Isn’t it a curious footnote of the current capitalist era that we live in that whilst new businesses and stores open continuously around us with huge fanfare, the staples of our childhoods are quietly eroded away.
A simple walk through any unnamed town will reinforce this point. National, and in some cases multinational, organisations are everywhere to be seen whilst small, privately-owned businesses or services remain on the ropes and attempting to avoid the knock-out blow. Many a local cinema, video shop or petrol station has succumbed to the likes of Odeon, Blockbuster and Tesco’s as the people we buy our products from move from friendly locals to faceless, corporate robots.
With the summer now at an end and the school holidays over, the shocking decision to keep Brynaman Lido closed for the duration of the holiday’s has sparked controversy in the area. Located deep in the heart of the South Welsh valley’s a stones throw away from the Brecon Beacon National Park, the “baths” now remains as Wales’ last outdoor pool (a Lido) and has become a popular icon in the locality.
Opened on 11th August 1934, the pool has kept school children entertained almost every summer since. Complete with a snack shop and lifeguards, the river-filled basin has served many generations since its creation. Primarily an important factor in its ongoing popularity was the fact the Lido was built and paid for by the sizeable local Mining communities who also provided the labour themselves. Built by the residents, for the residents.
The 2010 summer season was expected, as has been the case traditionally, to run as normal. The plan was spectacularly skewered by Carmarthenshire County Council’s decision to close the landmark due to the £20,000 cost to bring the site up to standards after what they state has been a rough winter. Although the sum is fairly sizeable, it is still a meagre sum for such an important place for the citizens of the county when funds are freely leaked through a myriad of government policies. The hard-working as well as unfunded volunteer organisation The Brynaman Swimming Pool Association even offered to part fund the repairs but this was rejected. To further infuriate members of the BSPA and others, the council have now stated the estimated repair costs would be £100,000, a 5x rise on the original statement.
The council has been aware for some time of the issues surrounding the need to implement some repairs and maintenance to the Lido yet have inexplicably delayed all action until it was too late to salvage the pool for the summer. Jackie Bird of the BSPA as well as local MP Jonathon Edwards and AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas feel the council should have made the situation public earlier to allow other avenues of funding to be attained. It was reported by Watchdog that Carmarthenshire County Council wasted the staggering sum of £12,328 in 2009/10, with the consensus that the money would have been better used to maintain one of its constituent’s historic tourist destinations. Critics of the council’s decision have also pointed towards the face that £138,000 was spent for the bi-monthly “Community News” publication, barely read by the community is was created to serve. The council have also publicised via the Community News paper in June that they have pledged £9m for regeneration within the county, from which seemingly £20,000 would be a minuscule donation.
Whilst the debate between the council and users of the pool intensed, Hollywood has even entered the fray. With new production “Hunky Dory” wishing to shoot with at the baths before being turned away by the Council then finally allowed to shoot at the 11th hour, Minnie Driver posted a message on Twitter of the need to save the pool which has served to publicise the plight of the pool. Uploaded on August 19th, Ms Driver stated “we are on a mission to save the last Lido in Wales! Its in Bryn Amman and it is FANTASTIC. Need to raise $ as the council would rather…build car parks than preserve it”.
Whether one feels the council is in the right or the wrong on this issue, the tragic decline of yet another local historical landmark is yet another long list of similar scenario’s across the nation. When are the leaders of this nothing put an end to this continuing rot and stop selling off or destroying our past in the pursuit of the pound. As much I would like to see something change, unfortunately in this new god forsaken world, the big corporations will always beat out little man.