Welcome to Wales, I’m a Celebrity – please don’t make crap jokes about sheep and the Welsh language
Ifan Morgan Jones
ITV got off to a remarkably good start in bringing I’m a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here to Wales by making the announcement in both Welsh and English.
You would be surprised how few Welsh institutions send out bilingual press releases, so for ITV centrally to do this showed a promising level of respect towards the country.
It bodes well as the series relocates, due to Covid-19 restrictions, from a former banana plantation nearer New South Wales in Australia to Gwrych Castle in old north Wales.
Your crew is sure to get a very warm welcome. As our Culture Minister, Dafydd Elis-Thomas, pointed out this could be an excellent opportunity to show off what Wales has to offer to a large audience.
So, please ITV, don’t ruin it now! I’m sure that as your writers gather around the table and dust off their laptops to sketch out the bones of this Autumn’s new series, a few obvious jokes will present themselves.
These jokes will involve the unpronounceability of Welsh place names, the dangers of ‘backwards’ rural Welsh people, and lots of sexual promiscuity surrounding sheep.
First of all, Wales is a funny place and we do like telling jokes about ourselves. We have no problem with good, original gags, even if they are taking the piss a little bit.
There are also some jokes that are very tired and we’ve heard a million times, but are acceptable. Yes, it is a scientifically meteorological fact that it does rain a lot in the north of Wales.
Yes, although we will sigh and roll your eyes, you can say ‘What’s occurin’?’ and make jokes about Tom Jones. Hell, you’ve probably already lined Ruth Jones and Sir Tom up to appear on the show.
We do like our rugby, although there’s generally less interest in the north of Wales where you’re going to be filming.
That’s all fine. But the reality is that Wales’ portrayal on TV, especially national British television, is often quite abysmally bad to the point of being very demeaning.
The tired jokes are often not intelligent, funny or good-humoured – they’re done, as set out in this excellent article by Samuel Parry, in order to make the Welsh feel inferior.
So, please refrain from the following, if you can help it:
The Welsh language does not involve a lot of phlegm or spitting. Neither is it made up or does it involve mashing any keyboards.
It is also not dead. People do not just start speaking it when an Englishman walks in. There is no shortage of vowels in Welsh compared with English, because ‘w’ and ‘y’ also represent vowels.
The golden rule generally: Just because you can’t understand Welsh doesn’t mean that it isn’t a real language. No one can understand languages they don’t speak – that’s how they work.
Furthermore, Wales isn’t just one large empty, rural area dotted with a few castles here and there. Neither are the Welsh stupid, indolent and incompetent and need the English to civilise us.
Wales’ mountainous landscapes does mean that there is a lot of grazing land but, no, we don’t shag sheep.
There are some seaside holiday towns near Gwrych castle that have seen far better days, and this is a sad state of affairs, rather than something to make fun of.
If you can avoid those general areas you will be mostly on your way. Remember, Covid isn’t going anywhere so you may need to come back, so it’s a good idea not to annoy everyone on your first visit.
I don’t want to sound too defensive. Very often when we complain about these stereotypes we are told to get the chip off our shoulder.
But these jokes are just lazy and tiresome, on top of anything else. We have a multitude of good comics in Wales that regularly come up with good material about the country and its people.
These include Elis James, Tudur Owen, Rob Brydon, Rhod Gilbert, and the aforementioned Ruth Jones. If you do need a few Wales-related gags for Ant and Dec, hire them and you’ll be fine.
So please make yourself at home, and lets’ keep it ‘I’m a Celebrity… get me out of here!’ and not ‘I’m Wales… get me off I’m a Celebrity!’