Last year I teamed up with photographer Stacy Kranitz and several other writers from the region to do a series on Appalachia for VICE focusing on the effects of the declining coal industry, the struggle against strip mining, the drug epidemic, the history and meaning of terms like redneck and hillbilly, and systemic problems with health care. The pieces just went live, including my piece on Remote Area Medical’s yearly mountaintop mash unit in southwest Virginia.
The studio is really humming these days as I prepare to launch TWO new projects this spring…
The Paint Creek Audio History Project is a geo-located series of radio stories featuring the voices of people who live on beautiful Paint Creek, WV. These ten stories became the basis of an audio driving tour delivered via mobile app, as well as a new website for the Paint Creek Scenic Trails Association. Look for info soon on a fun launch event we are planning for this spring!
And, finally, (FINALLY!), I released my hour long radio documentary, Cedar Grove. Drawing from the writing of Mary Lee Settle and a chorus of voices from her hometown of Cedar Grove, WV, I search for a viable future for my home during a time of deep transition. The project includes a beautiful website by Drew Tanner of Odd Boat Studio, featuring a photography collaboration with Roger May. Gibbs Kinderman is the executive producer, the editor is Ben Shapiro. Cedar Grove was co-produced by Allegheny Mountain Radio and West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and me. Air dates coming soon!
These projects would not have been possible without the financial support of The West Virginia Humanities Council, the National Coal Heritage Area Authority, the Fayette County Commission, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The room was wall-to-wall rednecks: dust-smudged coal miners, grandmas in flowery dresses, mussy-haired young punks, and old-timers in union ball caps. The red bandannas they wore around their necks spoke of a radical history you won’t read about in the average American history book. This colorful crew of about 500 souls had traveled from neighboring hollers and all over the country to mark the grand opening of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, which I helped launch last weekend in the coalfields of Appalachia. I wrote about it, and the potential for heritage tourism, in Yes! Magazine.