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South Wales Evening Post column, April 26, 2024

Robert Lloyd PR, Media and Marketing Consultancy News, Newspaper columns South Wales Evening Post column, April 26, 2024

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South Wales Evening Post column, April 26, 2024

Posted By RobertLloyd58

IT’S the one problem issue all of us (no matter what our political persuasion) can agree on: our town and city centres are in a bit of a state.

Labelling it as a problem is the easy bit; coming up with the solutions is the challenge.

Too often ideas get drowned out in background noise which is awash with negativity and the usual grumbles about empty buildings and too many charity shops.

Happily, though, I sense things are starting to change.

I sit in the same corner as Swansea East MS Mike Hedges when it comes to town and city centres – adopting the mantra ‘use it or lose it’.

He wrote an interesting essay for the Fabians Cymru group recently, in which he promoted the idea of more partnership projects, citing the example of the Regeneration Morriston team.

In Llanelli this week, it was interesting to see two groups come together to create a public forum to discuss the town centre.

Cwmpas is the former Wales Co-operative Centre, a development agency working for positive change in Wales.

Llanelli Township Ltd is the new kid on the block, a ‘Community Benefit Society’, which is a type of democratic non-profit cooperative.

What was interesting at the forum held at Llanelli Public Library was the acceptance of the hard reality that the days of having Woolworth, Debenhams and other big names on our high streets are long gone.

What’s needed now is a more innovation and a ‘physician heal thyself’ mentality where communities must come together to try to rebuild town and city centres.

It won’t happen overnight. This is a slow-burn.

But you could not fail to be impressed with the enthusiasm and fire burning within those attending the Llanelli forum.

The Llanelli Township project mission statement is a bold one –

‘Regenerating Llanelli through democratic community ownership of property in our town centre.’

In short, the Township ‘society’ members have decided to stop waiting for better times to come and start a town-wide grass-roots regeneration project.

As a starting point, they already have a science café set up above a popular restaurant in the town centre.

Next on their agenda is buying a HQ, raising the capital through the power of community shares, which allow individuals in the town to back the project.

The Llanelli Township project already has a partnership with Community Science International Wales.

Other partnerships – and a website – will be on the way soon.

Llanelli Township secretary Dr Scott Griffiths explained to the forum meeting that he’d recently returned to live in the town after working away.

He’d been disappointed to see the current state of the town centre, with many empty buildings and shops, but he was inspired ‘to do something about it’.

Dr Griffiths described himself as a social entrepreneur and scientist.

His vision for Llanelli is –

  • A town the democratically serves the residents, workers and visitors.
  • A town that adapted to internet shopping and retail parks
  • A town that resists boom and bust economics.

They are bold vision statements, but (as I explained in this column back in January) there is nothing wrong in being ambitious.

We all want the best for our town and city centres.

Mobilising people to start to believe that we can all play a part in regeneration is a challenge – but we Welsh do like a big challenge, don’t we?

Dr Scott Griffiths


One for your ‘must-see’ list

IT’S not often you hear cheers and a round of applause in the cinema.

But that’s what we got at the Llanelli Odeon at the end of the live screening, from the National Theatre in London, of the new play Nye, starring Michael Sheen.

In fact, there were tears as well as the cheers – and I’m willing to bet the scenes were repeated across the land in all the cinemas screening Tim Price’s play about the life of Nye Bevan.

Bevan is arguably the most influential politician of the 20th century, the founder of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948.

He was a son of Tredegar, but his dad David’s family came from Carmarthenshire.

Tim Price’s play has been called ‘surreal’ and a ‘Welsh fantasia’. It is both those things, but it is also much more – a massive piece of political theatre which should be on everyone’s ‘must-see’ list when it transfers from the Olivier Theatre to the Wales Millennium Centre between May 18 and June 1.

The play doesn’t shy away from the more controversial elements of Bevan’s life as the story is played out in a series of innovative flashbacks.

Nye is a co-production between the Wales Millennium Centre and the National Theatre and is directed, with some style, by the NT’s artistic director Rufus Norris.

As you might expect, you cannot take your eyes off Michael Sheen as Nye as he takes centre stage, barefoot in pyjamas!

But this isn’t a one-man show. Two dozen of our finest actors take multiple roles as the story unfolds and takes some surprising twists, including (believe it or not) a song and dance number!

As a side note, the cast received a visit this week from Aneira Thomas, from Loughor, the first baby delivered by the NHS when she was born at one minute past midnight on July 5, 1948, in Amman Valley Hospital.

The NHS will mark its 76th birthday this July. Nye, the play, is an important and timely work. Take my advice: go and see it. It’s top-class theatre. And, trust me, you’ll end up crying . . . and cheering!

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