Last week I visited Resolven Miners Welfare Hall to see a set of proposals by Cardiff University School of Architecture students for the restoration and continued use of this historic building.
Built in the 1920s and funded by local miners, the Welfare Hall was meant to serve the community as a recreation, entertainment, cultural and educational venue.
As the times changed, so did the Welfare Hall.
A cinema was installed in the 1950s and quickly attracted people across the Neath Valley and further afield. It firmly established itself as a valuable, popular, and irreplaceable community asset. People met, fell in love, held parties, celebrated and commemorated together under its roof.
In the 1990s when the cinema shut down, the rest of the building remained well used. Over the years the bar remained busy, and groups utilised the rooms for a wide number of purposes.
In 2017 a new board of trustees took responsibility for the building and carried out research that indicated the level of funding that would be required to restore “The Welf” to its former glory. They found that around £4 million would be required, a number that would make restoration one of the largest investments Resolven has ever received.
As work was progressing, not only did the pandemic bring everything to a halt but a serious leak meant the building was further damaged and immediate, essential repairs had to be prioritised. Delays in the insurance money led to questions over whether the Welfare may have to close, but thankfully that didn’t happen and things have begun moving forward again.
Collaborations with Cardiff University won’t deliver the changes that is needed, but it can provide the inspiration that will lead to it. As I spoke to students, most – if not all – had never even heard of Resolven before the start of the project, I got a sense that many of them had become invested in the future of this fantastic building and the support community well-being it offers and symbolises. As for the trustees, their passion for this building is inspiring and the work they do and the time they dedicate to their community is tremendous.
I do not doubt that they will be successful. It may take time, and they will likely have the odd set back or two, but they are on a mission and will not stop until they succeed.
Across the region I represent there are many similar buildings, all with their own stories and their own team of dedicated volunteers. I hope to visit more of them in the future and learn about the challenges they face and victories they’ve won.
For more information on the Resolven Miners Welfare Hall, please go to https://resolvenwelfare.co.uk