Launch of Friends of Pontardawe Arts Centre – Address

WEL MAE’N BLESER CAEL BOD YMA HENO AC I GAEL GWAHODDIAD I DDWEUD GAIR AR ACHLYSUR LANSIAD CYFEILLION CANOLFAN GELFYDDYDAU PONTARDAWE. RYM NI I GYD YMA HENO AM EIN BOD YN GWYBOD CYMAINT O DRYSOR I’N CYMUNED YW’R GANOLFAN HON AC AM EIN BOD I GYD AM DDIOGELU EI DYFODOL AC NID YN UNIG HYNNY OND YN DYMUNO EI GWELD YN FFYNNU AC YN EHANGU AC YN CYNYDDU EI CHYFRANIAD, CYFRANIAD MOR WERTHFAWR – I GYMUNED PONTARDAWE, CWM TAWE A THU HWNT.

 

I WAS REALLY DELIGHTED TO BE ASKED TO SAY A FEW WORDS AT THIS EVENING’S MEETING, AT THE LAUNCH OF THE FRIENDS OF PONTARDAWE ARTS CENTRE.

 

WE ARE ALL HERE BECAUSE WE KNOW HOW MUCH OF AN ASSET, A JEWEL REALLY, THIS CENTRE IS AND BECAUSE WE ALL WANT TO SECURE ITS FUTURE, AND NOT ONLY THAT BUT TO SEE IT FLOURISH AND EXPAND AND TO INCREASE EVEN FURTHER ITS CONTRIBUTION TO PONTARDAWE AND THE WHOLE OF THE SWANSEA VALLEY.

 

MAY I FIRSTLY WELCOME YOU ALL – WHETHER YOU ARE A LOCAL RESIDENT, SOMEONE WHO USES THE CENTRE, WE HAVE LOCAL POLITICAL REPRESENTATIVES HERE FROM NEATH PORT TABOT COUNTY BOROUGH AND THE LOCAL TOWN AND COMMUNITY COUNCILS, WE HAVE THE ARTS COUNCIL FOR WALES, STEVE PHILLIPS NPT CHIEF EXECUTIVE AND OTHER COUNCIL OFFICERS, ANDREW DAVIES CHAIR OF ABMU HEALTH BOARD.

 

AND MAY I ACKNOWLEDGE IN PARTICULAR THE PRESENCE OF THE MAYOR OF NEATH PORT TALBOT COUNTY BOROUGH AND THE PONTARDAWE TOWN MAYOR.

 

WE ARE UNITED HERE THIS EVENING BY OUR SHARED SENSE OF COMMUNITY.

 

AND FOR US IN WALES, WE UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF CULTURE, OF ART, OF MUSIC, OF PERFORMANCE, IN DEFINING AND HOLDING TOGETHER OUR SENSE OF COMMUNITY.  THIS GOES BEYOND THE CLICHES PEOPLE SOMETIMES USE TO DESCRIBE US. AND IN A VERY REAL SENSE GOES TO THE HEART OF HOW WE RELATE TOGETHER.

 

THAT CULTURE TAKES MANY FORMS, WHETHER IT BE THE VISUAL ARTS – AND WE ARE SPEAKING HERE NOT MANY MILES FROM THE HOMES OF SOME OF OUR COUNTRY’S FOREMOST ARTISTS – WILL ROBERTS OF NEATH, THE INCOMPRABLE  JOSEF HERMAN IN YSTRADGYNLAIS, AND TODAY, ARTISTS LIKE MIKE JONES HERE IN PONTARDAWE.

 

WE COULD DRAW A CIRCLE AROUND THE ARTS CENTRE AND FIND WITHIN IT ANY NUMBER OF CHOIRS, BRASS BANDS AND THEATRE GROUPS.

 

THIS BUILDING ITSELF HAS DRAWN VISITORS FROM FAR AND WIDE –  IT WAS FIRST OPENED AS A PUBLIC HALL IN 1909 BY NO LESS A FIGURE THAN THE WORLD FAMOUS OPERA SINGER DAME ADELINA PATTI HERSELF.

 

WHAT WE HAVE IS AN APPETITE FOR ARTS AND CULTURE WHICH IS ROOTED IN OUR LOCALITY BUT WHICH IS ANYTHING BUT PAROCHIAL.

