After a painstaking 18-month wait for those of us who fall victim to the guilty pleasure of the Villa of Drama Love, Love Island finally returned to our screens last week.

No sooner had viewers ticked ‘I've got a text!’ and ‘My type on paper’ off of their Love Island Bingo cards, were we introduced to two new boys: Bucket hat entrepreneur Chuggs Wallis from Surrey, and our very own brick-layer Liam Reardon from Merthyr, although you wouldn’t know that from the official press release.

If you’re not a viewer of Love Island, there are two things you can guarantee to see each year – more muscles than a coastal town’s seafood market and a token Welsh contestant.

As an unashamedly long-term fan of the show, there is something that irks me each year when a Welsh contestant is announced in the press.

Whilst the press releases and media articles of English contestants list their hometowns or counties, Welsh cast members are routinely annouced as simply being ‘from Wales.

If you live in Wales, have visited Wales or watched any of the Euro 2020 campaign you will know that Wales is a country in itself. We have towns and counties and a variety of accents.

Being from Anglesey and being from Cardiff are two totally different kettles of fish, from the landscape to the people and even the language; and yet Wales continues to be blanketed as one place when talked about in mainstream media.

I imagine the assumption is that English viewers will not know where Merthyr Tydfil is, but I can’t say I’m all too clued up on the geographical locations of Hampshire and Northumberland myself.

This generalisation of a country that is home to over three million people is not only lazy but feeds into the narrative of ‘little’ Wales and the stereotypes that uphold them.

If English viewers are not familar of the counties and towns in Wales then perhaps the media can serve to educate them instead of erasing the identity of their cast members.

This lack of representation of Welsh towns and cities in the media has curated an idea of what it means to be ‘Welsh’ to those who live outside of the country.

As someone who grew up in Aberystywth – often described by my friends and I as the ‘land with no accent’ – I am religiously met with surprised faces and shocked comments when I tell people I am from Wales.


If I had a pound for every time I have heard the words ‘You don’t sound Welsh’ I would be able to buy the Love Island villa myself.

What people mean when they say that I don’t sound Welsh, is that I don’t sound like a character in Gavin and Stacey.

I have even been told that it is a shame that I don’t have a ‘Welsh’ accent for work purposes, because it would help me gain work in the media by those wanting to hire a Welsh person. I am not Welsh enough because I don’t fit into this contrived idea of what a Welsh person should sound like.

The South Wales accent is the only Welsh accent we hear represented in mainstream media, whether in reality TV shows or dramas such as The Tuckers, it lends itself to the working-class stereotype which has defined Wales for decades, ignoring the millions of people this doesn’t reflect.

When filming my BBC Three documentary When Nudes Are Stolen, I visited several places including Glasgow, Derby and Aberystwyth.

In the first edit of the film that I was shown, graphics identifying the locations flashed across the screen ‘LONDON’ ‘GLASGOW’ ‘DERBYSHIRE’ but when it came to the locations in Wales it simply said ‘WALES’.

I immediately provided feedback to the director that I wanted to make sure Aberystwyth and Cardiff were identified as two separate places, and not just Wales.

After all, an important part of the documentary reflected my childhood experiences in Aberystwyth and saw me revisit past trauma that had happened there.

In that moment this town was not just ‘Wales’ to me, it was emotion and pain, family and friendships; it was a part of my story and I wanted to represent it in it’s rawest and most authentic form. ‘Wales’ was not going to capture that.

Love Island Bombshell Liam is a Valleys boy through and through – he has proudly shared his desire for a tattoo of Tom Jones and his Instagram account is littered with videos of him climbing Pen-Y-Fan, exploring the Brecon Beacons and on top of Pen-Pych.

The media has done him a disservice by stripping him of this identity. Wales is home to a variety of people, places, language and culture and until we see more recognition and representation of the Wales we know in the mainstream media, we will continue to be looked down upon as little old Wales of three million people all the same.

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