People of the Black Mountains

People of the Black Mountains by Raymond Williams 

Introduced by Diana Heeks

Literature has influenced and engaged me since childhood, and Raymond Williams’ unfinished novel, People of the Black Mountains, evokes feelings which I have an almost visceral need to explore in paint.

The Black Mountains is a cluster of steep-sided parallel ridges east of the Brecon Beacons, mainly in Wales but partly across the English border. In two volumes this book tells a series of linked stories about the history of the area, from Neolithic times until the Norman invasion, encompassing a grand sweep across thousands of years and tens of generations, offering both a bird’s-eye view and ground-level intimacy.

For many years I have read and reread this novel. Its qualities of imagination and humanity, and its sense of the influence of place, attracted me as a painter from the outset, especially as the location has long been a favourite. The stories and evoked imagery have accompanied me whilst working plein air and on walks and explorations in the actual locations and landscapes of the book. I want to attempt an equivalent in oils on canvas.


Artist Diana Heeks, based in Llanrhystud, West Wales, is working on a projects in the Black Mountains inspired by Raymond Williams’ People of the Black Mountains. The project is funded by a grant from Arts Council of WalesPEAK from Arts Alive Wales is a project partner, supporting Diana through artist mentoring and promotion.

To follow Diana’s artistic response to this book, go to:

Photos below from Open Studio with Diana Heeks, October 2015.

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