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Battle rages to save Swansea Sound

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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.

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Business offer Welsh Government help in ‘non-essential’ shopping row

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THIS morning (Tuesday, October 27), the Wales Retail Consortium, CBI Wales and Association of Convenience stores presented the Welsh Government joint recommendation to resolve the confusion over non-essential items.

The three industry bodies’ statement expresses the hope that the Welsh Government, ‘will agree to these recommendations and the people of Wales can refocus all their energies on respecting the Fire Break’.

The recommendations come in response to confused and confusing messaging from the Welsh Government, which allowed its public health message to be drowned out over the weekend by rows over whether toasters, Lee Childs novels, and size 16 jeans were essential items for customers. The confusion was not helped by a mistaken tweet by supermarket giant Tesco which claimed women’s period products were not essential items when they are and always have been.

The WRC, CBI Wales and ACS believe their recommendations will fulfil retail’s role in tackling the spread of the virus while allowing for discretion to be used on an individual basis – as recommended by Health Minister Vaughan Gething in a tense press conference yesterday, http://pembrokeshire-herald.com/61929/welsh-health-minister-defends-retail-restrictions/.

The business bodies recommend:

  • To limit the spread of the virus and allow for individual discretion, retailers will prominently display Welsh Government approved signage in front of known non-essential items and in communal areas. The signage will make clear the government’s regulation and the need to abide by it.
  • This message will be reinforced through in-store announcements and social media messaging. Advising customers to put off non-essential purchases
  • We recommend the individual customer is trusted to make their own decision as to whether a product is non-essential or not, taking into account the notices displayed throughout the store and their immediate needs
  • If the customer goes ahead with the purchase of the item the final liability ought to rest with the customer
  • Retailers will remove special in-store promotional displays of non-essential items in order to minimise browsing and avoid triggering a non-essential purchase.
  • These recommendations would mean non-essential items are not removed from shelves – or cordoned off in stores – but large notices are placed in front of the products and in communal spaces informing customers of the Welsh Government’s regulations and the Welsh public are trusted to make the right decision.

They also say they ‘look forward to engaging with Welsh Government again this morning and we hope consensus can be reached’.

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Llanelli Christmas Carnival goes online

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Preparations are underway to host the first ever virtual Llanelli Christmas Carnival. 

The carnival will go digital for the first time in its 42-year history due to the Covid-19 pandemic and in line with current Welsh Government guidance and increasing concerns about the spread of coronavirus linked to large gatherings. 

Whilst there won’t be the usual street parade, people will be able to get into the festive spirit from the comfort of their own home. 

The online celebration will be hosted as an event on Discover Carmarthenshire’s Facebook page on Friday, November 13. 

Over the years, thousands of people have been involved in the Llanelli Christmas Carnival – either dressing up to enter a float in the parade, volunteering, or simply enjoying the atmosphere with generations of their families. 

They can still get involved this year by sharing photos and video to help people celebrate good memories and help others reminisce about carnivals gone by. 

There will be a broadcast of music from talented local performers who would usually sing from the main stage, and people will still be able to countdown to the switch-on of the town’s Christmas lights. 

The largest Christmas carnival in Wales, Llanelli’s festive celebrations are a joint effort by Carmarthenshire County Council, Llanelli Town Council, Llanelli Rural Council and Llanelli Round Table. 

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “It’s very unfortunate that we can’t hold Llanelli Christmas Carnival this year, but we’re determined to keep the spirit of the carnival alive. Let’s come together and celebrate one of the biggest events in Wales from the comfort of our homes – celebrate with generations of memories and look forward to a bigger and better carnival next year.” 

Sign up to attend Llanelli’s first virtual Christmas carnival – visit facebook.com/discovercarmarthenshire 

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Free Community Crime Prevention Kits to be distributed in Llanelli area

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OVER the coming weeks, residents from both the Ty Isha and Glanymor areas in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, will receive free crime prevention kits that will aim to deter offenders and make both communities safer.

The prevention kits have been purchased through funding that was secured from the Home Office’s Safer Street Fund by Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn.

The funding of £195,673 that was secured by Mr Llywelyn will go towards measures proven to cut crime, and will include employing two Community Wardens; purchase of SelectaDNA kits, Community crime prevention activity support, Environmental improvements and Community Crime Prevention kits.

SelectaDNA kits and Bike register kits are two of the Community Prevention kits that will be distributed to residents within the local communities over coming weeks.

The SelectaDNA kits are property marking kits that include a unique formula of DNA, UV tracer and microdots, which people can use to mark their valuable household items, so that if stolen, police are able to trace them. 

Similarly, the bike register kits include stickers, frame markings and microdots to uniquely identify a bike.  Users can add descriptions and photos to ensure that in the event of a theft, their bicycle can be easily identified and returned by Police through the BikeRegister Scheme.

Dafydd Llywelyn, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys said, “I am delighted that both these crime prevention kits have been purchased through the Safer Streets funding that I secured earlier this year.  Hopefully, as they are distributed over the coming weeks, we will see that they will have a positive impact within the area.  Criminals know that DNA is the police’s most powerful weapon in convicting criminals therefore the DNA fear-factor is highly understood and acts as a huge deterrent.

“I have invested significantly in the area over recent years with community grants I made available in addition to the new CCTV system that is in place across the town. These new crime prevention kits that have been purchased through the new additional Safer Streets funding will further build upon my work over recent years and I hope the residents will feel a positive difference in their communities.

Both Ty Isha and Glanymor areas are considered to be two of the most deprived areas in Carmarthenshire according to the Welsh Government’s Index of Multiple Deprivation. The funding secured will focus on tackling all acquisitive crime such as burglary, vehicle theft and robbery within the identified areas.

PCC Llywelyn added, “Ensuring the security and safety of residents is a priority of mine – everyone deserves to live safely, and free from harm. Acquisitive offences are the crimes that the public are most likely to encounter, and they are estimated to cost society billions of pounds every year. There is strong evidence that these crimes can be prevented by tactics that either remove opportunities to commit crime or act as a deterrent by increasing the chances of an offender being caught. I now look forward to continue working closely with all partners that have supported us with our bid, to tackle these crimes in both areas and to ensure that they become safer environments for community residents.”

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