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Marking 50 years since the Aberfan disaster

27 July 2016

The Aberfan memorial garden
The Aberfan memorial garden now stands on the site of Pantglas School.

A conference at Cardiff University this September will reflect upon the immediate and continued impact of the media’s coverage of the 1966 Aberfan disaster.

The one-day conference will look at themes of remembering, forgetting and moving on in the media and in the community. It will hear from both survivors and journalists who witnessed the event.

The disaster occurred when a massive spoil-heap slid onto the mining village of Aberfan near Merthyr Tydfil, burying Pantglas Junior School in the valley below and killing 116 children and 28 adults.

This October will be the 50th Anniversary of the disaster.

The conference will look at the importance of remembering such events, including what the media remembers and what is, or should not be, forgotten.

James Stewart, one of those organising the conference, says: “One of our intentions is to raise the question as to why events like this are often 'forgotten' until another 'significant' anniversary (like this one) comes around. We will question whether it is time, particularly for the media, to 'forget' Aberfan and to leave the people and the story alone.

“Understandably there are strong opinions on this and we are delighted to welcome two survivors of the disaster who will share their personal views and experiences.”

One of those survivors is Gaynor Madgwick, whose recently published book 'Aberfan - A story of Survival, Love and Community in One of Britain's Worst Disasters' explores her need to move on from the disaster. In the book’s preface, she says: “This book will help me move on. My hope is that it will help others move on too.”

The day will also focus on how the media and community can move on, from a story dominated by disaster towards regeneration and renewal, and there will be insight as to the untold story of how the Press misreported from Aberfan in the wake of the disaster.


The conference will bring together survivors, media practitioners and academics such as photojournalist I. C. Rapoport, former journalists Elwyn Evans and Vincent Kane, who reported from Aberfan in 1966.

Aberfan survivors Gaynor Madgwick and Jeff Edwards will speak as will Melanie Doel who wrote a book to mark the 25th anniversary of the disaster.

The conference will also hear from Stephen Jukes, a former foreign correspondent and now a Director at the European DART Centre for Journalism & Trauma.

The conference, organised by James Stewart and Dr Janet Harris, will take place on Thursday, 8 September, at Cardiff University School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. Registration for the event is free and open to all.

Photo - "Aberfan 1" by Doug Scobie is licensed under CC BY 2.0