 

THE ARTS CENTRE ITSELF CONTINUES TO BRING THE WORLD TO PONTARDAWE THROUGH ITS ARTISTIC PROGRAMME. AND IT BRINGS LOCAL PEOPLE TOGETHER THROUGH THE RANGE OF ACTIVITIES PROVIDED BY THE MANY LOCAL GROUPS WHO CALL IT HOME.

 

SO ARTS, CULTURE AND PLACES WHERE WE CAN EXPERIENCE AND ENJOY THAT TOGETHER ARE ONE OF THE WAYS WE BUILD, NURTURE AND CELEBRATE OUR SENSE OF COMMUNITY.

 

BUT LIKE MANY ASPECTS OF OUR COMMUNITY, IT IS UNDER PRESSURE. WE ALL KNOW THAT ARE LIVING IN A TIME OF AUSTERITY. THE FUNDS THAT USED TO BE AVAILABLE TO US IN WALES TO SUPPORT OUR COMMUNITIES HAVE BEEN CUT.  GOVERNMENT IN WALES AT ALL LEVELS, WALES-WIDE AND LOCAL ARE HAVING TO MAKE INVIDIOUS CHOICES BETWEEN COMPETING GOOD CAUSES AND ESSENTIAL DEMANDS.

 

NATIONALLY, THE WELSH GOVERNMENT HAS LOST BILLIONS IN FUNDING. LOCALLY, NEATH PORT TALBOT COUNCIL FACE A REDUCTION IN FUNDING OF MANY TENS MILLIONS OVER THE NEXT 5 YEARS.

 

AND AT THE SAME TIME WE SEE DEMAND FOR SERVICES – BE THAT SOCIAL CARE, HEALTH, EDUCATION – ALL INCREASING. 

 

NOW THAT INCREASE IN DEMAND IS NOT SIMPLY ABOUT DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGES, IMPORTANT THOUGH THAT IS.  IT IS DIRECTLY LINKED IN MANY WAYS TO THAT AUSTERITY.

 

THE PRESSURE IT BRINGS TO MENTAL HEALTH, TO OUR SENSE OF WELLBEING, EVEN TO OUR SENSE OF BELONGING AND HOW WE RELATE TO ONE ANOTHER – BECAUSE IN TOUGHER TIMES PEOPLE ARE FORCED TO PRIORITISE THEIR OWN NEEDS AND THOSE OF THEIR NEAREST.

 

SO THERE IS A NEW CHALLENGE FOR US. BUSINESS AS USUAL IS NOT GOING TO WORK IN THESE TIMES.

 

WE NEED TO WORK ACROSS ALL OUR ORGANISATIONAL BOUNDARIES TO FIND NEW WAYS OF WORKING, AND IMPORTANTLY, TO WORK WITH OUR CITIZENS, TO FIND SOLUTIONS.

 

THAT’S WHY BOTH THIS ARTS CENTRE AND THE FORMATION OF A FRIENDS GROUP IS SO VITALLY IMPORTANT.

 

IF I AM RIGHT ABOUT THE PRESSURE ON WELLBEING AND MENTAL HEALTH AND IF I AM RIGHT ABOUT THE ROLE ARTS AND CULTURE PLAY IN OUR SENSE OF COMMUNITY, THEN WE NEED PLACES LIKE THE ARTS CENTRE MORE NOT LESS AT TIMES LIKE THESE.

 

WHETHER IT IS ABOUT MAKING PEOPLE FEEL LESS LONELY, ENCOURAGING HEALTHY EATING, EVEN HELPING TO REDUCE AGITATION AND MEDICATION IN PEOPLE WITH DEMENTIA –  ARTS, MUSIC, PERFORMANCE, ALL CAN HAVE A POSITIVE EFFECT.

 

AND LOCALLY, NPT COUNCIL HAS RECOGNISED THE IMPORTANCE OF ARTS AND THE PONTARDAWE ARTS CENTRE IN THEIR RECENTLY PUBLISHED WELLBEING STRATEGY.

 

THE POINT I AM MAKING IS THIS: PLACES LIKE THIS DESERVE OUR ATTENTION AND EFFORT – AND WE SHOULD SEE FINANCIAL SUPPORT AS INVESTMENT AND NOT SUBSIDY. 

