Huw Edwards on retelling the story of Wales

Monday 27 February 2012, 12:26

BBC Wales History BBC Wales History

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Huw Edwards spoke to BBC Wales History about why he wanted to be involved in the new history series, The Story of Wales, which starts tonight at 9pm on BBC One Wales.

When BBC Wales suggested my name for this series, it really was a dream come true. No self-respecting Welsh broadcaster would turn down such an offer. To bring the nation's story to life is a daunting challenge, to say the least. Great men have laboured in this field, and I enter it with respect.

The last major television history of Wales was The Dragon Has Two Tongues in the mid 1980s, when the great Gwyn Alf Williams and Wynford Vaughan-Thomas slugged it out in one of the best history series ever seen on British television.

The Dragon Has Two Tongues mesmerised viewers: each presenter vigorously promoted his own story of Wales, engaging in endless argument about people, places and events. They conveyed the volatility of that period: there was a palpable uncertainty about the very notion of Wales. The country seemed to be in flux, the political landscape dominated by the year-long miners' strike. Gwyn Alf and Wynford taught viewers that the best history provokes debate and encourages reflection.

huw edwards

Huw Edwards on location for The Story of Wales

We made this series, 26 years later, in a rather different climate. Wales is in many ways a new country, clearly energised and boasting its own government and law-making National Assembly. For the first time in the history of our nation, laws are being made by elected Welsh representatives in Wales for Wales.

So it was high time for us to re-tell the story of Wales for the 21st century.

Wales has a remarkable story to tell: we start our series on the rocky Gower coastline where an English clergyman made the first discovery of a human fossil anywhere in the world, and the oldest ceremonial burial discovered anywhere in Western Europe. We end our series in my home town, Llanelli, where we reflect on the rapidly-changing shape of Wales in the 21st century.

In between we criss-cross the country visiting places and times whose significance we try to explain in a lively and accessible fashion. I am endlessly fascinated by the dazzling growth and ambition of Victorian Wales. Our Victorian ancestors were remarkable people and we are still in their debt today.

Some of the locations were exceptionally thrilling. The site of Crawshay's immense iron furnaces in Merthyr is still impressive in scale and form. The sadness and tranquillity of Llyn Celyn in the early morning light was a very special experience. The ruins of Strata Florida Abbey near Pontrhydfendigaid offer a haunting glimpse of life in medieval Wales.

The vivid lunar-like landscape of Parys Mountain in Ynys Mon, with its old copper workings, is unforgettable. Dinefwr Castle, majestically sited above the Tywi, is probably my favourite castle in Wales. And who can resist the peace and beauty of St David's Cathedral, a prime site of Christian worship for the past 1,400 years?

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    Comment number 1.

    Just caught up with first show & absolutely loved it, great job, da iawn!; so proud of our history. Can anyone tell me where the waterfall is (section of the show where Huw talks about King Arthur and Merlin?).

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    Comment number 2.

    I want to thank everybody who has helped to make this wonderful series. I am thoroughly enjoying the story and I am really looking forward to the next chapter. I have learned so much already and it has made me eager to learn more. Our family spend every summer exploring Welsh castles and we are always looking for a clear explanation of their history. The Story Of Wales is the most enjoyable and exciting telling of our nation's past that has ever been told. Also, the camera work captures the breathtaking beauty of Wales idyllically. Thank you all.

    (I posted this on the wrong page earlier. Apologies for a repeat post)

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    Comment number 3.

    NatalieTH,

    Thanks for your positive comments. The fantastic waterfall featured in episode one of The Story of Wales is called Sgwd Yr Eira Falls (Fall of Snow), and is in Ystradfellte, Powys.

    Wales History

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    Comment number 4.

    is the series coming to dvd

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    Comment number 5.

    Although a well presented program some facts were misleading. Caractacus was not a Welshman but a leader of a either the Trinovantes or Cantuvellauni who came from the east of what is now England. Is this the Welsh version of Braveheart?

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    Comment number 6.

