I spent every weekend in back in my home town of Merthyr Tydfil in my first year of university, because even 45 minutes down the road, I suffered with homesickness.
I can laugh at it now, but last year I really needed the reassurance of “I can always go home”. I’m much more settled in Cardiff now, but thanks to one of my Graphic Communication projects at Cardiff Met, I’ve been able to appreciate my home town in a whole new way.
Some people wince at the thought of being from the Valleys – it’s a part of the country that gets a lot of stick – but I couldn’t be prouder of where I’m from! My love for my hometown has only grown stronger the longer I’ve been away from it. Merthyr Tydfil can be an absolutely breath-taking place, you just need to be with the right people to notice it. I’m known to many friends of mine for talking non-stop about where I come from, its history, what it means to be from a mining town.
When I found out what my Field module for term two, ‘Psychogeography’, was all about I couldn’t be happier – it would explore the link between a person’s psychology and geography, or place. When I found out it would also involve a visit to the Valleys, including a trip to Merthyr, I was sold!
This already had me thinking of things I could I could make for submission. I sat on the bus, slightly more excited than everyone else I think. Not only was it a trip to explore parts of home that I’d never seen before, but it was also my time to prove to people that my hometown isn’t the sort of place where you wipe your feet on the way out. I started chatting to my friend and my lecturer about Merthyr and my life growing up there.
I spoke about where I went to school, the best places to visit, where the best walking trails are – if I could rave about it, I did. I discovered a lot about how I felt about my hometown on this trip, it’s like I knew I loved Merthyr, but I never knew why because nobody ever asked me.
I had my place, now I just needed to figure out how I was going to show my connection to it. This is where the English Literature A-Level I thought I would never ever use again came into play.
I spent a lot of my time writing poetry in sixth form – I was in a new school for the remaining two years of my high school career, and it terrified me. I coped with it by putting my feelings into poetry. This got the cogs turning again. Maybe I could write letters to special places in Merthyr Tydfil – and that’s how my project, Not Without You, was born!
To say it was a real labour of love was an understatement. I was in before 9am every day, and often stayed past 6. I gave this project my everything.
It was meant to be a small editorial piece finishing at 20 pages, but by the third week I was up to 54 pages, because I just couldn’t leave a place out; every nook and cranny of my hometown means something to me. By the fourth week I’d added 8 more!
Not Without You is a celebration of Merthyr Tydfil and the lovely people I’m surrounded by. It celebrates memories like going to school in Cyfarthfa Castle (pretty cool right?), to summer holidays spent sat on steps with friends until 10:00pm and then running home, to where my lovely boyfriend asked me out.
It’s also a celebration of life. When I was very young my gran passed away and I’d never really faced those feelings until this project. I was very young and didn’t quite understand grief and what it meant to lose someone, but I noticed her absence more and more as I grew up. I think above everything else, the way it helped me deal with these emotions is what really made me fall in love with the project.
When you read the word ‘explore’ in a brief or module title, you expect to be exploring skills and techniques. Instead of doing this, I had the opportunity to explore the last 20 years of my life. This project allowed me to process everything that’s happened over that period, both good and bad.
I’m hoping to stay in Cardiff after I graduate because I’m starting to fall in love with this city now too. Maybe, just maybe, there’ll be a Not Without You part two…