7: The Making, Mapping and Mobilising in Merthyr project: young people, research and arts activisms in a post-industrial place

This chapter tells the story of a research-engagement project called Making, Mapping and Mobilising in Merthyr (otherwise known as the 4Ms project). The project explored young people’s sense of place and well-being while growing up in Merthyr Tydfil (hereafter referred to as Merthyr), a small post-industrial ex-mining and steel-making town in the South Wales Valleys. Once a hub of industrial activity and innovation, Merthyr has experienced a deep social rupture in recent years owing to deindustrialisation and the closure of ironworks, coal mines, and manufacturing industries that had served as cultural links underpinning the rhythms and rituals of Valleys life. The 4Ms project took place predominantly in a housing estate based on a design reputed to have been inspired in the 1950s by romantic Italian hilltop villages. The estate expanded in the 1970s, and by the 2000s, had become dilapidated and a place with high levels of unemployment. In a context of tightening austerity, this housing estate and the people living there have been subject to stigmatising media accounts fuelled by television’s ‘poverty porn’ industry and, at times, by local residents themselves. The ‘realities’ of poverty tend to be portrayed in popular media through no-hope narratives of despair.

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