 

AN INVESTMENT FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL, ESPECIALLY THOSE IN SOCIETY WHO ARE DISADVANTAGED OR FRAIL.

 

IT’S WORTH REPEATING WHAT THE PONTARDAWE ART CENTRE DOES – BEYOND THE 70 PLUS SHOWS IT PUTS ON EACH YEAR.  OVER 400 PEOPLE IN CLASSES EVERY SINGLE WEEK, FROM 18MONTHS TO 80PLUS YEARS OF AGE.

 

JILL WILL TELL YOU LATER JUST HOW MANY HAVE BEEN THROUGH CATS DRAMA – THERE CAN’T BE A PARENT IN PONTARDAWE WHO IS NOT ON HER CONTACT LIST!

 

THERE ARE VERY REAL FUNDING PRESSURES WHICH NEED TO BE WORKED THROUGH BOTH IN THE SHORT AND LONG TERM. 

 

ONE THING I AM CLEAR ABOUT AND I KNOW MY VIEWS ARE SHARED BY THE COUNTY COUNCIL AND THE ARTS COUNCIL GIVEN THEIR PRESENCE HERE TONIGHT:  PONTARDAWE ARTS CENTRE HAS A GOOD FUTURE AT THE HEART OF OUR COMMUNITY.

 

THE CHALLENGE THEN IS TO INCREASE USAGE OF THE CENTRE TO ALL COMMUNITY GROUPS AND TO DIVERSIFY WHAT THE CENTRE CAN OFFER – FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE WIDER COMMUNITY.

 

AS I SAY, THIS CAN’T BE DONE BY A “BUSINESS AS USUAL” APPROACH.  IT CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED BY HARNESSING THE IDEAS AND THE EXPERIENCE OF THE COMMUNITY WHICH USES AND SUPPORTS THE ARTS CENTRE – WHETHER IN PONTARDAWE, THE LOCAL AREA OR INDEED MUCH FARTHER AFIELD.

 

SO I WELCOME THE FORMATION OF A FRIENDS GROUP.

 

THE ARTS CENTRE IS ABOUT CREATIVITY AND THE FRIENDS GROUP WILL PROVIDE A FORUM FOR US TO COME TOGETHER AND LOOK – CREATIVELY – AT HOW WE CAN SUPPORT THE CENTRE TO FLOURISH IN THE YEARS AHEAD, WHETHER BY PROMOTING, LOBBYING, FUNDRAISING OR BY DEVELOPING IDEAS FOR HOW THE CENTRE CAN REMAIN AT THE HEART OF PONTARDAWE LIFE.

 

THE MORE OF US THAT JOIN UP, THE STRONGER THE VOICE OF THE COMMUNITY IN SHAPING THE POSITIVE FUTURE OF THIS WONDERFUL PLACE. AND AS WELL AS COMMUNITY VOICE, I KNOW THAT THE FRIENDS GROUP WILL WELCOME COMMUNITY VOLUNTEERS.  

 

WE HAVE AN INCREDIBLE LEGACY LOCALLY OF COMMUNITY ACTIVISM OVER DECADES, INDEED CENTURIES. IT IS UP TO US NOW TO PLAY OUR PART TO CONTINUE THAT LEGACY, BY GETTING INVOLVED WITH THE ARTS CENTRE.

 

IT BELONGS TO US ALL. BUT THAT MEANS WE ALL HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY IN ITS SUCCESS.

 

AND SO TO THE NEXT STEPS.  ANGIE IS GOING TO TELL YOU ABOUT THE HISTORY AND WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE TODAY AND THEN GRANT IS GOING TO TALK ABOUT THE PRACTICAL WAYS YOU CAN HELP AS PART OF THE FRIENDS GROUP.  

 

DIOLCH I CHI ETO AM GAEL BOD YMA GYDA CHI HENO.

 

ALL THAT REMAINS IS FOR ME TO CONGRATULATE THOSE THAT HAVE WORKED SO HARD TO GET US TO WHERE WE ARE THIS EVENING – AND TO CONGRATULATE YOU ALL ON THE LAUNCH OF THE FRIENDS OF PONTARDAWE ARTS CENTRE.