Interview with a Haverfordwest Town Councillor
This is the story of a Town Councillor who actively sought to “build a bridge” between the Town Council and Confluence project, having heard about it through local PR. He thought that there may be some common ground between the council and the project and wanted to see if they could help each other to “do stuff in the town”.
He was pleased to say that the partnership worked well in Festival Week 2016 when Confluence did some “wonderful art-based things” that the Council were very grateful for. In particular, he was impressed with the “clay stamping” activity, where people took impressions of different surfaces and also the model of the town that people could interact with, indicating what they liked and didn’t like about Haverfordwest.
He was also involved in the process of commissioning a capital legacy project for Confluence and, being someone who “as an engineer thinks in black and white”, he was fascinated by what he saw as a “multi-coloured, kaleidoscopic way of seeing “that artists have, which “brings an interesting dimension when you’re discussing what to do with a town and how to do it”. This isn’t always a good thing though, according to our councillor, since sometimes artists have such abstract ideas that it’s difficult for the general public to relate to them. He feels that, from the perspective of the average town citizen it may not be clear what the project has done for the town, since the impacts are “very subtle”.
From a personal perspective, the most significant change for the councillor was that it had inspired an “awakening of a latent desire to make some sort of contribution in an art way to the town and in my own life”. This dormant creativity is now finding expression in the early stages of a collaborative community art project, inspired by a Dutch example, to cast concrete sofas and situate them around the town, in which the local community will be engaged in siting, designing and applying mosaics.
Thinking about the most significant change for the town since the Confluence project began, the councillor was again of the view that it might be difficult for townspeople to see a legacy, except for one of “the most visible and best things “namely “the lantern parade, which was super popular, super enjoyable for everyone and ticked so many boxes for a community event. It was also a lesson for us as a Town Council that said ‘look THIS is how you do community stuff’”. He hoped that the Town Council would consider allocating funds to continuing the event in future years, in partnership with others who could be contracted to run workshops and organise the event itself. So, he saw this as a visible legacy that “should definitely not stop and could even be expanded, with different and perhaps longer routes for the walk”.
The councillor also thought that the timing of the Confluence project was perfect, since the town was at such a low ebb and potentially a turning point. However, he felt that it was difficult for the person on the street to understand where the money had been spent when the project hadn’t resulted in a tangible cultural centre of some kind. He had observed a gap between public perceptions in Haverfordwest of what constitutes art and the more ‘avant garde’ approach of some of the artists involved in the project. In other words, he felt that overall it ‘hadn’t been accessible and inclusive enough, although things like the Festival Week activities and Lantern Parade were so massively successful that they missed a trick, that there is in fact a yearning in town for that to happen and people want to get involved with arty stuff generally, if it’s not too ‘high end’”