Daniel Settatree, Artist

“I’d been thinking about moving down here for a couple of years. I have family here and they told me about the ‘rave boat’ that had been on the river and I thought it sounded brilliant.  And then I heard about the Ideas Lab and I thought it sounded very exciting, right up my street and what a brilliant idea to regenerate Haverfordwest.

And so as I was confirming that I was going to move here, I kept checking the Confluence website to see what was going on. In a sense it was a big factor in my deciding to move here because I’d had this question of how would I make connections? So, it was really encouraging for me to know there were already people here trying to do really great things.

At first, I joined the Transition steering group and, to be honest, I was a bit confused about the difference between that and Confluence. For me, it’s something about the clarity of message and, as an artist, I’m very aware that I want it to reach people, as I have a passion for wanting to connect with people and art is a powerful tool of regeneration and inspiration.

What shocked me when I got here was the negativity that I picked up from pretty much everybody. It was only when I got to the Ideas Lab and Confluence that I found an awareness that we have to change that negative rhetoric, not in an aggressive way, but to subtly start saying: ‘yes it’s a bit run-down but the potential is phenomenal’.

It’s mind-blowing actually, thinking of East London where I had been living, which is a creative hub with a lot of pop-up shops and pop-up art events that I was involved with. But the energy it took to pop-up was phenomenal, so you want things to pop-up and stay up ideally, otherwise it’s a huge amount of energy that doesn’t necessarily have much impact.

That’s actually one of the things I felt about Platform. It was so exciting to bring that quality of work here that is site specific, made for Haverfordwest. And yet it wasn’t really on for long enough. I know there are some issues with the building, but there are always obstacles in any creative endeavour and you need to use creativity to get round them.

So, the main source of hope and inspiration for me has been knowing there are like-minded people doing exciting creative things here, an awful lot of talented people and also a lot of people who would really benefit from art and the ideas that art can provide.

The River of Lights was also phemonenal. I went to the willow lantern-making workshop and I wanted to take my nieces along, but ended up going on my own. But we attended the event as a family, with friends, and it was wonderful to see that many people involved.

I think what’s most significant about Confluence for me is the possibility of things coming alive again and seeing that it’s growing, like the Yeoman starting to do arty events and the Creative Common, for instance.  I guess everything has a cycle and maybe it’s Haverfordwest’s turn to come out of this period of depression and liberate what it is, which is a phenomenally beautiful place, full of creative people.

It seems to me Confluence has been a huge instigator in getting people together to talk and hold events that run alongside more established things, like Haverfoodfest or the summer festival. And it seems there is a willingness to work together and there’s a lot going on, even quietly under the surface.

I’m passionate about transformation and love to see the impact it has on everybody and wish it could spread like wildfire. We have come through a difficult time and sometimes those difficult times inspire creativity and hope and I think people need that. I’ve been trying to encourage that potential in myself and other people.

The idea of a permanent space keeps coming up. I’m not sure how long we’ll have The Lab at Ocky White’s for and there’s the old Post Office and the old library and so many outstanding empty properties that could have a dedicated art space and be multifunctional, maybe include a theatre of some kind and other things.

It’s about getting people to come here as well, in the way you have a body of tourists who will make the trip to Narberth. I think Haverfordwest actually has more potential than Narberth. We have the river and there’s a lot of talk about the potential of that, with floating platforms and boats on the river, which would bring people in.

Also the yarn bombing has been brilliant and proves that people will take the time to come in to see things like that, which is such a huge joy to see, and just the tip of the iceberg.

EPOC was another great event that looked at bringing together the owners of empty properties, because it’s been proven that if landlords let creative people take on their building at reduced rent and rates, they will look after it and actually improve it, so everyone is winning and the whole community benefits.

Also, thinking about Platform, it says something about the quality of the kind of work that this place deserves. It really says something about Confluence. It was such a high standard and yet not trying to be something that it’s not. It’s a very fine line but it wasn’t pretentious at all. It was free and there can be this strange idea that things can’t be worth anything if they’re free. But it was specifically made for the town and a film like the Drover could be a nationally worthy story and yet it’s very uniquely about Pembrokeshire. We need to celebrate the unique identity of places, rather than trying to make them like somewhere else, like Cornwall for instance. I hope that sort of gentrification doesn’t happen here and I don’t think it will.

I really hope that Confluence moves onto another phase after the project ends because such a lot has been achieved in terms of nurturing ideas. But there is still something about clarity and how you reach the people that are harder to reach, which is always a problem, not just for art, but for everything. You have to allow everyone their own experience and allow them to say what they think is needed and engage them in simple ways that get their honest responses. Art is unique in that it doesn’t polarise people by asking either/or questions and if you just get on and do street art, without worrying too much about permission, it creates a talking point and a bit of a buzz, just like the yarn bombing has.