Croeso i Seedtime! Celebrating Home & Global Community

From left: After Coal director Tom Hansel, DOVE Workshop Coordinator Lesley Smith, Tanya Turner, Elizabeth Sanders, and DOVE Workshop staff at the former coal board office turned women's education hub in Banwen, Neath, July 2015.

This weekend we not only celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Seedtime on the Cumberland, we welcome (or croeso in Welsh) to Whitesburg, friends from very familiar looking communities in South Wales. Last summer my best friend Elizabeth and I had one of those rare, life-changing chances to visit another country, not as mere tourists, but as guests in the homes of musicians, artists, community leaders, and members of British Parliament. After days of travel on planes, trains, and buses from Whitesburg to Wales, we found ourselves rolling through hills that looked like home.

Our adventure took us to historical churches turned community theaters, kitchen tables filled with tea cups and Welsh cakes, and even an outdoor Welsh culture festival, Tafwyl, inside the walls of Cardiff Castle. Tafwyl featured food, art, amazing local musicians performing both traditional and modern Welsh music, and was free to everyone. Just like Seedtime! This was all possible for us because of After Coal, a feature length documentary and community engagement project, and the Chorus Foundation, committed to a ten-year funding commitment to east Kentucky to speed a just transition in our region. 

I was on a generous sabbatical from KFTC and Elizabeth took vacation from Appalshop. My first, hopefully not only, trip out of the U.S. couldn’t have been along side a more powerful, driven soul. You don’t just pack back Europe with any-ol-body! We hauled ourselves around for a week before meeting up with Tom Hansel, who picked us up in a tiny car and drove us through big valleys and tiny towns on the wrong side of the road. We spent the next week in awe of wind mills on old strip mines and people transforming their communities through music, art, theater, education, and organizing. We even found Whitesburg’s Welsh cousin, Merthyr Tydfil, where we danced with locals to live punk covers of Madonna songs.

Friday night at 7 p.m., After Coal creator Tom Hansel, Welsh singer/ songwriter Chris King, and Welsh artist/ educator Richard Davies will present a special Appalshop Theater screening of After Coal. “The documentary profiles inspiring individuals who are building a new future in the coalfields of eastern Kentucky and South Wales. Shot on location in neighboring Harlan County and the Dulais Valley of South Wales, After Coal introduces viewers to former miners using theater to rebuild community infrastructure, women transforming a former coal board office into an education hub, and young people striving to stay in their home communities.” 

Straight from the www.SeedtimeFestival.org website, a thing of beauty, ‘Seedtime’s goal is to be a mirror for mountain people and communities. To remind folks here of our cultural riches and traditions that make this region vibrant and always growing. Seedtime on the Cumberland brings the arts of the community to the community. By broadcasting this festival live on the airwaves of WMMT and on the internet at wmmt.org, we present ourselves to the entire world.’ The first weekend of June in Whitesburg is always my favorite and this year is looking to be even better than the last. Do treat yourself to the website’s full schedule and performer profiles.

Chris King grew up in Wales during the 1980s and the memory of the 1984 Welsh miner’s strike. Chris’ Grandfather, Bill King, was Secretary of The National Union of Miners Merthyr Tydfil Lodge at the time. He performs a mix of original and folk songs, and his song Salt Of The Earth revisits Chris’ memories of his grandfather during the 1984 miners’ strike. Welsh musicians Chis King and Nigel Jones grace the Seedtime Main Stage Saturday afternoon, following Letcher County legend Lee Sexton. Other local favorites like Brett Ratliff, Kevin Howard, and Sunrise Ridge take the Main Stage on Friday, starting around 5 p.m. Arrive early for first pick of creations under the big arts & craft tent.

On Saturday the old Boone Motor Building, across from Appalshop, will house the Annual Punk Show and flea market, as much a Seedtime staple as the Carcassonne Square Dance that same night. Regional treasures Sam Gleaves and Amythyst Kiah are returning by popular demand this year, and new Seedtime stars such as the Local Honeys, Price Sisters, and Jericho Woods are sure to give us all something to talk about into the summer.

When Elizabeth and I were hopping off our last train, to our plane home, a man saw us sling our backpacks onto our shoulders and asked “going anywhere nice?” She could have told him any number of unbelievable places we’d seen over the last two weeks of travel but she just said “home.” Because no matter how far you go from east Kentucky, there is nowhere quite like home. We’re so lucky for festivals like Seedtime and projects like After Coal that bridge our global community and celebrate home. Join us this weekend, June 3 & 4, to commemorate the 30th Seedtime on the Cumberland and welcome (or croeso) our neighbors from across the pond.