What our town or indeed country means to us gives us a sense of identity and belonging. Some of us will regard ourselves as Welsh first, then British and others vice-versa, with some of us wanting to be European, too…
And we live at a time which vividly shows how igniting these tribal identities can be.
Near Carmarthen, there are towns - like Llandeilo – which have succeeded in creating a distinctive identity for themselves, attracting visitors and locals all year round. Llandeilo’s population is around about 2,000 but during its Festival of the Senses, in the lead up to Christmas, well over 15,000 visit the town. This is a highly collaborative event, involving council and tourism association support, plus much community contribution: especially from local business and volunteer individuals. The organizing committee are dynamic, energetic and committed. As well as the Festival of the Senses, Llandeilo has a litfest, music festival and jazz weekend where the town represents hospitality and hwyl.
Likewise, Narberth, where despite wet weather this year, crowds packed into marquees for the something-for-everyone food festival, celebrating its 20th birthday. All organized by volunteers, this festival again gets tremendous support from local business and people, as well as bringing in distinguished chefs from further afield. There’s a food theatre, lots of sampling opportunities, music and the unexpected – like the ladies in the photo here, hellbent on entertaining kids.
Which makes me wonder about Carmarthen, and its potential and capacity to thrive and attract visitors.
There’s been good news this week regarding the opening of the Tywi Valley Path for cyclists and walkers, between Abergwili and Llandeilo. In addition the council’s website says: ‘The opening of the first section coincides with the start of a major £1.25million restoration of the museum and £2.4million Tywi Gateway Project to restore and re-invigorate the Bishop’s Park and former palace outbuildings as a learning facility, visitor centre and café.’
This announcement coincides with an interesting BBC analysis today on how museum shops are bucking the decline in retail. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46924999. Visitors shop here to build on what they experience and learn at a museum, and to some extent they feel that they are contributing to a good cause.
With Carmarthen being Wales’s ‘Yr Hen Dref’, our strength of bilingualism, and good work already done by the council http://www.discovercarmarthenshire.com/places/carmarthen-the-west/here there is much to build on in terms of Carmarthen’s reputation. The Civic Society and Carmarthen Antiquarians are active and enthusiastic, and Nick Brunger’s Creepy Carmarthen tours bring history to life in a quite wonderful way. Antique Fairs at the National Botanic Garden are regular and popular.
When we measure how popular different types of content is in various FYI towns, heritage and culture stand out in Carmarthen. And our several art galleries and distinctive indie businesses support this. There is much in the town that you do not see on your average high street.
Heritage and culture sells it seems, and we have oodles of it in Carmarthen. Could it be that looking backward and capitalizing on this as much as we can, may help the town move forward and prosper?