I watched MTV's new series 'The Valleys' once. I won't be doing so again.
  For a start, the title's a big problem. It should rightly be called 'Bum! Fuck! Tits! Slag! Shag!', which would not only sum it up, but contain most of the dialogue.
   Also, in the 1980s myself and the great-but-now sadly-not-publishing poet John Davies edited an anthology of prose and poetry from the Valleys with the same title. Will Seren Books sue, I wonder?
  Of course, it wasn't about the Valleys at all, but followed the well-worn formula of Geordie Shore, Essex Whatever and Jersey Shore (does the latter really exist?) in which young and so-called glamorous young people are placed into a human laboratory ( house in Cardiff) as we observe their drunken, sexual antics.
   The very term 'reality TV' is a classic example of Orwellian newspeak. It's like calling 'Merlin' a historical documentary. Like 'Big Brother' it employs all the elements of psychological control which Orwell railed against in '1984'.
   These young people have been brainwashed by our shallow society into believing that the only way to get out of their 'crappy', 'shitty' towns is through celebrity.
   Who can blame them? This is the 21st century fantasy promoted by most of the media, with their obsession with fame at all costs.
   Jenna, with her law degree and boob job, doesn't want to be a solicitor, but 'rich and famous'.
   Only the gay rugby player Liam seemed untouched by this monomania. It's no wonder Gareth 'Alfie' Thomas admires the programme, as the only glimpses of humanity were the positive responses to Liam's very public coming out.
   So , where was the obesity, the fading tracksuits, disability benefits and diabetes?
   These too are cliches of the Valleys, yet ones which are tragically closer to the truth today, as we struggle with  the consequences of junk food and poverty.
   What does the programme actually tell us about  the Valleys? That there are young people desperate to get out to the bright lights of the city?.......They are probably there clubbing  most weekends.
   They end up modelling on the beach ( is it Costa Coryton?) with fish flapping from bikini bottoms ( Jenna again, despite her fish phobia!) or handing out leaflets for a night club.
   Of course, the stereotypes abound : rocking sheep not horse, ubiquitous  red dragon flag and typical Valleys' barbie, complete with inflated condoms ( a delicacy round these parts).
  I began to speculate whether Iain Duncan Smith ( who famously urged the unemployed to get on the bus and look for work in Cardiff) wasn't the programme's producer.

   I have wondered if it was worth bothering to write about this series at all, yet there may well be people whose views of the Valleys are affected by it.
   Unfortunately, it is feeding into a consciousness that, aside from a few cliches, we are all basically the same : a chainstore/ supermarket uniformity.
   It seems perverse in times of the New Depression, but I do feel there are unique opportunities in the Valleys.
   Not only are there many skilled young people out of work, but there are also graduates who, in the past, would have left the area to find work.
   I believe the Welsh Government must take the initiative and run a concerted campaign to encourage and enable people to set up co-operatives throughout the Valleys and the Credit Unions ( themselves co-operative banks) can play a crucial role in this.
   They must put as much effort and energy into this scheme - call it  'Co-op Cymru' - as they would into election campaigns.
   Conventions should be held in various locations bringing together all these young people, pooling their ideas and helping them with their plans and getting loans in the form of development grants and social enterprise.
   There are enough young people who care about these places I personally love so much and change is already happening on a small scale.
   MTV's 'The Valleys'  is an insult to our acute awareness of history, to our music, literature, theatre, film and visual arts...all thriving today.
   One young person I can think of who epitomizes this, regularly attends our popular Open Mic. nights at The Imp in Merthyr.
   He aspires to be a better poet and performer of his work. He is already a very powerful performer, reciting his poems and raps with great skill and intensity.
   There's very little money in poetry and even less possibility of celebrity. Yet this is his chosen path during very hard times, of which he has experienced many.
   Like the character in my poem below ( a person I used to teach), he represents another side of the Valleys in all its exciting complexity.
   One day, maybe, the media will fully acknowledge such people in a serious way, showing their lives with all the troubles and triumphs.


                                    VAUGHANY ON-A TELLY


First time f' yers
an I seen im on-a telly,
Shane Vaughan, Vaughany
talkin from Cardiff prison
(well, tha's is second ome!).


But I woz totelee gobsmacked
coz ol Vaughany become a Muslim,
ee woz goin on bout-a Jihad,
slaggin off them extremists,
sayin ow ee'd found-a way.


Vaughany of all people,
oo'd studied burgleree
like we done GCSEs,
on'y time ee lissened
wuz Oliver Twist an Fagin.


Vaughany oo broke inta arf the shops,
oo got a PhD in pickpocketin,
oo wen down Cyfarthfa School lunchtime
arfta a fight, swum out t the islan'
chased by masses, flung stones from up-a tree.


Vaughany the 'pprentice joy-rider
abusin-a cops, pissed outa is skull ;
but now prayin t Allah
an soundin so spoffy,
like the kids ee'd larfed at in school. 
 


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