Monday, January 18, 2010

The Cardiff Spectator

The Cardiff Spectator was a magazine that ran from 1960 to about 1977. It's a publication that fascinates me because it focuses on a stratum of south Wales society that otherwise, culturally, wasn't especially visible: the Welsh upper-middle classes.

This is all about posh people at play - a kind of Welsh Tatler. It reveals a totally different south Wales to the usual industrialised stereotypes that we have become used to. You’ll find no noble miners, steel workers, or sooty-faced street urchins, here. Instead society events are covered in depth: hunts in the Vale; fashion shows in Swansea; sherry evenings in Llantwit Major; charity balls at the City Hall, Cardiff.

When sport is featured it isn't football, rugby or boxing (far too proletarian!), but rather fox hunting, show jumping and lawn tennis. Luxury items are lavishly advertised: French perfumes, expensive cars, mink coats. There are profiles of Captains of Industry, wealthy merchants, and minor members of the landed gentry.

They also ran a regular feature on Welsh debutantes - daughters of the filthy rich who were about to enter into society or start a course at Oxbridge. Somehow these teenagers all managed to look and dress as if they were in their mid-forties: rigid hairdos, pearl necklaces. In places like Cowbridge it was like rock’n’roll had never happened.

The above advert (December 1961) is typical of the magazine. It is promoting The Princess Charm and Model School - reputedly Wales’s only fashion school - where young ladies could brush up on their deportment, fashion co-ordination, make-up and hairstyling. It was located in Swansea but might just as well have been in Surrey or Berkshire.

An essential element on the road to becoming posh, it would appear, was to thoroughly de-Welsh oneself. Students of a postcolonial persuasion could do a lot worse than flick through its pages for ammunition.