Books Magazine

An Interview With Welsh Writer Philippa Davies - Author of 'The Gritties'

By Americymru @americymru

the gritties by philippa davies front cover detailAmeriCymru spoke recently to Philippa Davies about her new book 'The Gritties'.
"The Gritties is a novel about the 1984/85 miners strike in South Wales, focussing on a group of women who run a soup kitchen.
It is about survival, sex, ambition and a fight to preserve community – even though the jobs involved are some of the most dangerous in the world.
Caught in the crossfire between Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and miners’ leader, Arthur Scargill, the volatile situation allowed careerist politicians and journalists to thrive, while idealists saw their lives destroyed."...more HERE
AmeriCymru: Many thanks for agreeing to talk to AmeriCymru. Can you tell us what your new book, 'The Gritties' is about?
Philippa: Here’s the book video trailer made by Owen, my 17 year old son: -

The Gritties Trailer 2 from Owen Davies on Vimeo.
The Gritties is about a group of miners’ wives in the 1984/85 strike, and specifically Carys, the ambitious daughter of a mining family.  She is about to sit her A-levels and hopes to go to London University.
The book is about power, sex, aspiration – and how politics affect lives of we small people.
Aled, Carys’s  father works in the winding towers at Sylen Colliery and her mother, Gwen, does a bit of bookkeeping.  They are both radicalized and changed dramatically by the roles they play in the strike –and the influence of the charismatic strike leader, Gwyn Price.
He is a man struggling with his personal morality – and when it comes to the feisty and beautiful Carys, his morality collapses.
The women of the village set up a soup kitchen, they  get nicknamed ‘The Gritties’ and come up with all sorts of inventive fund raising ideas. Going to London to a rally, they get shamed and humiliated by yuppies on the Kings Road.  But they fight to the bitter end for their cause and are all individually transformed by this.
I bring the story up to 2009, where the fate of the characters reflects their pragmatism and self-determination – and we see how a bigger power play can blast a community apart.AmeriCymru: How did you become involved with the 1985 miners strike?Philippa: My mother was very left-wing and rather than ‘Family Circle’ we got ‘Soviet Woman’ every month, when I was a teenager. But during the 1980s I lived in London much of the time, traveling back and fro to Wales, and was struck by how different the two worlds were. I wanted to write a book about the women in the miners’ strike for a long time, because I felt their story and contribution deserved an airing. Many people talked to me about their role in the strike for which I am extremely grateful , and I learnt that even today scabbing ex-miners are still banned from local pubs in some old pit villages. Memories of that time are still very vivid for many people in Wales, and understandably, emotive.I set the book in an imaginary place, Aberelli, but it  very closely resembles  Kidwelly, with its Norman castle, estuary and mixed economy of industry, agriculture and white collar jobs. My Aunty Beryl and Uncle Gwynfor used to keep a tiny pub, the Boot and Shoe there, just before the castle, and this is an important location in the book.  It’s also quite ‘Wenglish’ in character – people speak a mixture of Welsh and English colloquially, which I love. There was a huge and heavily invested-in pit at Cynheidre near Kidwelly. Today , no trace of it remains. Quite wonderfully though, there is an e-book festival near Kidwelly at the end of the July ( a first for Wales and possibly the UK) and I’m thrilled to be talking at this.
AmeriCymru: How significant was the strike in the history of the South Wales mining communities?Philippa: It was of massive import, marking the end eventually of much mining employment, though there are still some private pits in Wales. Tower Colliery was bought by the miners there, and ran successfully afterward as a cooperative.  On all sides, there seemed to be a lack of understanding that power was becoming a global resource, subject to market forces – and that the UK’s power resources required strong government strategy. The battle between Arthur Scargill and Margaret Thatcher became highly personalized - she was smarter - and it gets described in the book as between ‘a donkey and a she-devil’.
AmeriCymru: Where can one go online to purchase copies of 'The Gritties'?Philippa: You can get it at here:   and here:
AmeriCymru: What's next for Philippa Davies?Philippa: Immediately I am trying to become an expert on online book marketing – and thank you for the boost with this…  With two US businesses as clients, Merck and GE,  my day job as a business psychologist is described here: and I also run a teaching site here Someone has asked me to get involved in hyperlocal news sites in Wales and that is very appealing.The book site is here:
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?Philippa: First of all, congratulations on giving Welsh people an opportunity to connect like this, and blazing a trail for us online..But I also think there are great opportunities ahead for what might be called the ‘Welsh psyche’.  Pretty soon, if they do not already exist, jobs like ‘head of community’ ‘ online engagement manager’ will be come more and more important. We Welsh have community in our DNA. And with the skepticism there is about corporate greed, especially in the banking sector, alternative forms of business like co-operatives and social enterprise could be increasingly important in the future.  We should get innovating and co-operating… and sites like this one can help so much.
Interview by Ceri Shaw 

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog