environmental walks (eg, Big Pit’s “Heritage and Heather” walks and the “Geological Trail”) and some site specific workshops. The workshops were delivered either in Welsh or English or bilingually.

The project was based at the Big Pit and Blaenavon Heritage Centre and was a collaboration between Academi, the National Museum of Wales, Head for Arts, Torfaen CBC and CADW’s “Cauldrons and Furnaces” Project. Links were also  made with the Forgotten Landscape project based in the Heritage Centre.

In this first phase of the project, the work produced was presented as a performance and as a simple exhibition of words and photographs.

However, there was the intention to develop a legacy where the work will feed into other separately funded projects subsequently being developed in the Blaenavon community, including:

• Combining photos and first person narratives to create digital stories

• Contributing phrases to the development of a song cycle to be performed at the Blaenavon Ironworks site in June 2012

• Using words/phrases from the creative writing project on banners created in a visual arts project

The Cauldrons and Furnaces project (Elemental/Elfenol) brought together a range of projects based around a theme of the elements to provide a spectacular performance at the Ironworks site as part of the 2012 celebrations in Wales, linking with the Cultural Olympiad. The performance  included a new music work written for children’s choir, brass band, Javanese gamelan, the Blaenavon Industrial Gamelan (made from recycled industrial materials) and a digital soundscape capturing the sounds of the Heads of the Valleys.The words developed in the creative writing project were incorporated into the song cycle.

Hole In One
a response to images of dereliction
Hole in my shed
Sky fall through
Like starling egg
Oh so blue
Why so blue?
Shed is dead
It’s not so bad
Make one new
What about, hole in me?
Where shed should be
Fill up hole let’s be free
But what will fill it?
A pumpkin might
It’s big, it will be tight
Crack a bit off
Get it’s measure
Find seed
Hidden treasure
Broken pumpkin
Broken shed
Broken life
Broken death
Broken gravestone
A bramble shamble
Broken world
Broken works
Peter Hobbs

Churchyard Haiku
In response to St. Peter’s Churchyard by Roger Polley

Wild vegetation

disordering the order

The way of Nature
The headstone words fade

Colours smell of old colour

The patience of Time
Headstones are silent

The church cat prowls the graveyard

Troubled quietude
Ric Hool


Driving to Blaenavon
I clearly saw the image of a miner
Etched on the landscape,
The black spoil revealing the form
Cut from the green
Nestling in the waste tips

The Long Man of Garnddyrus
As vivid as that other rude giant.

Just as I wondered
Whose hands had made this
I looked again and saw
The randomness of water courses.
The figure melted back into the earth.

But in the gallery
The shadow of a man stands
In stark contrast to
The pale weathered stone
As real as the moment
The camera shutter snapped.

Kate Strudwick
See Something Differently
(Furnace 1)
Blue moons

Pebble beach


Rock pools


Bullet holes

A puzzle

Niamh Salkeld
St Peter’s Churchyard

Dark red

Smooth rough




Ivy leaves

Nature looking after graves

Niamh Salkeld.