June 3, 2008
BBC Wales’ Coal House series first appeared in autumn 2007. Describing itself as ‘the reality of living in the past’, the programme saw three Welsh families ‘transported’ back to 1927 to experience day to day life in the south Wales coalfield. This symposium brought together academics and media professionals in dialogue to consider this piece of landmark television in advance of shooting beginning of the second series, to be set in the 1940s.
Symposium organisers Dr Ruth McElroy and Dr Peter Jachimiak said: “Following in the footsteps of earlier hybrid reality-history shows, most notably The 1900 House, The 1940s House and The Edwardian Country House, Coal House drew strong responses – both favourable and hostile – from viewers and scholars alike.
“Some critics saw the programme’s hybrid televisual form as an abandonment of the BBC’s public service values yet for others it was an instance of their fulfilment, particularly in its relationship to wider digital storytelling initiatives that have been fostered within BBC Wales particularly.”
The symposium provided a critical forum to debate Coal House in relation to our understanding of history, community, family and the home.
An edited critical dossier from the event appears in (2008) 'Coal House: Fictions of the Past on the Small Screen’, Critical Studies in Television, 3(2), pp.80-99.
Speakers included Professor Chris Williams (Swansea University and series historical consultant); Rachel Morgan and Paul Islwyn Thomas (Indus Films); Mandy Rose (BBC Wales); Professor Ann Gray (University of Lincoln); and Professor Tom O’Malley (Aberystwyth University).