Thursday, April 26, 2018

Develop or die?

Barry (or, more specifically, Barry Island) might be known to many people merely as the subject of gentle mockery in Gavin & Stacey, but there's much more to Wales' biggest town than that. That much was evident from the first episode of Sam And Shauna's Big Cook-Out, in which the hosts celebrated the energy and community spirit surrounding the town's thriving football club, and the programme makers (aided by some charitable weather) made it look like a glorious seaside resort. Barrybados indeed.

The truth is somewhere in between, as this Wales Online article by Chris Pyke notes. It's home to the sort of cheap-and-cheerful seafront cafes and ramshackle amusement arcades synonymous with British seaside towns, but also a street of proudly independent shops and places like the Pumphouse, a characterful renovated building that's home to Sam and Shauna's restaurant, the Hang Fire Smokehouse.

Pyke traces Barry's history - from post-war boom to the difficult period symbolised by the closure of the Butlins holiday park that overlooked Whitmore Bay - and considers some of the many development proposals that have come to nothing. He suggests that the town now finds itself at something of a crossroads. There is certainly enthusiasm for new schemes (restaurants, hotels, attractions) that would lure more visitors and perhaps nudge it upmarket, but moves to develop and smarten up some of the tattier and derelict buildings near the seafront might result in the sort of gentrification that gradually transforms the town's character and prices many people out.

In that respect, it's a fascinating case study. Does looking to the future necessarily entail forgetting the past? I'm watching with interest to see which direction the town takes.

No comments: