Veteran broadcaster to highlight betrayals of the people of Aberfan

2 September 2016

Lilly

The veteran broadcaster Vincent Kane will give a hard-hitting verdict on the Aberfan disaster at a conference to be held at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies on 8 September 2016 – a month before the 50th anniversary.

Kane, who reported on the 1966 disaster and its aftermath, will give a journalist’s judgement on those to blame for the fact that a colliery tip slid down a mountain and engulfed the primary school in Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil, killing 116 children and 28 adults – and on the way the community was treated afterwards.

He believes there was a conspiracy of silence before the disaster among those who knew there was a real danger that the tip could slide – including the Coal Board and the Mineworkers’ Union.

He will say: “With 50 years’ hindsight, how can we fail to conclude that the underlying cause was the intense pressure brought to bear on a frightened coal mining community by the policy of widespread and rapid pit closures implemented by the National Coal Board, supported by the National Union of Mineworkers and two governments, Conservative followed by Labour.”

But Kane will uncover another betrayal, in the wake of the disaster – by the media, of which he was a prominent member. Stories were published which painted the community in a bad light, especially in relation to the distribution of money from the Disaster Fund.

In the years following 1966, he says, a ‘general climate of opinion’ developed in which the surviving community were seen to be ‘the problem’. They were accused of being ‘awkward, greedy, grasping troublemakers’, when in truth, he says, they were the victims. He believes the wider media failed to expose the lies.

"The press, the media, the fourth estate, has an abiding responsibility to probe and to penetrate.  In the Aberfan period, perhaps Wales’s darkest hour in the 20th century, we should have been passionate in pursuit of the truth. Instead we were pedestrian."

Vincent Kane OBE, Welsh broadcaster and writer

Vincent Kane will be speaking at a one-day conference at Cardiff University’s Bute Building on Thursday 8 September entitled ‘Aberfan – Remembering, Forgetting & Moving On: A Discussion’. Other contributors include survivors of the disaster and journalists who have reported on the Aberfan story over the decades.

Tickets for the event are free but must be reserved here.

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