Youngsters rediscover Port Talbot through Richard Burton’s teen diaries

Richard Burton’s teen diaries Credit: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University
Up to 80 young people are about to look at their local area through the eyes of one of the world’s most iconic film stars, thanks to a new project supported by National Lottery players.

Hailing from the industrial town of Port Talbot in South Wales, that also gave us other prominent acting figures Anthony Hopkins and Michael Sheen, former Hollywood heartthrob Richard Burton is famed for his acting career and a love life rarely out of the spotlight. But it may come as a surprise that he was also a prolific diarist, penning his private thoughts from the age of 14.

Now, other young people growing up in modern day Port Talbot are using his extensive diary collection to uncover the social history of the town and its inhabitants from the 1930s to the present day.

Delving through the star’s writing, the £34,000 Burton @ 14 project volunteers will find out what it was like to grow up in Port Talbot and see how different – or not – the issues facing a young Burton were from those experienced by today’s local youngsters.

Young people in Port Talbot are using his extensive diary collection to uncover the social history of the town and its inhabitants from the 1930s to the present day.

Life was turbulent for the young Burton, who collected and sold dung from a nearby hillside to earn enough to visit the cinema he loved. Yet after showing promise in school and with a capable mentor, Burton went on to achieve worldwide fame and fortune, enough to buy the world’s most expensive diamond in 1969 for his film star wife, Elizabeth Taylor.

Thanks to National Lottery players, young people will create a lasting resource pack for the community, utilising training in video recording, oral history, archiving and digital skills to re-tell the town’s story, with the project culminating in a series of events to share and showcase their findings.

Neath Port Talbot is one of HLF’s priority areas in Wales. If you want to find out more about how HLF can help get your idea off the ground, contact the Wales team via email or on tel: 029 2034 3413.

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