I took a break from canvassing for Labour candidates in the Welsh Assembly election to spend last weekend at the Porthcawl Jazz Festival. It was an opportunity to revisit the Grand Pavilion and evoke memories of my teenage years in the 1960’s – weekly rock bands each culminating in a mass brawl: a sort of ritualised Porthcawl v Cornelly Haka, participation in some very odd amateur dramatics and a two month stint as Assistant Stage Manager at a Stan Stennett pantomime. A far cry perhaps from the official history of eisteddfodau and the magnificent transatlantic address of Paul Robeson in 1957.
Until last weekend I had not marvelled at the achievement of creating a concrete dome structure in 1932, combining the most advanced building material with Art Deco detail and classical design. All this was achieved by the Porthcawl Urban District Council serving a population of less than 5000 residents. Faced with closure of the coal port, the town’s original raison d’etre, and the impact of a global economic depression, the local council re-imagined the town as a tourist destination with a pavilion and palm court to match the promenade. They matched their vision with large scale investment and organisational determination.
As the newly elected Welsh Assembly re-imagines Welsh local government for the 21st century, will they share the vision of the Porthcawl UDC in 1932?