Hir Oes i Hwb y Gors

Our Membership and Communications Officer, Dyfan Lewis, visited Awel Aman Tawe’s project Hwb y Gors in Cwmgors. Here are some of his thoughts on the project…

Published: 08.09.2023 ( 10 months ago )

I was raised in two villages on the sides of the hills of north Swansea.

I say two villages, because my childhood home was in Craig-cefn-parc, but I had my education in Felindre. In a small school with around 30 pupils – Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Felindre. I received an education by a whole village there, one that has sustained me and enlightened my values as well as my belief in community to this day.

In summer 2019, after a strong resistance by campaigners in the community, the school was closed. The following January it was sold to private hands, changing the nature of the village forever.

Ysgol Cwmgors, on the otherside of the Gwair and Betws mountains to Craig-cefn-parc and Felindre, saw the same fate in 2015.

So, it was strange and emotional to step through the doors at Hwb y Gors – the site of the school in Cwmgors, that’s now being developed to be a low-carbon hub. The site was purchased by Awel Aman Tawe, using revenue from their wind farm, which is about a mile above the building on Mynydd y Gwrhyd.

The work is still ongoing, but Hwb y Gors will include a community cafe, office space, arts workshops, a hall for events, accessible wetrooms and toilets, and spaces for artists in residence.

I know and empathise with the unique grief that rises from the closure of a small school in a village. The place grows older overnight. The sounds of children playing stop. There is no space for young families and their children to interact with the community – a space for people to gather and socialise. It is a critical blow to the language as a community language too.

Hearing Emily, Louise, Bethan and Dan from Awel Aman Tawe talk about the journey of the local community – from being unsure about the development to being full of enthusiasm and ideas struck home. As did the stories about a previous pupil at the school listening to a sound piece by the artist Matthew Collier, and feeling a strange pang from hearing the playtime bells ringing once again.

Cwmgors’ ability as a community to develop and take part in the future of this building was down to community energy. The wind farm as an asset, and the money from it, allowed the necessary space to purchase the school, and compete against the open market. My community in Felindre didn’t have a similair asset, and the school there now lies in private hands.

Having more community projects around Wales would enable this development on a community level of course, but we at Community Energy Wales are also asking Welsh Government to give communities the first option to buy public property. This would mean more time for communities to develop plans and raise the necessary capital to create projects like Hwb y Gors.

I look forward to returning to Hwb y Gors when the building work has finished and seeing first hand how the community has taken ownership of it once again.

Hir Oes i Hwb y Gors!

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