Because we’re worth it…… Stop the Welsh Jobs Dowry

In times gone by, a bride-to-be’s family would negotiate a dowry, so that the husband would agree to marry their daughter. It was an important consideration as to which woman the groom would marry. I wonder how these women felt – arguably their future life was as much to do with the amount of money her father was prepared to give, as it was the person she was, and was becoming. For me, I would find that deeply hurtful. It seems the same thing is happening to us as a Country today. Welsh Government Ministers from Carwyn Jones down are falling over themselves to pay foreign companies to take us on. These ministers are paying big foreign companies a dowry for our workers.

Every single time we pay somebody to set up in Wales, a little more of our pride gets wiped away. Because unless we pay them, they won’t come here and employ us; because they don’t actually think we’re better than someone else, somewhere else. Well I think we’re better than that, and I’m also completely unconvinced by the economic argument behind doing it too.

Here’s why…

First off, they don’t need the money. Loads of these foreign companies can afford to make these investments from their current resources – they don’t need our money. If they think our workforce is good enough for their investment, they’ll invest in us. If they need a massive (in terms of our meagre cash resources) financial incentive to come here do we really want them here? Are they after us, or just our money?

The Welsh Government have recently announced the following four Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) agreements, and they exemplify the point perfectly:

We (I use ‘we’ as ultimately it’s our money, spent on our behalf, by those we elect, for our collective benefit) have just invested £14.7M in Ford so that they’ll build their new engines in Bridgend. Ford’s latest market cap stands at $61BN. They’ve been in Wales for a while, I accept, but why do they need our money to ensure the overall investment went ahead?

On the 6th of October Edwina Hart announced we were investing £1.4M to support CapGemini (a consulting firm) in creating of 100 jobs in Treforest. The company’s latest net worth is €13.9BN. They too don’t need our money to make this investment.

Here’s a biggy! On September 10th, Sony, with a market capitalisation of ¥4.3TN (yep that’s Trillions of Yen), announced that we had just lent it £1.1M for a new addition to their Pencoed facilities, just outside Bridgend. This one is a loan, but surely there’s no case that Sony needs our money more than hard pressed public services, or even owner managed businesses across the Country.

And then this week, First Source Solutions, an Indian company (capitalised at 22BN Rupees) were given more of our limited cash to add call centre staff to its Cardiff operation. We don’t know how much we gave them, as neither the Company or the government were prepared to say – I wonder, are they running scared of justifiable criticism? Hiding the facts is poor government, as it suggests the officers and ministers don’t have full confidence in the decisions they have made. Perhaps they’re right not to be confident.

There have been others, and there will be more.

Secondly, we need to find wealth creators rather than job creators. Simply put, wealth creators will also create jobs (often higher value jobs too). On the other hand, job creators will never create wealth. Any wealth created on the backs of these Welsh workers doesn’t stay here – it travels straight over the Severn Bridge, on to Heathrow and onwards to a far flung part of the world. I’d call this exploitation – and the fact we encourage and fund it ourselves would be laughable, if it wasn’t so tragic.

Lastly, these huge businesses are highly susceptible to world market movements, and will, with limited warning simply up-sticks and go. The recent FSB Wales report ‘What Wales Could Be’ called for support to be focused on grounded, rooted, local businesses, to encourage them to grow to be the mid-cap businesses of tomorrow. I absolutely agree.

The politicians who take these decisions need to be held accountable. The officials who negotiate the deals too. Their focus on FDI is keeping Wales poor, and is wrong minded. Worse still, it shows they don’t believe we’re good enough to succeed without this ‘dowry’. That diminishes self-belief and hurts our collective confidence.

Some of us believe we’re worth it.


FFS – The FSB deserved better than they got tonight

Tonight I joined 150 small business owners to hear FSB Wales launch their manifesto for the next Welsh Assembly term 2016-21. One could argue that the five year period ahead for Wales is the most critical there’s been since devolution – the world economy in turmoil, the environment remains under severe threat, global populations are in transit, and inequality is rising – I could go on. It’s fair to say, the world of the next five and a half years will be unpredictable, at best.

Five politicians were there to debate the manifesto. Rhun Ap Iorwerth, Plaid economy spokesperson; Mark Isherwood, a late replacement for the Conservative’s spokesperson  

 William Graham; Eluned Parrot holding the brief for the Lib Dems; Mark Reckless, onetime UKIP MP; and Ken Skates, a deputy minister and the architect of the Labour Manifesto for the election in May.

