(‘taken from Pete Telfers galleries on Culture Colony‘)
I was telling Geraint Jarman, from the television production company Criw Byw, that I’d applied for an Arts Council grant to follow Yr Anhrefn on their tour of Czechoslovakia. However, the grant had not come through and Anhrefn had already left the country, so it was another good idea that wasn’t going to happen. But, Geraint said that it was a very important development in Welsh language music and that there should be a record. He gave me some cash and a small Video 8 camera (the height of technology at the time) and off I went to Prague. I had phoned Nest, Rhys Mwyn of Yr Anhrefn’s wife, and she had given me a list of towns that Anhrefn were performing in. They had already played Prague and were a few days into the tour. I thought I’d catch them up in Brno, a large industrial town in the middle of Czechoslovakia. As Anhrefn were a band from the ‘West’ I thought that there would be a bit of a buzz in the towns they were performing in and I’d see posters telling me where concerts were taking place. I planned to meet them there.
I arrived in Brno at 2am – no posters, not even lights at the station! I quickly realised that I wasn’t going to see an Anhrefn concert poster after all. Under the single street light in the distance I could see the only taxi. I made my way over to him and, without a shared language to help us come to a joint decision about where we were going, we set off. After a while we started to leave the city and, as I was trying to work out how to communicate “lets turn round and go back into town” by twirling my index finger in the air and pointing it behind us several times, I noticed a minibus with ‘Wheels Van Hire – Bangor’ written on the side and a drum kit in the back. Thank goodness my finger twirling communication fell on deaf ears. As it turned out this was the only night that Anhrefn spent in a hotel – every other night on the tour they stayed in private houses with friends of the tour promoters – I would never have seen the van anywhere else. Me and the taxi driver banged on the door until we woke someone up. He booked me in and gave me keys to a room. As I walked up the stairs I could hear Welsh being spoken from Room 13. So at 3am I put my bags in my room and went back and knocked on the door to Room 13. Sion Sebon answered the door. I knew the two brothers Sion and Rhys, but I had never met the relatively new members of the band, the other two brothers, Sion and Gwyn (formerly of Maffia Mr. Huws). Sion Sebon didn’t say a word, his jaw dropped in his surprise to see me and he stepped back into the room. Gwyn Maffia was already in bed and exclaimed in Welsh “Whose this boy then?”, I turned to him and replied in Welsh “I’ve come to film Yr Anhrefn on tour through Czechoslovakia”. Gwyn, not expecting to meet another Welsh man for a while, thought it was fantastic that a Czech bloke could speak Welsh.
This photograph was taken during a really fantastic concert in Bratislava. As one of the very first ‘Western’ rock bands to play in Czechoslovakia after their so called ‘Velvet’ Revolution, Anhrefn were playing in front of huge crowds. This was the last concert that I attended on this tour – I flew back home from Vienna the following day. Going home wasn’t such an easy affair for the band on tour in their little van. Because Anhrefn were paid in Czech currency they couldn’t exchange it for a harder currency – that they could use outside of Czechoslovakia. Any ‘money’ Anhrefn made in Czechoslovakia was handed back to the Czech organisers so that they could promote more rock’n roll in their country. To pay for their tours in Eastern Europe, Anhrefn then had to do a gruelling French tour and did not arrive home for another month.
As Anhrefn drove me from Bratislava to Vienna for my flight we noticed a great deal of military activity with Austrian Army vehicles all over the place. It wasn’t until I got home and watched the news that I realised what was going on. Just over the border (and in Central Europe you are never far from a border) Yugoslavia had started to fall appart.
When Anhrefn got home and after all the costs had been covered, such as the van hire, they shared £40 between the four of them.
I went back to Criw Byw with the Video 8 tapes and we cut something together for Fideo 9. This was the first thing that I made for telly.
For me this photograph says all of this story and much more, it’s one of the best images I’ve ever made.