Blue Books for the 21st Century

Rachel Trezise on MTV’s The Valleys


In Spring 2012 MTV UK released a press release: ‘MTV will be heading deep into the South Wales Valleys,’ it says, ‘to find a group of young people from areas such as Tonyrefail and Tonypandy to feature in its next non-scripted show. Plucked from the tranquillity of valley life, the cast will be given the opportunity to leave their hamlet towns and change their lives in the city of Cardiff. Over a six-week period, audiences will watch as the youngsters balance new job opportunities in a brand new city.’ Hamlet towns? Tranquility of valley life? Brand new city? It seems that someone had forgotten to tell MTV that trains and buses run frequently between Cardiff city and the surrounding valleys, (and that most young people take advantage of this on a daily basis).

‘The Valleys is Coming,’ proclaims the billboards.
‘The Valleys Are Here,’ retorts an online campaign against the series, its title taken from the Idris Davies poem, ‘A Carol for the Coalfield’.

MTV’s flagship reality series Geordie Shore, forerunner to The Valleys, attracted a similar campaign, one of its 30,000 supporters claiming the show promoted ‘dramatic squabbling, vicious gossiping, violence in public and drunk and disorderly conduct’. With the reputation of the south Wales Valleys at a drastically low ebb, its socio-economic problems and unemployment statistics well known, many people are concerned that the area is being stitched up by a cynical and heavily edited TV programme. And who could blame them when MTV’s gambit is so gauche and poorly researched? ‘Remember when you watch that MTV drivel,’ says Dave Jones on Twitter, ‘the valleys were the engine room of the industrial revolution and the birthplace of the NHS.’

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