To set the scene for tonight’s debate the FSB Wales team commissioned a report ‘What Wales Could Be‘ by Manchester based academics, CRESC. Although criticised by some vested interests, many (including me) think that the report represented a significant, evidence based body of work that should be considered by the political parties. Although often critical of current and historic Welsh economic policy, this was far from a negative report. More so, it offered fresh thinking on a number of key areas, including, importantly, how we should do more to support grounded, locally created mid-cap businesses rather than this preoccupation with encouraging foreign direct investment into Wales – the profits of which get spent in some far flung part of the globe – anywhere but here in Wales.

The report isn’t that long, yet only one of the five politicians on the stage tonight had even bothered to read it (Mark Reckless had read it). Organisations, like the FSB are trying to influence Welsh policy makers not because they enjoy the sound of their own voice – they do it because they represent a body of people whose voice is valid, and have something to say. In this case it’s those of us running small and medium sized businesses. Current economic policy generally isn’t working for this bunch – and we had some suggestions to improve things, but the politicians wouldn’t know, because they hadn’t read the suggestions.

The audience tonight was hoping for more. We hoped that when the panel opted for generalisations rather than forensic specifics, there would be some true inspiration and ideas. Instead we listened to bland and banal soundbites – thank goodness for the wine.

The Welsh economy deserves better than the scant regard these politicians showed towards the FSB this evening. The FSB deserve support in this endeavour, which is one reason I, and Indycube will be joining them tomorrow morning.

#JezYouCan – 3 things Jeremy Corbyn could do now that’ll help him (clue – it doesn’t involve pandering to the media)

I’ve never voted Labour, and probably never will. I’ve also suggested, in the aftermath of the General Election that Labour will disappear as it’ll take too long working out where it’s going. So why am I interested? Because, for the first time in a long, long while the electorate is being confronted by a politician of principle, whose rough edges are yet to be smoothed out, and actually says what he believes. That is refreshing.
Here’s my three things:

1 – stay authentic – Corbyn won his mandate because he was himself. Everyone knows he didn’t want to sing the National Anthem, everyone knows he won’t want to kneel before the Queen when elevated to the Privy Council. Why, because he’s a republican. He was respectful during the singing of the anthem; he didn’t hold a placard, or sing ‘The Red Flag’ in competition. Jeremy should stick to his views, otherwise he’ll find the slippery slope to ‘triangulation’ and ‘plausible deniability’ also become the road to nowhere, and quickly. After all it’s not as though he’ll ever get the Daily Mail or Daily Express supporting him, so worry less about what they’ll write. I’d also be tempted to ignore those from the left leaning papers who are distraught that Corbyn won, and want to encourage the managerial, media-savvy style – it’s as if they’ve forgotten the almost 60% vote Corbyn achieved already.

2 – get hold of the Parliamentary Party – most of those ‘colleagues’ behind Corbyn are quite obviously not supportive of him. Serving as a shadow minister is a privilege – if seasoned politicians like Owen Smith can’t find a way not to completely disagree with their leader at the first opportunity, they should be sacked. The benefit cap is clearly something Corbyn doesn’t agree with; Smith could have said lots to put off Evan Davis in his BBC Newsnight interview, but didn’t. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been chosen to serve in the shadow cabinet, but irrespective, he should go swiftly.

3 – spin won’t win – we know Jeremy isn’t slick so when he’s quite obviously listening to the spin doctors from Millbank, it really shows. They’re wrong; they’re wrong for the electorate who just voted Corbyn in and they’ll eventually be wrong for the rest of the U.K. too. So when Jeremy gives the Member for Pontypridd his marching orders, he should send these doctors of the black arts with him. They’ll make noise, lots of it, but with four and a half years before the next Westminster election, there’s a lot of time for their shrill cries to be forgotten.

If I’m honest, I expect Labour (& Corbyn) to do the exact opposite of these, and my prediction of the demise of the Labour Party as an significant electoral force will become ever more likely.

Wales and its economic coral reef 

I spent today as a guest of the New Economics Foundation & NewStart magazine who are roving a bunch of UK cities, trying to get behind the potential for alternative economic models. The debate in Cardiff was fascinating, and you get the real sense that ‘revolution is in the air’. This is my contribution to the magazine’s output for Cardiff. It really does resonate after today’s meeting.  
I’m an optimist for Wales. I’m not sure you could find someone more optimistic about the future of the Country, whether that be in the capital city, Cardiff, or one of the numerous towns and villages in which Indycube is based. The reason is, I’m convinced Wales will be one of the countries at the forefront of the new economic model that is shaping up, but it won’t be an easy transition.

