Robeson in Song! The Proud Valley returns to Welsh cinemas

For immediate release

Monday 17 October, Wales (

As part of the British Film Institute’s BLACK STAR season – the UK’s biggest ever celebration of black screen actors - Film Hub Wales, together with venues across Welsh communities, are preparing for an immersive tour of remastered 1940s classic, The Proud Valley.

The tour will celebrate American actor, bass singer and Civil Rights activist Paul Robeson and the film, The Proud Valley, which was filmed on location in the Rhondda Valley coalfields.

The film tells the story of David Goliath, played by Robeson, who has sailed to Cardiff to find work. On discovering his voice, he joins the local male voice choir, finds work with the Blaendy miners and is is adopted by the community. It was extremely rare for a black character to be presented as kind, generous and good natured in the 1930s and 1940s, when cinema audiences were used to seeing Stepin Fetchit playing the fool in American comedies.

The film enabled Robeson to express his socialist beliefs and portray the struggles of Wales’ working class.

The screenings launch with newly remastered material at Chapter Cardiff, on Sunday 13th November and will be accompanied by a performance from Treorchy Male Choir. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion, exploring Robeson’s impact on Welsh life, politics and BAME communities.

Hana Lewis, Manager of Film Hub Wales, one of the BFI’s nine UK Film Audience Network hubs explains:

“There are some incredible stories to be told about Paul Robeson’s connections to Wales, particularly the 1957 Porthcawl Eisteddfod, which now offer us such a special opportunity to celebrate our cultural heritage through BLACK STAR. Venues across Wales, including in the heart of the main coal mining region, have the chance to explore the role he played in the civil rights movement across their local communities. Audiences will have a chance to see unique choral performances alongside the film, in spectacular settings, from art deco auditoriums to regenerated miners’ halls. We’re looking forward to celebrating the wider work of talented black filmmakers and actors. There’s so much on offer throughout the season.”

Full listings across Wales include:

Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff

Phoenix Community Cinema and Theatre

Ton Pentre started life as the Ocean Collieries, Maindy & Eastern Workman’s library and Institute in 1895 before the Workman’s Hall was attached in 1904. Due to the local mine closures the hall fell into decline in the 1940s and although films were shown until 1971, it was only in 2012 that the cinema was renovated with a digital projector. The team will be relaunching their cinema programme with a perfectly themed screening of The Proud Valley on Monday 5 December, with plans for a string of Welsh films to follow.

Pontio, Bangor 

Pontio's screening (Friday 2 December 5.30pm) features an introduction and appreciation of this extraordinary man and his unique legacy by the Welsh singer and politician Dafydd Iwan, who claims Robeson as one of his lifelong inspirations.

Newbridge Memorial Hall, Caerphilly

Once known as Celynen Collieries Institute & Memorial, the Institute building which opened in 1908 is a lasting monument to the miners who worked so hard to build it and the Memorial Hall built in 1924 serves as a memorial to the local servicemen who lost their lives during World War One. Recently refurbished the Art Deco auditorium reopened its doors in November 2014, filling the space with music and theatre once again.  The Proud Valley is set to screen on Sunday 11th December (date tbc).

Further screenings of The Proud Valley will also take place at The Welfare, a community venue serving the former mining community of Ystradgynlais and The Gwyn Hall, Neath on Saturday 26th November (date tbc), home to one of the major coal port and commercial centres of the 19th century.

Ben Luxford, Head of UK Wide Audiences, BFI said: “It’s fantastic to see FAN’s ambition growing year after year, and this collaboration with the BFI on the UK’s biggest-ever celebration of Black screen acting talent promises a real treat for audiences. Not only is it timely and important, it’ll also be fun and accessible, mixing traditional cinema screenings with house party weekenders in Bristol, a screening of Car Wash in a Sheffield Car Wash, a trip to jail with Richard Prior in Belfast and of course the Paul Robeson celebrations planned across Wales. We’re eager to get going and bring BLACK STAR to new audiences all over the UK, giving them the chance to watch some classics and seek out many new discoveries.”

BLACK STAR champions the achievements of black stars from the earliest years of cinema through to the present day, whilst exploring why opportunities to shine on screen have been historically limited for black actors. Black Star celebrates films that feature black actors in central roles, bringing their work to a new generation of UK audiences and helping to reposition them and their performances in our collective memory.

BLACK STAR will be available to audiences everywhere in the UK; in cinemas, on BBC Television, on DVD/Blu-ray and online via BFI Player from 17 October – 31 December, with further projects planned to celebrate the contribution of black practitioners working across film and TV in the coming years.

Venue websites

Chapter -

Pontio, Bangor -

Newbridge Memo -

The Welfare -

Gwyn Hall  

For more information about the project visit: BFI BLACK STAR project