    Excellent Huw , I have only watched the 1st one and I find it really interesting. Got the right bloke to present which is always a plus ! Da Iawn !

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    Comment number 7.

    Excellent series Huw...when is it due to be shown on a UK wide channel? I think the Neil Oliver 'History of Scotland' series was shown on BBC 2 in England and given the average English person's woeful ignorance of Welsh history surely this merits similar treatment?

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    Comment number 8.

    To reiterate whats already been said, a great series that should be told UK wide. Will the series be issued on DVD, I hope so?

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    Comment number 9.

    Hi David,

    Thanks for your comment. We're hoping that The Story of Wales will be shown on network this year. Can't say when though.

    Wales History

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    Comment number 10.

    Fascinating series, beautifully produced, superbly written,presented and filmed. The BBC at its very best. Clear, informative,humourous and with excellent pace and level of detail. A remarkable story of a wonderful place.

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    Comment number 11.

    Very much looking forward to catching this evening's episode on iPlayer shortly, seeing as I'm over the border and can't receive direct. The story of Welsh coal had major impact on my family history, as it must have done to many. I've enjoyed the series to date.

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    Comment number 12.

    Just watched tonights programme - what a load of south Walian bias! No mention of Gresford or the huge losses in ne Wales or the real cost of slate and the demise of north Wales communities. Very disappointed with very poor research!

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    Comment number 13.

    Excellent series Huw. Why wasn't I taught this in school? I loved it and made me feel even more proud to be Welsh. When is this coming out on DVD?

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    Comment number 14.

    This is an excellent series. But I have one complaint...in a 6 hour series on the history of Wales, how come there is not room for the Welsh revival in 1904 ?. This affected the world; let alone Wales !. How come there was not even a mention of Evan Roberts ?. Families and towns were changed by this. Surely this is part of the nations history ?. We still sing "bread of heaven" at the rugby !. Are we so concerned about not offending non-Christians ?. Despite this criticism, it's still a great series.

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    Comment number 15.

    A great but too quick review of the history. I met John Gower the writer of The Story of Wales and then read the book. Unfortunately TV always soundbites the deep and meaningful. So start again or make a Wels Downton Abbey. I suggest David Edwards book, The Ebb & Flow. Historical, scenic, Georgian, dangerous and enticing.

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    Comment number 16.

    I belong to a South Wales mining forum, where the series has brought some comment about the factual mining history to say the least, you may wish to see it; http://www.welshcoalmines.co.uk/forum/read.php?14,44559,page=2

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    Comment number 17.

    An excellent series, just seen in England on the iPlayer. But I was both puzzled and surprised at the portrayal of the importance of sea-links with other Celtic countries as new information, with an interview with a professor to emphasise the point, the new outlook. Professor E.G. Bowen's long-standing "Saints Seaways and Settlements in the Celtic Lands" is a classic work on this very topic, presented in a vivid way through well-researched maps which would lend themselves to an excellent presentation on television. Are presenters and scholars not aware of the extensive, exciting, research carried out by Professor Bowen of The University of Wales, Aberystwyth, in this very field?
    Please bring out a DVD!

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    Comment number 18.

    Very interesting and watch-able series. But why the obsessive use of the present tense in all the narrative to describe historical events? I find this distracting and irritating trait all too prevalent in recent programmes and the way in which many historians seem to talk. Is it all part of dumbing down to make history more engaging to the masses? Or is it the American influence? Either way, I think it's unnecessary.

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    Comment number 19.

    As an expat living amongst the heathen English for 25 years I really enjoyed this series Hugh was great-good to see him outside the newsroom! Lets have more of his patriotic documentaries.

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    Comment number 20.

    Great Series. There is so much scope for a follow on about unknown Welshmen. How about Timothy Richard who established the first western university in Cina - still going strong- established the world's first international famine relief organisation, introduced modern medical practises to China & tried to establish the industrial revolution there in the 1860's. Huw can get all the info he needs from the book titled "Tim China"

 

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