The superfast transmission of information, data, ideas and ideals has transformed the world in which we live – in fact we’re in the middle of the fastest revolution to ever hit the human race, and the impact will be world changing. Whether that manifests itself in political upheaval across Europe, stock market crashes in China, or tech bubbles in Silicon Valley – these changes will, I think, change the face of our economies for ever, and eventually for the better.

The journey from old economy to new will be most difficult for those who benefit most from the status quo; Big Business and Big Politics. Fortunately, in Wales, we’ve not been home to either. Our businesses are more often small & community centric, and our politics have historically been centred around values and beliefs, rather than slick marketing machines. Wales is, like other small countries, perfectly positioned to try out new ideas, and take risks.

Three key aspects of this new economic model are:

  1. Small is the new big – the mantra of globalisation is being turned on its head. In Indycube, one of our Cardiff based businesses recently beat SnapFish (part of multinational HP) to a contract, and they sit at three desks in one of our shared offices. There’ll be many more like this over the coming months and years.
  2. The way we work has changed, and wilł continue to do so – we’ll never get jobs for life again – we may never get jobs again. The gig economy is here, and increasing rapidly – you’re more likely to be freelancing one week, traveling the next and volunteering the week after in the future than you are working for one employer.
  3. Future Economic Value isn’t all about GDP or GVA – increasingly people are feeling disillusioned with the economic model that has held sway for the last 200 years. Wealth and happiness aren’t all about the bank balance. Just ask someone nearing the end of their lives – they’ll tell you life is about human connections – that’s where real value lies.

Wales’ new economic development will be more akin to a successful coral reef. A coral reef thrives when its individual coral polyps are left to develop in their own way. We need to allow each of our communities to be the best it can be, and not some limp copycat of somewhere else. We encourage our children not to compare themselves with others, and yet with our communities, for too long, we’ve tried to be things we’re not. So often I’ve heard others tell me we’re on the verge of creating Silicon Valleys – I’m sure they believe their own hype that by simply adding an ‘s’ it will be so. Silicon Valley exists – let’s not bother trying to make our own copy, not least because by the time we do it, the world will have moved on to its next unicorn producing centre of activity.

What are we good at in Wales? Close knit communities, family, non-conformist spirit, natural environment, water (it rains a lot, plus we’re surrounded on three sides by the sea)?? Let’s make these the strengths we build our economy on. They’re not all about money, and that’s how it should be.

The problem with this strategy is that it is uncontrolled, and uncontrollable. But the future that I envisage is just that – the only thing that is predictable, is that the world will be unpredictable. Those communities that thrive on chaos and change will be the economic winners this century. To be a thriver, you’ll need your community around you – you’ll need other people to rely on. In terms of work, you’ll need your community of coworkers, and that’s what we’re helping to develop across Wales.

Coworking. Not just for trendy freelancers and startups.

Great blog by Neil

We’re far from digital nomady (is that a word??) at Indycube. Maybe we can help with your thoughts….

Neil Tamplin's Blog

Earlier this week I was reading an article about the rise of coworking spaces in recent years. In case you’ve never heard of it, coworking is the practice of individuals or small teams working from shared office space. Aside from enabling these groups to have a flexible base of operations without committing to fixed leases, these spaces have created flourishing communities and helped connect and inspire people from differing professions around common goals.

This had me pondering – couldn’t the benefits of coworking office space be applied to absolutely anyone, not just freelancers and startups?

For a while now the technology has been in place where people can work from literally anywhere (see the definition of digital nomad if you want to be green with envy). I’m at a point where I could do a large chunk of my job armed with just an iPad and an Internet connection. So why aren’t we encouraging more staff…

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#BarryIs – the aftermath

#BarryIs – the really good news, is that we’re gonna do it again!!

I’ve just got back from a lovely afternoon, talking all things #Barry with friends. Some of whom, I’ve only just met today, but friends nonetheless. We covered a lot of ground, and over the coming week or so, we’ll get to writing it up (I’ve a co-conspirator Emma Evans, who managed magnificently to keep us on track, and on purpose….

There were four things that immediately came to mind, and I wanted to share them with you;

1 – first and foremost, the regeneration that really takes hold and matters means something to people. Barrians who joined us today (whether they’ve been here a lifetime or a couple of years), described their affinity to the town with sincerity and passion. They love Barry!

