Corona pop man (photo: Alan George, oldmerthyrtydfil.com)
The ‘Welsh Hills Works’ or Thomas and Evans of Porth, were the Universal Providers of most essential grocery items, with its Corona Pops, Stone Ginger Beer, Lemonade and other beverages being known as “absolutely unequalled for purity and flavour” from the late 19th century into the middle/late 20th century. This vast business empire was affectionately known throughout the Rhondda Valleys simply as “T & E’s”or Terry Stores.
In this the 21st century the Welsh Hills Works can be defined as a diverse and creative multimedia organisation with community ideologies, providing a stepping stone for the creative industry and a social enterprise network. It promotes artwork through its workshops, provides workspace that can be used by local artists as well as professional photographers/artists in its Art in the Attic. In recent years it has held various televised popular music programmes plus the original S4C production of the Jonathan Davies Sports Programme entitled “Jonathan’.
All Art is Subjective, Right? was the question asked by a group of creative artists whose Exhibition “An Interpretation of Art” was presented from Monday, 30 October to Friday, November 17, in The Robert Maskrey Gallery at The Factory. The Gallery itself is situated on the top floor of the Factory, it is accessed by four flights of stairs – a stair lift is available – and as with all Art Exhibitions held at this venue, it is entitled Art in the Attic. The Gallery is open Mondays to Fridays from 10 am to 4 pm.
On Friday, 3 November an invite to view was given to all. It was a great exhibition combining all local art in contemporary forms. All artwork are PriceOnAsking (POA). Artists exhibiting were:
Barbara Castle, Jeff Rowlands, Gervaise James, Jane Fox, Rhys Burton, Eric Thomas, Dawn Hoban, David Hoban, Joanna Israel, David Roberts and Oneill Meredith.
From the glistening glassware, the ceramic houses, the in depth landscapes that you could almost walk into, combined with contemporary displays. The use of clay moulded into exquisite sculptures that made you think, the vast array of photographic views that took your breath away, comparable to the face that appeared almost to be alive, like an ancient Pharaoh or Poseidon emerging from the Ocean. It was an eye catching event that held everyone captive. It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, this Exhibition showed the magnificence of creativity within the locality.
The Gallery itself was crowded with many relatives, friends plus people who knew their ‘Andy Warhol’s’ from their child’s ‘artistic’ blobs. The atmosphere was alive with the colours of the rainbow as the bronze bust of Dylan Thomas (£3000) created by Oneill Meredith, greeted everyone on entry. It was seemingly apt that the bust was placed close to the table offering wines, fruit juice or water. Next to an array of food lay a book where you were invited to make known your comments about the Exhibition; you nibbled as you deliberated. The number of people attending up to the time of the private view had been upwards of 90 which showed the strength of interest and knowledge of a reflective audience in the work of the local artists.
My one query on the night was
How did they manage to get all the pieces up the four flights of stairs, safely and securely, to the Gallery.
The swift answer came from husband and wife artists Dawn and David Hoban
Dawn’s work shown was an accomplished collection of oils on the Fragility of Life and a series of Still Life in Brighter Colours, with her three Ceramic Collections entitled Progress with a Question Mark?. The assembly of which reinforced the Artist’s views of the history of the Rhondda Valleys and its people.
The Entertainment was provided by three musicians Gerhard, Phil and Rob, who, as they were all wearing hats, finally named themselves “MenInHats”.
The Gallery glittered, the audience as one provided compliments as families expressed the pride in their family members. The music played on well into the night.
William Evans (1864 – 1934) came to the Valleys a raw country lad from Pembrokeshire; he was a stranger to the heavy industrial changes that were affecting the area’s ancient industry of farming. It may be the tallest of the remaining existing buildings of Porth, (bearing on its turret side the title of Welsh Hills, the first brand name of the mineral waters produced by Williams Evans), as The Factory as it is now known is the heartbeat of the town. It throbs with life, as in a new era it rises with the development of the Rhondda Valleys.
Why not pop into the POP Factory Porth and see for yourself?