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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 July 2007, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Families vie for miners' TV show
Coal House
The men had to carry coal sacks during one task
Families keen to be chosen for a historical reality TV show have been carrying coal sacks, dissecting animal organs and tackling assault courses.

Three families will be selected to appear in the Coal House series, which will send people back in time to taste life in a 1927 south Wales mining town.

Producers invited 12 families to a series of selection activities at an army camp near Abergavenny.

More than 150 families applied for the series, which will air later this year.

Each short-listed family was tested on initiative, stamina and team-working, as well as undergoing psychological tests to find out how they might cope with the stresses of living in a small mining community in Blaenavon.

The activities at Cwrt-y-Gollen army camp started with a group attempt at singing, before the men were set tasks including a wood-chopping race and a swamp command exercise using heavy sacks of coal.

Meanwhile, the women were asked to run over an assault course while carrying buckets of water and tackle the butchery skills needed to separate a sheep's liver, heart and lungs to make faggots under the guidance of a local butcher.

Sarah Mayo, a 39-year-old psychologist from Caerleon and a vegetarian for 24 years, said the raw meat had not put her off the programme.

Coal House
The women were asked to cook using sheep's liver, heart and lungs

"Normally I'd only handle ready-prepared meat like chicken nuggets, but I decided to have a go because if we get through I'll have no choice about it," she said.

The mother-of-four, who carried out the water carrying challenge with her 15-month-old son Reuben in a carrier on her back, said everyone was "having a wonderful time".

"My eight-year-old daughter Florence persuaded us to apply for Coal House because she thinks it'll be a family adventure we'll never forget."

During the programme, men and boys over 14 will be sent down to work on a simulated coalface at Big Pit in Blaenavon, while the women will have to adopt the role of "traditional housewives" in the tiny cottages.

The reasons the applicants gave for wanting to be part of the programme ranged from wanting a better understanding of their own mining heritage and family history to the novelty of spending time together without the technological trappings of modern life.

Programme makers said they would now be reviewing the footage recorded on Saturday and would be choosing the families for the show.

'Unique experience'

Executive producer Paul Islwyn Thomas said the day had been "an incredible, unique experience for the families".

"Everyone here has brought incredible enthusiasm and spirit to taking part," he said.

"Coal House is one of the most ambitious projects that BBC Wales has ever attempted, and its success will be built on the families themselves."

The series, which will be filmed in October and November, is being made for BBC Wales by Cardiff company Indus Films.

"We're not washing for three weeks."

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