This paper aims to contribute to the relatively small body of literature on the minority ethnic experience in almost entirely white communities, by reporting the findings of qualitative research into the experiences of minority ethnic children living in the South Wales valleys. Twenty-eight interviews were conducted with children and their parents/carers. Interviews with children also included sentence completion and card-sorting tasks. The paper focuses on the views expressed about quality of life, sense of community, leisure activities, experience of racism and dealings with institutions. The children and adults revealed a complex picture, which challenges both optimistic accounts of ‘traditional’ communities and also the negativity of pressure group reports on racism in similar areas. There is considerable variety of experience, mediated by class and gender. Whilst racism is in many respects an ever-present reality for these children, many of them find creative ways of responding to their situation. Several also spoke of their lives in the valleys in generally very positive terms. The paper concludes by reflecting on the potential implications of the research for policy and practice.