SWANSEA SOUND, the independent local radio station which serves communities around Swansea and South West Wales, faces extinction.
The station’s owners, Bauer Media, plan to close the station’s Gowerton studios and transfer production to Manchester. Under the plan, programming would be centred in Manchester and the station’s local identity would be lost.
When it opened, in 1974, Swansea Sound was the first bilingual independent radio station in the UK. Its loss as a truly local broadcaster will add to the increased flight of local media to the control of distant corporations with no ties to the localities they are supposed to serve.
Swansea Sound is one of the oldest local commercial radio stations in the UK and the first and the last still broadcasting in Wales under its original name
Seventh on-air and almost 46 years old (start date September 30th 1974), it was part of the Independent Local Radio network under the watchful eye of the IBA (Independent Broadcast Authority)
It was created by a group of local business people, some from newspaper backgrounds.
It’s been a vital lifeline for community/local information especially during times of crisis and been a source of fun and community support through its roadshows (and their bus!) and charity work.
Programmes are still made by local staff who live in Swansea who know the makeup of the people.
It’s won many broadcasting awards for its innovative documentary programmes notably a Sony Award for “Aberfan -An Unknown Spring” in 1987 and a special award at the New York International Radio Festival for “Hooray for the Last Grand Adventure’” documenting Amelia Earhart’s 1928 flight to West Wales.
And now, cards on the table. This is a deeply personal story.
My late father, Lloyd Coles, joined Swansea Sound in early 1975 only a few months after it opened. Originally presenting the folk programme, for a time he presented separate folk and country music programmes, before becoming one of the UK’s foremost country music broadcasters and the winner of the International Country Music Broadcaster of the Year Award, presented as part of the annual CMA Awards.
The pay from Swansea Sound barely covered his expenses for making the journey from Pembrokeshire to Victoria Road, Gowerton. In the time before bypasses, road improvements and dual carriageways, the lights of his car illuminated the bends in the roads all-too-well for nervous front seat passengers. Those concerns weren’t eased by his habit of eating piping hot fish and chips from a precariously balanced wrapper perched in front of the steering wheel.
In the late 1970s, he walked from Pembroke Dock to Haverfordwest through snowdrifts which had paralysed the whole of south and west Wales to catch the milk train to Swansea and broadcast live and non-stop while the region was knee-deep in snow.
Back then, Swansea Sound was a lonely local voice, the echoes of which could barely be caught in South Pembrokeshire on a calm and still night. It was rooted in the area it served and the businesses advertising on it were cheerfully local and mundane. The presenters and freelancers (of which my father was one) didn’t get much for the efforts but they were all identifiably local voices, many of whom remain in the area long after they retired from the airwaves.
My father remained at Swansea Sound for over forty years. He didn’t retire and he wasn’t given the chance to say goodbye to his loyal listeners on air. Ill health overcame him. In those last years, he would struggle into a car – usually driven by a friend, my brother-in-law, and occasionally by me – and take his carefully handwritten scripts and CDs into the studio and broadcast live without giving a hint that his health was failing.
On one occasion, he turned over his car on the bends near Llanddowror. A fire crew cut him out and helped him through the car’s back window. The ambulance took him home, he then called my brother-in-law to make sure he got to the studio on time to make his broadcast live.
Local radio, local independent radio, commands that sort of loyalty from its presenters and its listeners. A lot of the voices aren’t as smooth and practised as the schmooze merchants on national radio – as the late Terry Wogan called them once ‘the anyhow brigade’.
‘That was Chaka Khan singing ‘I Feel for You’, which was written for her by Prince. Anyhow, here’s Simply Red…’
Local radio, the good stuff, is earthy and sometimes a little rough around the edges.
And now that is being lost in a sea of bland, one-size-fits-none, central programming.
Bizarrely, some of Bauer’s other stations in England will retain their local base. They offer – allegedly – more distinctive programming than the only independent radio station in Wales which remains true to its roots.
After almost half a century that would be disastrous for listeners, advertisers, local charities and decision-makers in area.
There’s a petition calling for the Welsh Government to step in – and it’s certainly something it should express a view upon – and another calling for Bauer Media to reverse its decision.
Both can be found online, at the Facebook page SAVE Swansea Sound and on change.org.
Deliveroo launches in Llanelli ahead of planned date
FOOD delivery company Deliveroo has announced its early launch in Llanelli this week. According to Deliveroo, the company has brought forward the launch by weeks in order to help restaurants and customers through lockdown. This means that locals can now order food from a range of restaurants and grocery retailers in the local area.
Deliveroo is an app and website that enables Brits to check out the very best local food in their area. The British company has seen great success and is now available in 12 different markets across the world. Deliveroo works with both the best independent restaurants like Best Pizza and Kebab House, Harry Watkins and Tinworks Brewery, well-known high street favourites like KFC, Burger King and Pizza Hut as well as grocery retailers and convenience stores such as Co-op (see Editor’s Notes below for full list available on Deliveroo in Llanelli).
The food delivery company will continue to add new local restaurants, takeaways and convenience stores to the platform over the coming months, with the likes of Nando’s joining Deliveroo as lockdown eases. Apply here to become a Deliveroo partner.
