Calling all libraries…

…but especially radical and community libraries in more deprived areas

Hi! I’m Myfanwy Tristram. I’m a comic artist and I’m currently in the process of creating The Noisy Valley, a full-length graphic novel depicting real-life stories of protest from the Rhondda Valleys in Wales.

Cover of the Noisy Valley by Myfanwy Tristram

If you’re a library, especially a community-run library in a more deprived area of the country, and if you’d be interested in receiving one or more copies of this book, at no cost at all, please fill in this form.

I am in the process of applying for Arts Council funding, part of which will cover the costs of donating the finished book to libraries. Why? I’ll cover that in a minute, but for now, here’s a bit about where the project came about.

What is the Noisy Valley?

In the summer of 2022, I was invited to exhibit the images of protest that I’d drawn when creating my book Sorry For The Inconvenience, We Are Trying To Save The World.

The invitation came from The Workers, a remarkable gallery in the heart of the Rhondda Valley. They’re a beacon of culture in a severely deprived area that had been stripped of most public funding.

They operate out of what used to be the local library – one of 14 that was closed down due to austerity cuts. And as well as being a gallery, they’re also a library, a champion of graphic novels, a meeting place, a warm space and a shop for the village of Ynyshir.

Prior to visiting Rhondda, I was fairly ignorant of its history – to be honest, even its existence, really. I thought it would be nice to collect stories of protest from local people and gather them together into a quick zine, to accompany the exhibition.

Protesters outside a library by Myfanwy Tristram

Well – if you know more about the Rhondda than I do, you’ll realise that there aren’t just a few stories of protest to be told in that area: there are thousands, perhaps millions. I should think there isn’t a person in the area who hasn’t got either memories or direct experience of protest.

Comic showing a protester locking herself to a gate with a D-lock round the neck, by Myfanwy Tristram

It’s the region where the most militant miners’ strikes happened; it’s where the Greenham Common peace camp emanated from; and time after time, the lovely green hills and valleys have been desecrated with the polluting infrastructure the rest of the country doesn’t want on their doorstep – which is always met with defiant resistance.

A councillor tells the story of polluted water - in a comic strip by Myfanwy Tristram

In short, the people of the Rhondda all have at least one story of protest. I came away with enough not just for a zine, but for a full length book. And they’re fascinating, too. Of course, the story of the miners’ strikes have been told many times before, but now here I was talking to people who were kids at a time when their parents had no wages coming in and the community had to come together. Folk who can now see the strikes in the context of today’s protests as well, against austerity, or for climate action and a fairer world.

There’s plenty more detail too, from the councillor who waited ’til TV broadcasts stopped for the night after the National Anthem was played and then jammed the airwaves with his pirate radio; to the photographer who recorded the anti-Vietnam and Aldermaston marches of the 60s and 70s.

Marches against hospital closures, roadblocks against pollution-causing landfill sites and folk music against processing plants – it’s all here. Or at least, it will be once I’ve finished drawing it.

I want to get these books to the communities that will find them most useful

So that’s the background behind the book – now where do you come in?

When applying for Arts Council funding, an important consideration is how the work will be shared with audiences. Quite understandably, they don’t want to be funding art work that no-one will ever see.

Libraries, of course, enable tens, sometimes hundreds of people to read a single volume. They are a very efficient way of spreading the benefits of a book.

So that’s one thing. The reason that I want to concentrate on radical and grassroots libraries, and libraries where the community has taken over the running of them, and especially in areas that are deprived or more impoverished, is that these are the communities that moist need to be shown the value of protest.

Stories like these, I hope, will encourage people to see that they don’t just have to take the status quo lying down. There are always ways to have your voice heard, to push back, and to get things changed.

That the Workers itself was born from protesting library closures makes this seem particularly apt, as well. As it happens, their protests were unsuccessful in keeping the libraires across the region open, but they do still operate a small lending scheme so that Ynyshir hasn’t lost its book borrowing facilities altogether.

Now the bit about free book/s for you!

I hope that explains the project adequately – and that you’re excited to be part of this project. If so, please fill in this form. If you add a few enthusiastic words, these will help greatly with my Arts Council application. Thank you!

A note about regions

As you have seen, this project was conceived in South Wales.

However, despite my intensely Welsh name, I’m not Welsh, nor do I live in Wales. That’s why I’m applying for Arts Council England funding: I’m not eligible for support from Arts Council Wales.

Meanwhile, Arts Council England only fund work for English audiences, so I’m really looking for libraries in England at the moment. However, I’d also love the book to go to Welsh (and Scottish and Irish) libraries too, and schools, and I’ll be looking for other avenues of funding to make that happen.

So, if you’re a library in an area outside England, please do still fill in the form and even if I can’t immediately send you a copy, I’ll try and make it happen in time.