Discover the Valleys

Discover the Valleys


'Discover the Valleys' is essentially a poster advertising campaign, to encourage people to discover and reconnect with the natural environment and cultural heritage of the South Wales Valleys. However, each poster is an original artwork specially commissioned for the project.

Ten artists were commissioned by Valleys Regional Park through Groundwork Wales to create poster designs In the spirit of the successful Shell-advertising campaigns of the 1930s. The aim was to create an iconic series of ten works of art as commercial posters which would alter perceptions of the Valleys environment.

In the 1930s when the original Shell poster campaign was launched, the Valleys landscape was scarred and ravaged by industrial spoil heaps and waste tips. Unsurprisingly, none of the artists commissioned chose the Valleys to inspire people to discover the countryside. Nowadays though, the hills are largely green again, rivers full of fish run clean, and visitors are often taken aback by the beautiful countryside that envelops Valleys' towns and villages. Despite that, the Valleys can still conjure negative visual connotations for those unfamiliar with them. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that almost half of Valleys’ residents do not have a relationship with their natural environment because they do not value it.

An important aim of Valleys Regional Park is to reconnect communities with their natural environment and we try to do this in innovative ways. The ambition of this poster art campaign was to challenge a group of artists to explore and portray the landscapes of the valleys through their eyes in order to stimulate, provoke and open the eyes of others. In other words, to create a new ‘iconic’ public poster campaign to excite and inspire people to discover the landscapes of the Valleys and help change perceptions.

The final artworks used for the poster campaign are:

Discover the Valleys by Sarah Abbott, digital illustration
Tredegar by Becky Adams, mixed media
Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn by Gareth Hugh Davies, oil on board
End of Terrace, Glyncorrwg 1, Tom Hammick, drypoint, chine colle and watercolour
Blaengarw, Mary Lloyd Jones, mixed media on paper
The Big Cheese, Robert Macdonald, oil and acrylic on canvas
Blaenafon Ironworks I, Pete Monaghan, acrylic and collage on board
Late Afternoon, Ogmore Vale, Harry Robertson, oil on panel
Maesycwmmer Viaduct, Philip Watkins, acrylic on panel
Blaenrhondda from Hen Dre'r Mynydd 1, Alan Young, watercolour

From the expressive and free watercolour of Mary Lloyd Jones to the precise yet fluid oil of Gareth Hugh Davies the Valleys are depicted as breathtaking, mysterious, sunny, dramatic, picturesque, and fun.

The work depicting Tredegar warrants a closer look as it includes numerous references to local heritage, flora and fauna. A tiny frog references those seen by the artist whilst walking around the beautiful St James reservoir during the summer. In the clouds, you will find some confetti, collected from the grounds after a wedding at Bedwellty House. Nye Bevan is in one of the windows, as well as a fragment of a Medical Aid Society card. The curtains in the top floor windows of the same building are made from medical plasters which references the Tredegar Medical Aid Society (which formed the model for the National Health Service). Aneurin Bevan who launched the Health Service in 1948 said "All I am doing is extending to the entire population of Britain the benefits we had in Tredegar for a generation or more. We are going to 'Tredegarise' you". This phrase is embroidered into the valley. Some of the fabric used to create the valley is made from the green baize of a snooker table. Ray Reardon, MBE was born in Tredegar in 1932. He dominated the sport in the 1970s, winning six World Championships. Two-time world snooker champion Mark Williams now owns Tredegar Snooker Hall. The cup and saucer in the foreground were inspired by a lovely cup of tea at the Saron Chapel coffee morning! There is even a half loaf token placed in the artwork. Many Valley workers in the early part of the 19th century were not paid in money but with tokens or notes that could only be exchanged at the Company or 'Truck' shop. The leaf motif in the foreground is a replica of the patterns found on the gates of Bedwellty House.

Becky Adams and Philip Watkins facilitated workshops as part of the project, and also an additional artist, Sarah Goodey who ran several workshops in Ebbw Vale making sun prints. Sarah Goodey created an eleventh poster by creating a patchwork composition of participants' work.

The typeface on each poster was specifically chosen by MJT Design to complement the artwork and the typography beautifully completes the posters as unique works of art.

The posters as well as the original works of art were exhibited at Bedwellty House and Park from September 2013 to January 2014 with the inclusion of three of the original Shell posters kindly lent by the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu.

Look out for the posters on station platforms in 2014...

For further information see