In Sept 2017 Learning Links International started exploring PhD possibilities to enable us to link with academics in our work.
To Huw Pryce, Professor of Welsh History, University of Bangor
Dear Prof Pryce
I am writing to start to explore how PhD Research projects are set up.
I am working with various groups interested in different aspects of Welsh History related to Black History. I developed a response to Black History Month here in North Wales, working with talented and specialist colleagues from Jamaica. Race Council Cymru now takes a lead across Wales for Black History Month.
One of the projects we are working on currently is with some of the direct descendants of Rev William Hughes, who established the African Institute in Colwyn Bay. Nan Hughes queried whether it would be possible to find a way to have a welsh speaking PhD student thoroughly research the story of the life and achievements of Rev William Hughes, with a view to publishing a bilingual book.
The book currently available was given the unfortunate title “Scandal at Congo House” which very much underplays Rev Hughes lifetime of achievements. Nan is Welsh speaking and feels that the book is written with an English perspective, lacking the perspective of Welsh cultural understanding of the issues, particularly in his upbringing. This project is gaining a good deal of attention from African historians, as the brightest and best were sent to stay in Colwyn Bay and many went back to have a significant impact in their countries.
The organisation that my colleagues and I set up in 2007, Learning Links International, is a social enterprise registered as a Community Interest Company. This was in response and to follow on from the many projects exploring issues around the abolition of slavery. Now we are working with local people and communities researching the shared histories of Wales with other parts of the world:
Through the Jamaica Wales Alliance project, we are exploring a range of historical and current links between Wales and Jamaica. Dr Jonathan Greenland, the Director of the Museum of Jamaica, is from Penarth, and is the project co-ordinator over there. We would love to see some joint projects working with academics and historians over there, with colleagues over here. The University of West Indies campus is called the “Mona Campus” - so as you can see you don't have to delve too deeply to find links, if you know about Wales! I have worked with the Pro Vice Chancellor, Prof Sir Hilary Beccles and I will be linking with him shortly to let him know what we are doing in terms of developing the Wales Jamaica Alliance.
We are currently looking at links with the community of Pennants in Jamaica, Dr Marian Gwyn is one of my colleagues who has visited Pennants and Denbigh in Jamaica with me.
We are involving spinners, weavers and dyers with the research we are doing about Welsh Plains or Negro Cloth, following up challenges set by Marian to engage the communities of Mid and North Wales in exploring the rise and fall of the woollen production required by the slave traders.
We are supporting the widow of Enrico Stennett, an ardent campaigner in race relations, to share the story of her husbands life in ways that inform and engage people today.
We have also explored links between Welsh and Jamaican poetry and this led to finding there is a need to research the establishment of Eisteddfod in countries colonised by the English and Welsh around the world. We intend to develop this, as the initial Arts Council phase revealed so much and engaged an interesting range of people including Ifor ap Glyn.
There are many fragmented stories about the many Black young people working in privileged homes in the 1700s and we are supporting research into the story of Jack Ystumllyn with support from th eBlack Boy Inn in Caernarfon.
…….. and we have identified a range of other interesting areas, including the Rev William Hughes project I refer to above. The life of Henry Morgan, the privateer, has been little researched and the stories told about Henry Morton Stanley come from very different perspectives. Sometimes obviously research has been done, but may not have been shared widely.
I spend a lot of time in Australia with my family and have identified a number of potential research areas there relating to Wales. I attended an academic conference on Family History research in communities and when I spoke, it was acknowledged that there has been little research into the Welsh experience and contribution in Australia. I have to say I don't know where to start on this one!
I hope that you are able to make some positive suggestions. The purpose of our research always has an end product in mind i.e. to tell the stories through poetry, story telling, display, film or theatre, but we realise we may benefit from having more academics input.
You may also know of students who have researched Black History topics that could be shared in a series of talks or presentations in the Black History programme. If you do, we would be interested to follow this up. We work closely with the African Caribbean Society, but I don't think any of the students come to Bangor to study History! However we have found that the African students are really interested in what we are doing.
I would be happy to meet with you, if it helps to progress this link further.
Liz Brant Millman
Learning Links International CIC