Save The Muni

It is with a mixture of anger and sadness that I come to write this article in response to what can be only described as decisions made on behalf of us of which the stupidity of said decisions goes beyond any scale of measure.

Yes, Rhonda Cynon Taff council, I am talking about you, so any council members reading this (of which I hope you some of you may) better grow a thick skin fast and prepare for the fire to which I am about to throw your way.

To explain to everyone the full context of these feelings that has arisen. It is as a result of the Welsh assembly’s recently proposed cuts in funding. In particular, these cuts have been targeted at creative arts and culture. A major example is the proposal to close a local historical and iconic venue, The Muni Arts Centre in Pontypridd. The council’s decision is backed by the claim that closing the venue would save the local authority 400,000 pounds.

Save the MuniSave The Muni

Before I pick every possibly hole in this decision, let me make it absolutely clear that I am aware cuts at this moment in time are necessary. However, when heritage, culture and the arts as well as opportunities for younger generations come under threat, one certainly has to question the level of humanity in any individual who thinks that closing the Muni would be a good idea.

The Muni has provided a space for a variety of events that run from theatre productions run by professional companies or high schools, bands, including rather successful acts such as Funeral for a Friend, introductory showcases for writers such as Frank Vickery and Mal Pope as well as Comedy and variety nights to name but a few. It also holds itself as a venue in a town where much pride is held in calling itself the birthplace of Tom Jones.

Save The Muni

Bryn Celynnog’s production of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’

Save The Muni

BBC wales broadcaster Amy Wadge has been a support to aspiring artists, and regularly performs at the Muni.

This leaves me with quite a blatant question, how much of a black hole is going to be left in Pontypridd once the Muni is shut? Indeed, there will most certainly be one, and it will more than likely be filled with a dead town at day and a drinking culture fuelled cattle market at night.

I can’t think of any further justification the local authorities can bring forward other than the amount of money, that closing the Muni would save: but this is where I am going to have a field day and suggest as politely (well, I’ll try) as I can where else the money can be saved.

It isn’t news to any of us that the level of stupidity in our council’s decision making runs beyond; but to make this absolutely clear, let me point out a couple of examples to show how much money is needlessly wasted.

It wasn’t 12 months ago, that councils had plans to put aside funds to regenerate Welsh towns. 10.5 million was put aside for Pontypridd alone. So what did they spend a substantial amount of the money on?…Optical illusion paving. Overpriced and dangerous paving that caused a great deal of accidents for residents and inconvenience for hospitals, don’t believe me? I wouldn’t blame you, so here is the news article. You may need to read it twice…

If that isn’t enough to convince you, does anyone remember this?

Unity Sculpture Costs

It’s probably only a faint memory to most because people can’t see it without crashing into a roundabout. The ironically called ‘Unity Sculpture’ didn’t bring that much unity between the authorities and the taxpayer once everyone was enlightened that officials had underestimated it’s cost by 30%- the overall price being 170,000 pounds.

Unbelievably, the council could have put aside half the cost of the Muni, had it not erected this big red piece of s###.

I would dig further holes in misguided spending, but I’m afraid I would be here all month, and there is a final point to be made.

By now, I hope that I have identified the significance of the Muni as not just a venue, but also an iconic home for art and community that can give a small town an identity and relevance on the cultural map. We the Welsh are a pride filled nation, and we have a right to be so. We have much to be proud of but we need to build on that. If the council goes ahead with closing this venue, we don’t only fail our honour to those we are proud of, but we also shut the gate of opportunity to nurture our talent and bring a further sense of disillusion to my generation as well as younger generations.

I grew up alongside brilliant talent led by brilliant people. I don’t think that should ever be seen as an area to cut; it should be seen as an opportunity to build. So let’s get creative. There are choirs, high school productions, professional productions, filmmakers, artists, musicians, comedians etc. all looking for a space to showcase their work, spearheaded by the likes of Rhod Gilbert, Amy Wadge, Stephen Preston and a host of other people with a passion for what they do. There is also an audience for it, and there is enough talent amongst events managers and marketers to bring that audience in to venue. Yes, it is ideal, but our pride would be misplaced if we didn’t believe that we were capable enough to achieve this amount of success.

We just need to prove that to the authorities, and show them how misguided their decisions are and how passionate we are and that within the walls of the town’s converted church, lies a home for us to express that passion.

I close by expressing my empathy for all of those affected and my admiration for everyone standing up against this decision. I am willing to trek back all the way from Surrey with my guitar and offer my further efforts to stop this closure.

Save the Muni.

Ryan Elliott

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