Owen’s article for the Pontypridd Observer (May 14th 2014)

More evidence of the harsh reality of a Tory Government at Westminster this week, with the confirmation that our council intends to close The Muni. Be in no doubt, the closure is directly linked to the £1.7 billion cut to the Welsh budget since the Tory-Liberal Government came to office in 2010. But whatever the reason, I know many of you will be hugely disappointed at the prospect of losing a centre that has been a home to the arts in Pontypridd for several generations.

But don’t give up hope just yet, because efforts are underway to see if we can maintain The Muni as a community-run and owned facility. Pontypridd Town Council, working with me, Mick Antoniw and local Ponty Labour councillors, has taken the lead, commissioning Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff to undertake an initial study into how we might reshape and then run The Muni ourselves. We are applying for National Lottery funding for this initial phase and have put together a co-ordinating committee including leading figures from the arts world in Wales alongside representatives of your Town Council.

There’s a long way to go, of course, before we know if this is feasible, but I cannot see why a town of our size and dynamism can’t run a local theatre, cinema and arts centre. Other towns do so across Wales, so why can’t we?

The key to success for so many of those other ventures, from Cardigan to Colwyn Bay to Chapter itself, is the engagement of the local community, as volunteers, managers and organisers. Grant funding is achievable to assist in the running of similar venues, but all require local energy and manpower. In some senses this is a ‘back to the future’ moment for our community, a return to a period before we had well resourced councils when, if we wanted to build institutions or services, we had to raise the money and invest the time ourselves.

In that regard, I think we should look on this as an opportunity as much as it is a threat: a chance for people to get involved in running things that have previously been the council’s preserve. You never know, the people might do a better job than us politicians. Certainly lots of people will think so: here’s a chance to prove it! Anyone interested in helping should get in touch with me on 01443 401122.

Finally, I’ve resisted writing about my first true love, Pontypridd RFC, for a good few months now. So indulge me, please. This has been another truly fantastic season for our club and I’d call on everyone reading this to show your support by getting down to Sardis on Sunday night for the grand final. Come on The Pont!



Owen Smith MP Welsh Labour MP for Pontypridd
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