The food delivery company is also giving customers 20% off orders for the next four weeks with code: LLANELLI10
The launch will be a major boost to small restaurant businesses across Llanelli who will be able to reach new customers and grow their restaurant businesses through offering delivery.
Working with Deliveroo increases restaurants’ sales as they can reach a wider range of customers. This enables restaurants to expand their businesses, often employing more staff, broadening their menus and lengthening opening times as a result.
Deliveroo will be looking for up to 50 people in Llanelli to become riders. Those who work as riders will be able to work when they want and where they want, delivering food and groceries to customers’ doors in as little as 20 minutes.
This comes as Deliveroo will also be extending further into the suburbs of existing cities or towns that it currently operates in. The drive behind the rapid expansion is underpinned by the company’s belief that people in every part of the UK should have access to amazing meals wherever and whenever they want them.
Harrison Foster, Regional Director in the UK: “Launching in Llanelli is a key milestone for Deliveroo. Llanelli has a thriving foodie community and a wide range of restaurants and retailers, so we’re excited to connect them. We look forward to working with our new partners to reach a new customer base and expand their businesses.”
Deliveroo is focused on providing the ultimate food delivery experience. Customers have the option to schedule orders via the Deliveroo app up to one day in advance or receive food as soon as possible between 11.30am and 11pm on weekdays and 11.30am and 11pm on weekends, from a variety of independent eateries, traditional takeaways, high-quality chain restaurants as well as grocery retailers.
Lifeline for cockle-gathers could be on the way after Llangennech rail crash
Plaid Cymru MS Helen Mary Jones has raised the impact on cockle-gathers of the Llangennech derailment last year.
She received an assurance from the First Minister that the Welsh Government was looking at way to help the cockle industry.
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Economy, Transport and Tackling Poverty Minister, Helen Mary Jones MS said:
“In the Senedd I congratulated the public services for the way they co-operated around the clean-up after the Llangennech derailment, which, so far, has been very successful. I demanded a life-line scheme to help the cockle gathers.
“I raised with the First Minister issues for two groups of businesses particularly badly affected in the short-term by the derailment.
“One of those was the very important cockle-gathering industry, the other, of course, were farmers who graze animals on those low-lying banks by the river.
“There has been a request for the Welsh Government to consider whether some interim financial support might be made available to the cockle gatherers and the grazers while responsibility for the derailment and long-term compensation becomes a possibility. Many of these are small businesses; they operate on quite low margins and currently in difficult circumstances.
“The First Minister emphasised he was aware of the impact on cockle gatherers and particularly that they were unable to carry out their normal activities while the level of environmental contaminants in the estuary were being surveyed.
“Plaid Cymru believes it must be the polluter in the end that must pay for the damage that has been caused, but the rail accident investigation branch work is not coming to a conclusion quickly.
“The Welsh Government is expecting to receive advice in the next few days whether or not it is possible to devise a scheme through the Welsh Government in which some interim assistance to those industries could be supplied.
“The Welsh Government is keen to obtain that advice from officials in case it is possible, before the rail accident investigation is completed, so they can offer some assistance to those who have been most directly affected.”
The environmental impact of the Llangennech derailment last year was amongst the most significant in Wales since the Sea Empress disaster of 25 years ago.
Monitoring of the site and surrounding area, which includes four sites of special scientific interest and a special area of conservation will continue for many years to come.
UK Budget must take crucial steps to help recovery
LLANELLI Labour representatives are urging the UK Government to take the necessary steps to begin recovery and secure prosperity across all parts of the UK.
Llanelli’s MP Nia Griffith and MS Lee Waters set out Wales’ priorities ahead of the UK Budget on Wednesday March 3 2021.
They are urging the UK Government to make a series of commitments to Wales, including:
• sustaining UK-wide business support
• delivering welfare and taxation measures to support the most vulnerable
• redressing the historical under investment in Wales on research and development and rail infrastructure
• providing an injection of funding to support the transition to Net Zero carbon emissions
• providing guarantees for Wales’ specific funding pressures
Speaking ahead of the UK Budget announcement, Nia Griffith MP reiterated her calls for continued business support for those on the lowest of incomes. She said:
“It is vital that the Job Retention Scheme and Self Employed Income Support Scheme are retained – not threatened with being removed at the eleventh hour and putting livelihoods at risk. A delay to repayments should also be introduced for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme with recognition given to the self-employed who are facing deferred bills.”
“It is also vital that the £20 per week increase to Universal Credit is maintained and put on a permanent basis, making it available to people in receipt of legacy means-tested benefits. More than 300,000 families in Wales have benefitted from an extra £1,000 a year as a result of the uplift and removing this now would have a detrimental and long-lasting effect on thousands of households across Wales.”
Lee Waters MS said:
“The UK Government should continue to take advantage of historically low interest rates to invest in Wales’ infrastructure and public services. Particularly on rail, where we have been underfunded to the tune of billions since the start of devolution, this is the moment where Rishi Sunak can demonstrate his commitment to ‘levelling up’ all four nations of the UK.”
“This budget is a chance to hardwire a greener, fairer way of doing things into our recovery from Coronavirus. We are ambitious about our target of being Net Zero carbon by 2050, and averting the climate crisis which is increasingly affecting Wales through flooding. But to make that transition, we need a step change from the UK Government’s budget that allows us to invest in renewable energy and green jobs.”
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