Francesca Odell

Gilfach goch from The Valleys Project, 1985 © Francesca Odell
Gilfach goch from The Valleys Project, 1985 © Francesca Odell

Francesca Odell’s documentary focus was directed towards three communities – in Cyydach Vale, the Gurnos Estate, Merthyr and Gilfach Goch – that could be seen to channel the mainstream ethos of The Valleys’ experience. Gilfach is literally a dead end: an isolated township sandwiched between the Rhondda and Garw valleys where Odell shot pictures of her redoubtable family in their new ‘Garden Village’ setting. On the Gurnos estate, perched high above the Heads of the Valleys Road, she photographed on the doorstep of what was once the world’s iron making capital, and finally she photographed local children hanging about on the streets of Clydach Vale. Together, this portrait of three distinct but complimentary environments encapsulates the gritty determination, fierce pride and communal loyalty of its citizens while acknowledging that the future for the youth of the valleys remains, at best, uncertain and at worst, without much prospect of long term fulfillment.