Ahh… Bridgend. You don’t half divide opinion sometimes!
Over recent years, the name ‘Bridgend’ has slowly been in decline. To some people it’s a town full of suicide victims. To others it’s a place whose town centre is dead and full of charity and mobile phone shops. To others it’s a great little town equidistant between Cardiff and Swansea, close to the valleys, and close to the sea. I’m very much a believer in the latter. Bear with me, I know what most of you are thinking.
After being born, having grown up and still residing in ‘The Big End’, people think that I’m a bit ‘too Bridgend’ for my liking. Maybe I am, but Bridgend has given me some fantastic memories that I will never forget and hopefully will continue to do so for many a year as Maria and myself welcome 8 week old Henry into the world! I was educated in Bridgend and have many memories of my time in Llangewydd Junior School and Bryntirion Comp. Post-18 I remember (and in some cases don’t remember) fantastic nights out in Bridgend with school friends, hockey friends, rugby friends, family etc. I have once in a lifetime memories of my time working and supporting within rugby circles. Yes, Bridgend has suffered a bit of a decline over the past few years, but how many towns within Wales haven’t (apart from maybe Cardiff and one or two others?).
What am I getting at? Well… I want MY town to be the best it can be. I am proud to be from Bridgend. I am honoured to have worked on and will continue to work on many, many ‘Bridgend’ related projects but one thing that has struck me recently is the slight ‘buzz’ around the town.
We’ve had the Urdd National Eisteddfod in the county, which went down a storm in Pencoed, but it’s a few things nearer to home which have caught my eye recently. Whilst driving a few weeks back, I noticed on A48/Broadlands roundabout a banner for the recent Street Roots Festival happening in the town centre. I looked into this. ‘What is it?’ ‘Where is it being held?’ ‘Have they got a website I wonder?’ were the initial thoughts, but then I noticed a nice little logo reading ‘CF31 | Creating a Brighter Bridgend’ so I swiftly Googled this to find that something which Bridgend has been crying out for for many a year – a Business Improvement District – had been formed!
Working with Bridgend Town Council the Street Roots Festival was a roaring success with the town centre full of visitors. This was followed today (Saturday 10th June) by ‘Wartime Bridgend’ a look back at 1940’s WW2 era. I’ve never been a fan of anything in relation to ‘war’ – just ask my history teachers, but this event was abolsutely fantastic and certainly brightened up a grey Saturday morning/afternoon.
A town centre full of kids smiling. A town centre where adults were enjoying spending time and money. A resounding success thanks to the attractions, stalls, and the people who made it a success. Cafe’s were busy. Shops were thriving. Local businesses had even gone the extra mile to decorate their windows and staff members to help get into the spirit of things. Now I for one won’t profess to have spent all day there, neither could I reel off the list of attractions / stalls that were there, but what I can do is give Bridgend Town Council and CF31 Bid a huge pat on the back for putting on yet another event. Fantastic organisation of an event which clearly did what it intended to – to attract people back to the town centre and for them to enjoy being there, spend money with local business and generally have fun.
I bumped into friends. I saw friends of friends. I shook many a hand. I had a sit down coffee with Maria in town for the first time since god knows when, and I loved seeing businesses established businesses like Watts & Morgan and the like joining newer businesses like Unbroken Print in decorating their premises and really pushing the boat out to help the event. It’s that kind of attitude which will see future events be just as successful and one which will see ‘a Brighter Bridgend’, to quote the strapline of CF31 Bid.
It’s not only events like today that will see ‘a Brighter Bridgend’. Through my working circles I’ve discovered a number of new shops opening in Bridgend. A few new bars are opening, including a new one in Adare Street which will be a fantastic addition to the town. There’s the new car park development and retail units. There is also the new developments in Elder Lane which looks fantastic. You’ve also still got Cardiff, Swansea within the half an hour, mountains to the north. The coast to the south – not many other places in Wales can say that. There is also, and perhaps more importantly Bridgend Town Council and CF31 Bid working in tandem for the good of Bridgend AT LAST (no criticsm intended).
Forget your ‘Bridgend is shit’ mentality. Ditch your ‘I want to move from Bridgend’ attitude. Get rid of your ‘I’m not going to Bridgend town centre as there’s nothing there.’ Start supporting local businesses. Be proud of where you are from. Look forward to a brighter Bridgend. Good memories of Bridgend far out weigh the bad. Right?
Anyhow, to finish up (it’s 23:46pm Saturday night and I’m on a training walk at 6am on Sunday), I guess Bridgend to me is like a relative who I have known all my life who has gone through a bit of a rough time of it, but who, after a bit of TLC is well and truly back on the road to recovery and ready to put its best foot forward once again.
‘A Brighter Bridgend’ awaits us all…