aberfan disaster

SUNDAY 21st.OCTOBER 2018

52nd anniversary of the Aberfan Disaster

Detective Sargeant Charles Nunn, Welsh Regional Crime Squad, 1966, wrote in a story for The Police Review in 1987.  TheDisasterOfAberfan_CharlesNunn_ThePoliceReview_

Charles Nunn story

I would like to repost the story Charles wrote and other details he has so generously shared with me.  Charles first contacted me several years ago, offering his help in response to my inquiry at Old Merthyr Tydfil Forum.  I was doing research for my composition, Aberfan.

Taken from one of our email exchanges, he wrote:

“The team in the mortuary were composed entirely of Regional Crime Squad Officers drawn from all over Wales….We were tasked to set up a mortuary, and identify the 144 victims of the disaster. I was designated the Senior Identification Officer and worked with my team in the mortuary at Bethania Chapel in Moy Road, Aberfan for 15 days until the last body, and body piece, was identified.

Aberfan was a small village. No police station, no town hall, no gymnasium which was why we had to use the totally inadequate facilities of the Sunday school room at the rear of the chapel for receiving, washing the bodies etc. and the body of the chapel itself to place the bodies for viewing. Once a body had been identified and the cause of death recorded by a pathologist, without exception asphyxiation and multiple crush injuries, Death Certificates needed to be issued.

It now sounds very incongruous and bizarre but they were issued from a local land mark, the village fish and chip shop.

In my handwriting, a notice was placed on the door of the chapel directing families to that location.”

My composition Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  Contributions on behalf of Aberfan must be made payable to NYFA, and are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

 

Tragedy at Aberfan

“Tragedy is not deep and sharp if it can be shared with friends.”  Varlam Shalamov, The Kolyma Tales 

On October 21, 1966, in the small mining village of Aberfan, Wales, a man-made mountain of coal waste catastrophically collapsed on a primary school, killing 116 children and 28 adults.

How do you personally account for a violation of this kind except through one’s own soul?  What I believe, what I know to be true, is expressed in my music.

Aberfan is a sponsored compositional and media project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization. Contributions on behalf of Aberfan must be made payable to NYFA, and are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Photograph IC Rapoport, Aberfan, 1966

Rev. Colin Peter Bessant at Aberfan Disaster


A few days ago, Sophie-Ann Williams of North Wales contacted me.  She was hoping to find out more about her Grandfather, the late Reverend Colin Peter Bessant, who helped to dig those days of the Aberfan Disaster.  She sent along this photo of him which had been cut out of Life magazine.  Paula Bessant Williams, Sophie’s mother, said “My Dad never spoke about it without getting really upset. Just said it was the greed of man…”

If anyone has any information about him, please leave a reply at the bottom of this post and I will pass it along to Sophie-Ann and Paula.

On October 21, 1966, in the small mining village of Aberfan, Wales, a man-made mountain of coal waste catastrophically collapsed on a primary school, killing 116 children and 28 adults.  

A Tribunal investigating the 1966 events found that the National Coal Board was entirely responsible for failing to act to prevent the disaster, though they were never prosecuted.

My composition Aberfan (7 pianos, percussion, voice and tools of rescue) is part of a larger project, envisioned to be an immersive multimedia installation, using photographs taken by Life photojournalist IC Rapoport, with music at the center.  A sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), nonprofit, tax-exempt organization.  Contributions on behalf of Aberfan must be made payable to NYFA, and are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

How Have Mentors Affected Your Art?

ArtSake is a place to dig into the creative, innovative work of Massachusetts artists. It’s hosted by Massachusetts Cultural Council, the state’s agency supporting arts, humanities, and sciences.

Periodically, they pose questions to artists about issues they face in their work and lives. This month, they asked practitioners in a variety of disciplines, Have you had any important mentors? Who have they been, and how did they affect you?

I am honored to have been asked to answer this question.

Photo from the process of creating “Altered Interlude” in Laura Siersema’s ABERFAN.  

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Studio Walk

There is still time to make your year-end tax deductible donation!

Donate Now

For the past two days, we have been in the studio finishing the piano parts!  Here’s a little tour going from the control room to the piano room and back:

What a gift to be able to work!

Your contribution ensures the recording of Aberfan continues!  Please give what you can and tell two friends!

Aberfan is a sponsored project  of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All  donations are tax deductible.

Thank you!

Almost Halfway There!

In just a few days, $175 has come in!  Fantastic!  Join them with your tax deductible gift today.

A total of $8370 has been raised!  With gifts ranging from $10 to $2250, individuals, small non-profit foundations and institutions are helping us get closer to the recording of Aberfan being a reality!

$1630 more will get us halfway there!  Please give what you can and tell two friends!

Donate Now

Aberfan (7 pianos, percussion, voice and tools of rescue) is a sponsored project  of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All  donations are tax deductible.

Thank you!

Every Gift Matters

I am grateful to every listener and believer in this mission!

Your support is critical to the success of Aberfan.  For a project this large, every donation makes an impact!

Donate Now

$8220 has been raised!  With gifts ranging from $15 to $2250, individuals, non-profit foundations and institutions are helping to make the recording and presentation of Aberfan a reality!  Join them with your tax deductible gift today!

Aberfan (7 pianos, percussion, voice and tools of rescue)is a sponsored project  of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All  donations are tax deductible.

Why Art Matters: “Aberfan”

Art connects us not only to the symbolic life of the soul, bringing light to darkness, but to external events that caution us.  Art stretches our minds and hearts, eliciting change where we had not felt before.

Donate Now

Over this week, $515 has been contributed, raising the total to $8,195!  Fantastic!  Join them with your tax deductible gift today.

$11,805 more will enable us to complete the studio recording of Aberfan.

Aberfan (7 pianos, percussion, voice and tools of rescue) is a sponsored project  of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All  donations are tax deductible.

$7680 Raised for “Aberfan”

The end-of-the-year fundraiser continues.  It’s not too late to support Aberfan!

Donate Now

So far, individuals, institutions and non-profit foundations have contributed a total of $7,680. Join them with your tax deductible gift today.

$12,320 more will enable us to complete the recording, which is necessary for use in live performance and installation.  Express your support of independent creative art whose effect is to incite change.

In the words of one donor:  “This wonderful piece of music with its visual component has the ability to educate people about issues as large as the industrial rape of the landscape and the environment. We have visited parts of the country that have been ‘saved’ by fracking, and the people with jobs aren’t looking down the future at what they are doing to the earth.”  By addressing the visceral, personal experiences of the disaster, Aberfan investigates how art, together with technology, can be used for experiential healing, while implying the disaster’s universal relevance as an almost-forgotten humanitarian crime.  ACT NOW.

Give what you can and share this story with a friend. 

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All donations are tax deductible.

Cyber Monday / “Aberfan”

aberfanOn this “Cyber Monday”, as commercialism reaches its height for the year, please consider the value of creative art in your world.

What does the enduring artistic and social significance of a large creative work such as Aberfan mean to you?

Age-old issues of greed and power, bureaucratic indifference and the exploitation of people and nature as commodities, in combination with the intimate scale of this tragedy, resonate beyond time and place when captured in art.  What is this worth?

Please support Aberfan, a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All donations are tax-deductible.

Magnum photo by David Hurn.