2 – secondly, there was recognition that Barry’s history is still quite young. It essentially didn’t exist 150 years ago, but is now Wales’ largest town. I loved it being compared to a forest that has grown up very quickly. Regenerating such a forest needs some strong trees to help new saplings grow…

3 – we (collectively) need to become ambassadors for the town and spread the good news about just how good the place is. There seemed to be a real opportunity to do more shouting about the best things in the town. I’m going to start this by shouting out about the fantastic group of people who got involved today – you (Graham, Louise, Dai, Nick, Shirley, Emma, Gareth, Richard, Andy, Phil, Ian & Martin) are top Barry Bods – bendigedig!

4 – finally, it is clear we aren’t starting from a blank sheet of paper. They’re are loads of good things going on, and the final parting shot comes from Louise who said “I’m convinced it’s not about money.” I agree with that entirely. The future of Barry’s regeneration will be about the spirit of the people – the pioneers.

As I said at the start, we’re going to meet again. Next time we’re putting on our walking boots (well trainers or daps if I’m honest), and will be walking around the town, together. Keep your ear to the ground to find out where and when, and please do join us.

You can follow us on our brand new Twitter feed @barry_is_ and please do use the hashtag #BarryIs when you spread the news (which I hope you will). I’ve also just set up a blog page at

How to waste public money – let the Welsh Government Economy & Enterprise Minister invest it for you

We’re chasing the wrong Dragon in Wales at the moment, and it’s high time it stopped.

Today we’ve heard of yet another business in Wales that had recently announced a major funding injection from Welsh Government and is now on the brink of going ‘pop’. Universal Engineering in Llantrisant announced with great Ministerial fanfare that they had negotiated £2M of public funding to support their expansion as they were so confident of the future. That was the middle of February this year. They have called in the administrators and it’s only August.

This raises two important points. Firstly, what, if any due diligence was undertaken by Welsh Government officials in making this decision, and how honest the grant applicant was in relation to the health of the business at the time of the application.

When I’ve previously been critical of this type of investment, I’ve been chided by some who suggested that this risk taking by government is what they should be encouraged to do, not be cowed into a risk averse corner.

The investments are wrong for two key reasons:

1- more often than not the public money is not being invested alongside risk capital, from private investors or institutions. These guys get it wrong too, I agree, but they’re often risking their own money in the deal; they have ‘skin in the game’. Their reputation or kids inheritance will depend on them choosing winners over losers.

2- the investments are made on the basis of jobs created. This may create PR opportunities for the Minister, but do very little to generate wealth in our communities. Jobs will be developed on the basis of wealth being created, not the other way around.

Those who follow these public investments will have noticed a number that have gone to the wall recently. These failures are dreadful news for the employees of the Companies themselves, and the local area in which they’re situated. The fact that our public monies are also being lost alongside the jobs just makes matters worse.

Mrs. Hart, you prided yourself in being an interventionalist when you announced your impending retirement recently. Well it doesn’t look like it has worked. You’ve either got an incompetent team of senior officials in your department or you’re making over-riding judgements from your high office. Either way, save us some money between now and May 2016, and go now. And on your way out take the bureaucrats who made these godawful decisions with you.

Welsh Assembly Elections 2016 – a nine month alarm call

It’s just gone 10pm on the 5th August 2015, and I’ve just finished listening to an excerpt of an interview with Michael Sheen on BBC Wales, in which he challenged us, in Wales, to believe in ourselves.

In exactly nine months time, the ballot boxes will have been taken from polling stations across Wales, and counting will have begun, in what I think, is Wales’ most important election since devolution.

The world is in a state of flux; changes are happening around us that only history will recognise as being so volatile, and in the new world that emerges, I’m convinced that the nimbler will come out on the winning side. Arguably small is the new big – and we’re small, so here’s our opportunity.

Here’s a first stab at my manifesto wish-list – admittedly it’s really only a list of questions, but a list that I think is important:

Education – how can we truly help our children thrive in a world where jobs as we know them are likely not to exist. The Donaldson report merely scratches the surface. Take a listen to Sir Ken Robinson’s view on the matter in his TED talk – there really is another way, and we in Wales, could be pioneers. Education fails too many at the moment – if things don’t change dramatically, it’ll fail a whole lot more.

