Emergence, regeneration, conversation & Barry

Barry is….. what?

It’s easier to say what Barry was….

In 1881, Barry was a ‘beautiful country village’ consisting of 85 residents living in 17 dwellings; 32 years later it was the world’s biggest coal exporting dock, and the town supporting that industry ballooned massively. Barry was also a vibrant seaside resort – it had roller coasters, donkey rides, two outdoor swimming pools (one fed by seawater), and a Butlin’s Holiday Camp.

These descriptions were all true, but now serve as a historical record of what Barry was, rather than what Barry is. In fact, they seem far removed from where the town is now – it’s difficult to even imagine the docks and railway sidings bustling with activity, workers and energy. Bustling with pioneers.

Now, it seems, the biggest things to happen in Barry in recent years is the arrival of Asda on the site of the old steam engine ‘graveyard’, and/or the installation of temporary fairground rides on the site of the old funfair. Quite evidently they’re not on the scale of the pioneers of a century ago.

As with communities across the Country, residents of Barry have seemingly abdicated their responsibility for improving the places where they live (and work). Regeneration has become the domain of local authority planners, national and international retail chains, and house and/or flat builders. Unsurprisingly, most of the time, they don’t ‘get’ Barry – they ‘get’ the one-size-fits-all approach, that worked somewhere, at some point. The only thing they really deliver is a copycat town or village, indistinguishable, one from another.

History has shown time and again, that real regeneration, the sort that lasts and has a positive impact on communities is borne from deep within the community, and not from soulless meeting rooms at County Hall, or in the boardrooms of retail giants hundreds of miles away. Often lasting regeneration stems from artistic or cultural activity that allows residents to see their town through a different lens, or when economic opportunity is grasped and risks are taken.

I’m not abdicating my responsibility, and that’s why I’m baking a cake, bringing a flask & a deckchair and chatting with others about what #BarryIs – Join in https://www.eventbrite.com/e/barryis-tickets-18000475908


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