Merthyr Lost Musical Memories

Impact: Cultural impacts

Description of impact

Carr’s research into the hidden histories of the popular music scene in Merthyr Tydfil (between 1955 – 1975) is the first project of its type in the Welsh Valley’s to investigate the relationships between local popular music making, identity and more mainstream histories. Building upon and continuing the work of his monograph on local identity in Newcastle (Sting: From Northern Skies to Fields of Gold, 2017), the research, which has taken place with the musical community of Merthyr has been disseminated widely locally and internationally.

How did your research contribute?

In order to expand the local identity work that he was doing with his monograph on Sting (2017), Carr began exploring how local popular music history impacted the community of Merthyr Tydfil in April 2016, with the years 1955 – 1975 chosen because of the proximity to the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and the imperative to capture the memories before the community disappears. After initiating a Facebook page to gage interest (, it quickly became apparent that their was significant interest in the project taking place. Via interviews and focus group work (See , Carr then began collecting photographs, memories and digital stories of the community, many of which were displayed at the exhibition in January-February 2018.[1]

Over the last two years, in conjunction with a number of community partners (see below), Carr’s ‘Lost Musical Histories of Merthyr Tydfil Project’ has progressively documented an alternative more positive cultural history of the town (as opposed to the more negative narratives such as Skint (2015) and The Valleys (2012) for example). Via collecting over 200 community donated photographs and recorded community memories, the project has engaged with local school children, the community of Merthyr and academic audiences, as evidenced by the project’s three main outputs: participation in the 2017 Being Human Festival (November 17/11/17-25/11/17), a one day symposium (27/01/18) and a one month exhibition (24/1/18-24/2/18) showcasing the research. Based on the hidden history work of academics such as Brocken (2016) and Lipsitz (2007) and the memory study narratives of the likes of Nora (1989) and Assman (2008), the project is interested in investigating relationships between local music making and more mainstream histories, the impact of forgotten histories on young people, in addition to how lost musical histories impact individual and shared identities. In a field so dominated by ‘famous’ artists, this is the first project of its kind to highlight the importance of local music history in the Welsh valleys. It has engaged with a number of partners over the last two years in order to facilitate the research, including The 3gs Development Trust, Director Peter Morgan Barnes, Merthyr Tydfil Historical Society, The Workers Education Association, The Global Village Festival, Merthyr Library Services, Theatr Soar, The Red House (Town Hall), First Campus, Digichemestry, The Being Human Festival, ITV Wales and BBC Wales.

Methodologies currently employed in the research include focus groups, questionnaires and community interviews (resulting in the subsequent formation of a ‘digital story’ archive). The work has to date being funded by First Campus, the Being Human Festival, CIRI, in addition to considerable ‘in kind’ funding from community partners The Redhouse and Merthyr Library Service.

Who is affected?

Throughout the Being Human Festival, symposium and exhibition, the project has had significant local and national press coverage (See Owens 2018 and 2018, Hicks, 2017, Janes (2017, 2018), Carr (2016); radio coverage (Welsh Connections, 2017, The Owen Money Show, 2017, and The Ron Noble Show, 2018); an ITV feature (Griffiths, 2018), 3 keynote speeches, and two international conferences. As evidenced in Carr’s media work and Being Human Impact Video, the work has already had a clear impact on how the community of Merthyr Tydfil perceive the importance of popular music heritage.
Impact dateNov 2017Feb 2018
Category of impactCultural impacts
Impact levelIn progress