Llanelli has prepared to host Wales’ largest cultural festival by transforming its economic landscape.
For a century, the Carmarthenshire town was characterised by its steelworks. In their heyday, they employed 23,000 people and the area was christened ‘Tinopolis’.
That was until industrial decline took the factories away. Now, a £27.5 million Millennium Coastal Park tourism project has healed the scars left by their departure, and has become home to the first National Eisteddfod of the new millennium.
The rejuvenation of a 22km seaside stretch, near to Llanelli’s famous Stradey Park rugby ground, will play host to the cultural event from August 5th to 12th. It is the fifth time the festival has visited the town and organisers have said they expect massive crowds again.
“The 1903 and 1930 eisteddfodau were held next to the steelworks and factories,” said Chairman of the Eisteddfod 2000 Executive Committee, Garry Nicholas.
“They had a great impact on the town and attracted over 20,000 people into the pavilion alone, which must have been a terrific achievement.
“This year, we are hoping to bring between 160,000 and 200,000 people to the area. It will be the biggest and best Eisteddfod yet.”
Started in 1995, the coastal park is funded by the Millennium Commission and Carmarthenshire County Council, which is expecting a million visitors each year to a new range of sustainable tourist locations including wildlife retreats and a golf course.
Park Chairman, Gerald Phillips, said: “The aim is to prevent the decline of the coastline and provide for the new millennium an environment that can be enjoyed for generations to come.
“It will raise Llanelli’s profile to new heights and finally lay to rest the town’s image as a place reliant on outdated heavy industries.”
Llanelli is well known for its rugby club, the Scarlets, which famously defeated New Zealand in 1972. Local folk song ‘Sospan Fach’, popular throughout Wales, is said to be a tribute to the variety of tin products made at the time.