BACK in my day all them’s were fields. You could go to town on a shilling, see a film, drink until your heart were content, have breakfast, lunch and supper and get a taxi home and still have change for the week’s shopping.
Llanelli has gone through many changes but the rough outline of the old town, the footprint is just about recognisable to those who were born here in the early part of the last century. Some say more of the town has gone into decline and disappeared during the last two decades than ever before.
Of course nothing is ever safe from the wreaking ball apart that is from castles, which are fiercely protected and heavily financed even though they have been wrecked.
Many will bemoan the loss of some of the buildings and celebrate the loss of others. The reasons for the decline and demolition have been many and include the demise of the hospitality business (See Buckley’s Brewery) and the closure of many of the town’s old watering holes. Rendezvous, Barnum’s, Brannigans, The Whatnot, The Stepney, Inn At The Top, The Gold Lion, Island House, The Queen Vic, The Clarence, Raffles, The Bierkeller and many more have disappeared.
Successful towns are not built on beer alone. Independent shops have proven to be a big draw for tourists. One only has to look at Narberth. Old buildings are also treasured elsewhere. Take a trip to York and see how they cherish the old buildings in the city area known as The Shambles.
‘It ain’t no use complaining unless you are going to do something about it’ so they say. The town has seen new development. Whether you like it or not, it is the new and it is here to stay. Eastgate, half empty it may be but better half empty than deserted eh?
The reinvention of Llanelly House, the redevelopment of the old cinema, Theatre Ffwrness, the new tenants in some of the old shops and the newly converted shops. But how many of us actually visit the town centre and part with our hard earned cash? If you don’t use it you lose it.
Then there’s the parking issue. Free parking does not work claims Mr Dole. Many strongly disagree. Reduce the parking fees, free up bays in the town for one or two hour stays. Allocate an area close to the town for park and ride. Link up the out of town centre with the town centre using shuttles or bikes even. These are some of the ideas being floated.
One cannot fail to have missed the recent demise of many of the retail giants. They have all shed tears over what they call unfair or unreasonably high business rates and leases. I can hear your hearts bleeding but the serious side of it all is that even these giants who have given many of us what we want are now under threat and that may result in deserted out of town centre centres.
As one door closes another opens. Is this the turning point, the moment we all realise that the guy who sells the curtains in the market might be the only place we can buy curtains locally in the near future. Wouldn’t that be wonderful we hear Barry Lewis cry. In the ideal world visitor numbers would swell in the town and long established independent shops like Barry’s would do well. Old buildings would be spruced up, green areas linking up areas of the town, table top businesses appearing, live music venues popping up and pop up shops populating shops, which were unpopular .
What’s that creeping over the hill is it a monster? Yes, it is the spectre of online shopping. That oh so convenient place we all go when we want anything from a new toothbrush to a complete makeover of the parlour. Browse in the comfort of one’s own home, compare, haggle and buy. All delivered to the door, no fuel bills, no parking fees and we wonder why the out town and the town is allegedly in decline.
For every shop that closes, for every business that goes under, for every derelict building that appears and gets knocked down, we are all part of that nucleus, the pebble thrown into that calm lake ultimately ending with rather large waves lapping up onto the land on the other side we don’t really worry about because we just don’t see it or the consequences. We are from whence we came and Llanelli is more than buildings of bricks and stone. It is a place within us all. Let’s show it some love.
Take a look at the old photographs of children and families in those oh so difficult war years we are so keen to remember. Food rationing, diseases, which are now part of a distant past. Vehicles belching out more pollutants than an Eastern European power plant pre Glasnost and entertainment comprising of a hoop and a stick. Happy? Of course they were happy. It is all relative to the times we live in. Put two children of the same age together, one from the 40’s and one from today and see what happens. They would be equally amazed and amused.
As old buildings in the town close and crumble and the Ty Melyn or Circles is razed to the ground, does the whole of Rome burn? Of course not. We rebuild and they will come. It is the Circles of Life.
Old Llanelli photos courtesy of David Hurford