BBC Wales and the History of Wales

June 9, 2010
ATRiuM, Cardiff

In Spring 2010, BBC Wales issued a commissioning call for proposals for a new television series on the history of Wales. Hosted in partnership with the Centre for the Study of Media and Culture in Small Nations, this event drew together TV producers, commissioners, media scholars and historians from across Wales and the UK to debate the challenges faced in making such a landmark series

The invited audience heard from television director Colin Thomas, who created the groundbreaking Welsh history series The Dragon Has Two Toungues in the mid-1980s. Thomas discussed the importance of having two presentators – the Marxist historian Gwyn Alf Williams and the avuncular Wynford Vaughan Thomas – arguing over the story of Wales:

“The decision to go for two perspectives wasn’t simply a presentational device; it was also a way of ensuring that the series, whatever its weaknesses on the issue of gender, maintained throughout an awareness of the importance of class and social history,” Thomas explained.

Some of those discussing the challenge in 2010 believed a similar approach to Welsh history is still needed today. One historian summed it up: “Debate must be central – this is contested ground.” Many also argued that the new series should be presented by a professional historian.

A report on the roundtable discussion by James Stewart is available here.

Prof. Steve Blandford and Dr Ruth McElroy subsequently presented a conference paper analysing the series, Negotiating Imagined Communities: the making of a national TV history programme, Narratives and Social Memory Conference University of Minho, Portugal.