images Sebastian Bruno
Setting up an independent publication is always going to pit you against the odds. You have to be bloody minded to even try. We did this ourselves in Manchester back in the day with Flux. Being shielded by a strange, unruly mix of naivety and blind hope is a given.
Tony Flatman and Julian Meek really did step onto the edge when they launched The Abertillery and Ebbw Valleys Dynamic back in 2015. They published the newspaper from a house in Abertillery, a former mining town in the valleys of South West Wales. It was a heady blend of culture, politics, humour and agricultural news.
Their newspaper was launched into the most tumultuous period in British political life for a generation. We had the Brexit vote and the aftermath, Trump, the division. This area of Wales had already suffered economic decline and an identity crisis. The paper itself was a cultural success and loved by many but it was a financial disaster and campaigned to remain in Europe in the region which had the highest Leave vote in Wales.
Into this maelstrom stepped photographer Sebastian Bruno. He’d decided to become involved and so tracked down the two men behind the newspaper.
‘It was September 2015 and we had just arrived in Abertillery, a former mining town in the South Wales Valleys. It took precisely seven minutes to walk the length of the town centre. In those seven minutes, I counted four coffee shops: Hector’s Cozy Cafe, the Coffee Shop, Coffee Bean and Deja Brew, and the all-important ‘Chippy’.The other stores included a ubiquitous Gregg’s, Darth Vaper, Pawfection Pets and Karon’s fashion. And the town’s five pubs: the Rolling Mill, the Somerset Hotel, the Bear, Commercial and ‘Spoons’.
I first stepped into ‘Spoons on a Tuesday afternoon, and the place was buzzing, as it was ‘steak day’, £5.90 for a pint, steak and chips. I approached the bar. There were six people in front of me and only one person serving. Laying on the bar, was a copy of a newspaper that someone had used to mop the slops from an overflowing pint. ‘The Abertillery and Ebbw Valleys Dynamic: Your Free Local Paper’. It was unusual, to say the least. It was unclear where one article ended and another began, and I had never seen a publication with a column called ‘Sheep of the Week’, a mix of current political affairs and agriculture. I was gripped and started to ask around. Who was behind this quirky idea? The barmaid directed me to 17 High Street: “just ask for Julian, love!”.
Leaning against the window was a handmade sign ‘Dynamic Newspaper’. The office was unconventional. Inside, were two desks, two chairs, a stopped clock, and two filing cabinets. There were stacks of newspapers and on top of them an overflowing bin. Instant cappuccino sachets were littered around a kettle…and more newspapers. On the wall was a sign: “Everybody is welcome to this office. Some when they enter, others when they leave”
Dozing behind one of the desks, surrounded by heaps of crumpled notes, old cigarette butts and books was Julian Meek, the Editor in Chief. Sat at the opposite desk was Sports & Business Editor and financier Tony Flatman. Between the two of them, they had managed to write, publish and distribute a 16-page fortnightly newspaper, since 2015.
Once the introductions were over, with little hesitation, I announced: “I want to become the Dynamic’s photographer”’
The exhibition will include photographs, archive materials, film, a telephone for visitors to hear Julian, and a mock-up newspaper office, and the book will include an amalgam of articles from The Dynamic to immerse both visitors and readers in Tony and Julian’s universe. Bruno has worked on The Dynamic project from 2015-2022 and the exhibition and book are the culmination of these 7-years.
20 April – 2 July 2023 at the Martin Parr Foundation, Bristol
The book ‘The Dynamic’ by Sebastian Bruno is out now published by ICVL Studio