Health – much of the debate around the NHS at the General Election in May centred on the differentials between Welsh & English management of the service. Why on earth are we concerned with what happens over the border. If they’re different it’s because their health priorities are different to ours. Let’s build the best NHS for the Nation of Wales, and let’s start by concerning ourselves with improving health at the community level, and focusing as much with the social causes of health problems, as we do the medical interventions that are unfortunately often too late, and therefore hugely expensive. Remember, small is the new big…

Government – how can the role of government be simplified. This will take a brave politician or two to deliver, but it needs to do much, much more with less, much less. This debate is often characterised as taking tough choices – but I’m less convinced. For example, as a civil society it is wrong that so many Welsh people live in abject poverty – poverty blights communities, it curtails futures, and it kills. Our social safety net must catch people, and at a level that doesn’t make them feel worthless. This must be our priority, but many of the answers lie in strengthening our communities – and you know what; we in Wales get this. We may have hidden it a little bit in recent years, but scratch the surface and it’s there. From a cost perspective government is often delivered cheaper, when it’s delivered locally. We can do more, with less, and we, I think, can do more with less better than anyone else.

Economy & Enterprise – Wales’ economy has bumbled along at the bottom of the UK (& European) economic league tables for far too long, and yet we still continue to do the same old, same old, and expect a different result. There’s a highly developed echo chamber in Cardiff Bay & Cathays Park that believes the PRollocks they themselves are spouting. This is an area, Governments should simply jump on their horse and get out of Dodge… Businesses don’t need to be ‘Mamby-Pambied’, they need to be able to fail if they’re not good enough, get finance when they convince the financier, engage the professional help they believe they need, and employ the people they think are right for the business. Also, let’s back ourselves. Let’s not focus on bringing inward investors in to the Country to the detriment of local businesses – because the local businesses will keep the wealth they create local. Inward investors will grab their money, travel over the Severn Bridge, jump on a plane in Heathrow and count the spoils in some far flung tax haven.

Community & Hiraeth – instead of championing the community values that exist within our tight-knit communities, we seem hell-bent of trying to be something else. Those readers with children are likely to be familiar with this refrain “be the best YOU; because you’ll never be the best someone else.” So if we hold the values of family, community, social cohesion in high regard, let’s make them the central part of our Country. Silicon Valley already exists; putting an ‘s’ on the end of Valley won’t make it so. Let’s be the best Wales. Nobody can beat us at that.

Sustainability – the Earth’s resources continue to be under pressure, so let’s be bold and develop ways to be the World Leaders in Water, Food Education & Renewable Energy.

Nation-building – whilst we rely on the Barnett formula to keep the Welsh economy alive, we’ll stay poor. This payment mechanism was always meant to be transitory, but instead of devising a replacement, let’s start a medium term conversation about how we end our dependency. A healthy relationship can’t survive when one party relies on the other so completely, surely?

This wish-list isn’t exhaustive – and I accept its not policy prescriptive, but I think it goes some way to answering Michael’s challenge, whilst also recognising the changing world we live in.

If no political party is capable of believing in us; the people of Wales, they’re not worthy of our votes. They’ve got nine months to convince us otherwise. Or more accurately, they’ve got until the close of nominations…….

#BarryIs part 2

Places in Wales – They used to be something – they used to mean something – they were where they were for a reason – they mattered more than just a place where you lived. We didn’t really care if they were a village, a town or a city; we cared that they were a community that sustained families, economy, work, education, recreation, wellbeing (in its broadest context) & spirit.

Each place had its individual spirit.

Big places were split into smaller bits. Each of those smaller bits had their own spirit too. A sort of sub-spirit.

And that spirit was clear. For some it was a genteel spirit; for others a harder edged working spirit; and for some towns it was something much more distinct.

If you were to ask someone from a place to articulate its spirit 150 years ago, that would have been easy – many of those places were just emerging at the time, they were full of pioneers; the people who created these places. They knew what the spirit was, they were it.

As the places grew, the spirit changed slightly; it grew with it. The pioneers were being replaced by people who rooted these places (let’s call them the rooters). These were second and third generation ‘locals’ who came from those places. They added history, folklore & their own family and community values. They developed the civic infrastructure: the schools, the churches, the welfare halls. They built on what the pioneers started. They knew what the spirit was, they were it.

Then something happened.

It wasn’t intentionally bad.

But it definitely wasn’t good either.

Something happened that stopped the spirit of the place developing – we allowed bureaucracy to get its cloying hands on the development of our places. Locals let the bureaucrats take decisions on their behalf, whether they were local politicians, council officers, or those with some sort of civic authority. The locals abdicated their responsibilities for developing their own village or town, and left it to others. This coincided with a sense of self, over community.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a point where systems and rules ensure civic life works, and works safely and to the average benefit of all… The thing is, when it comes to spirit of a place, to its generative ability, bureaucracy has no place.

