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Proper Welsh

By Stephanie Roberts
October 2007, Maesteg
A digital story from Capture Wales

"You are the Welshest person I've ever met." (Sound of a heavy stamp.) I wasn't sitting there in a big black hat, waving my leek and calling everyone "boyo" or "butt". So I just smiled - because, after all, I am Welsh.

But how Welsh am I? I don't have a weird obsession with sheep; I gave up the harp to play the trumpet and I've never thrown my knickers at Tom Jones.

I can't measure my Welsh-ness. But other people try to do this for me. At home, in Maesteg, I'm definitely Welsh. I was born and bred in the Llynfi Valley, I speak Welsh and I've got a father called Dai who worked down the pits.

In Canada, I was beyond Welsh. I'd get wheeled out for people to laugh at my funny accent, and even funnier language - "Go on Steph, say something Welsh..... My aunty Blodwen's from Wales, do you know her?"

But at university in Aberystwyth, I wasn't Welsh enough. While the "proper" Welsh were in the streets smearing slogans over the walls and spitting at the English, I was in the pub smearing ketchup on my chips and dribbling over a pint.

So, how Welsh am I? I don't bloody know. Does it even matter? Ah well, I'll just put on my special thinking cap and see if the answer's at the bottom of my pint. You up for that, butt?"

Please tell us a little about yourself.

Some people would describe me as "that slightly crazy Welsh girl", while to others I'm shy and studious. In reality I'm probably both. I'm a creative person and Art, Music and Literature rank highly on my list of passions. I'm also a bit of a perfectionist which can get tedious both for myself and the people around me!

What's your story about?

It's a mini-rant about the whole idea that Welsh-ness is something that can be measured, and that how Welsh you are changes depending on where you are and who you're with. It's a humorous take on the notion of identity and nationality, illustrated by anecdotes from my own personal experience.

Why did you choose to tell this particular story?

It's an idea I've been thinking about a lot since moving away from home. I've lived in a few different places and in each place I've had a different sense of how Welsh I am. This is often forced onto me by the people I'm surrounded by - they seem to decide how Welsh I am, not me! I think that this a story that will resonate with many people, as the issues surrounding how we define our national identity affects us all.

What did you dinf most rewarding about the workshop?

The whole experience was hugely rewarding, but I especially enjoyed being able to share stories with a group of people I'd probably never have met otherwise. Even though we were working on individual stories, it really felt as though we were discovering things as a group and going on a journey together. The welsh cakes at break time were also fantastic!

Your comments

"Fair play that was good :)" Chris Slater from Wrexham, Jun 2009.

"Brilliantly crafted piece-got your point across superbly. As an exiled welsh speaker I`m forever questioning my "welshness" and there have been times when I`ve felt on the periphery of culturally fanatic Welsh people (i.e.eisteddfodau, etc)." Rob Vaughan, Suffolk, May 2009.

"I like how you addressed an issue you have been experiencing all your life with a sense of humour. The narration was funny and easy to understand and the music in the middle was nice and funky. I can identify with this story because it seems like all of us are judged in some way whether it's our ethnic background, appearance or financial status." Lori Rieger-Mackenzie, Chatham, Ontario, Canada, Oct 2008.

"I loved this, Steff. Typical you - young and full of fun. I can't believe I'm the first to comment on such a fantastic piece of work. You must have had great fun doing this. You are, I think, very Welsh. I love it in choir when I can ask your advice when using Welsh words, because that's the difference with us, Steff, even though I'm 50 and have lived in Wales most of my life, I still can not speak welsh. So how lucky am I to have you sitting there behind me, helping not only with Welsh but also with music. Clever girl (sorry clever WELSH girl). Ha ha xx" Kerry Joshua, Port Talbot, Jun 2008.

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