The place you were from helped to describe you; it helped to ground you, and whether you ran away at the first opportunity or stayed there for a lifetime, the spirit stayed with you.

In Wales, these separately identifiable places weren’t isolationist – far from it. People from one place knew people from other places, and if they didn’t know them, they certainly knew someone who did. The concept of six degrees of separation just doesn’t translate to Wales; in Wales it’s one or two – sometimes you need to look a bit harder to see it, than would have been the case a hundred or even fifty years ago, but those strong linkages between places are there, and therein lies one of Wales’ greatest untapped assets.

Which brings me on to the reason behind this blog, and perhaps even some action. I feel like it’s action on a guerrilla scale, so that’s kinda cool 🙂

This constant onslaught regarding the power of cities, and City Regions (we have two or maybe three here in Wales, and some are hoping North East Wales will hang on the shirt-tails of the Northern Powerhouse too) misses the point – it ignores this massive asset we have here in Wales that we’re connected. I think there’s an alternative, and it lies within our communities – it’s emerging, and there’s little officialdom can do about it.

When I recently visited Ebbw Vale (Ebbw Vale Institute to be precise), I met the former MP for the area, Dai Davies. I started my Indycube spiel…. change the way Wales does business; too fond of government handouts; blah; blah, and he stopped me.. He said “Let me tell you, Ebbw Vale built the world! We produced the steel that built the ships, the bridges, many of the world’s fixed assets.” Our towns evoked a sense of pride. People like Dai still have that pride for their place, but as those old stories fade, if we’re not careful so with that, will go that sense of pride.

Barry is an interesting place… In 1881 the ‘beautiful little country village of Barry’ had 85 residents living there. More surprisingly, they lived in 17 dwellings. Today – there’s close to 50,000 residents living here, and the house count continues to climb.

Barry grew very quickly – when David Davies got fed up with the Marquis of Bute overcharging for poor service to the Coal Barons at Cardiff Docks, he did something about it – he built his own (I’m riding fast and furious over history here, but hey feel free to add in the comments). The building of the docks was the building of Barry – the town exploded into vibrant life – by 1913 it was the biggest coal exporting dock in the world – I wonder how it must have felt to have been part of those pioneering years? I wonder

Many of our Welsh towns/cities are in the process of regeneration. Some are seemingly further ahead than others, but the underlying focus of their Renaissance seems to be flats, shops, and the occasional ummm, unmmm….. no I can’t think of anything else. It’s all flats and shops. The upshot is we’re ending up in places that are indistinguishable from the place up the road – they’re bland and uninspiring. Worse still, they do very little (read nothing) to change the economic well being of the area. It’s not regeneration at all. It’s degeneration.

Why is that? My view is we’ve lost that pioneering spirit – we’re caught up in claptrap and ‘echo chamber’ speak, and very few people are shouting out.

What if we took the ‘re’ out of regeneration, and instead of using the current everyday levers of change to make things happen, we just started with an engaged conversation or two?

So here’s the rub. If you want to improve a place, there are things you can do…

1- lobby for a solution. There are lots of very well meaning folk who put a lot of energy into trying to persuade and lobby the powers that be, that their idea is worth pursuing.

2- become a local politician – and get lobbied by those well meaning folk, and if you agree (or find it politically expedient) pass it on to the officers of the local authority.

3- become an officer in a local authority – you could really make a difference here – but the local authority is the last place to take risks & be brave. You manage the risks into mediocrity and ultimate failure. You say ‘No’ far, far too often.

4- JFDI (however small the ‘it’ might be) – you just never know. There’s a good chance some things will fail…. Lots probably, but the few things that succeed could well be the pioneering changes that’ll last generations. Or if you don’t feel like pioneering, what things need ‘rooting’ in?

So, what is the great idea, that’s so easy to implement, and could re-instil a sense of pride back into Barry in the first instance? I’ve got some ideas to share, but more importantly, I’d really like to hear other people’s ideas too.

So, if you’re a 2015 pioneer, or a rooter, and are interested in true regeneration in Barry, come & join us for a couple of hours

What we’d like you to bring…

something to sit on
a flask of your favourite hot beverage
something to eat, that ideally you’d like to share between the group
your passion & your ideas

I can’t promise that it’ll turn into anything. I don’t for one moment pretend that this is a democratic meeting. But Barry needs to regain its pioneering spirit. Are you in?


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