St David’s – UK City of Culture?

By | Category: Travel destinations
runs of the old Bishop's Palace

The runs of the old Bishop’s Palace in st David’s

On this, St David’s Day, a day around which there are parades through some towns and cities and when Welsh throughout the world celebrate their patron saint, here is a story about the place, where it is claimed, he is buried.

One of the claims to fame of St David’s is that it is the smallest city in the UK containing just about 2,000 people. The other, of course, is about the patron saint a man who many claim was responsible for Christianity in Wales. He gave his name to the city which before that was called Mynyw and, according to some, this year marks 1,500 years since it was so called. So religious a centre was it in the middle ages that two pilgrimages to St David’s was equal to one to Rome. Is it any wonder then that at least three mediaeval kings visited the city. That explains why the old Bishop’s Palace is quite large as is the cathedral.

Today, the city is surrounded by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and is a centre for tourism. Visitors come not just for the walking and trekking along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path but to enjoy the rugged coastline with its inlets where seals pup in the late summer. It has also attracted artists, potters and crafts people. There are at least two woollen mills nearby producing materials including Welsh blankets – a traditional marriage present – and which, today, command high prices even for second-hand ones. Of the fifteen woollen mills perating in Wales, a third are in Pembrokeshire.

S David's Cathedral taken from the old Bishop's Palace

the present cathedral in St David’s

With this cultural background, it may not surprise some that the city is being considered as the 2021 UK City of Culture to succeed the present occupant – Hull.

Cloning the EU’s annual award of a city of culture, the UK government set up a scheme and, every four years, a new city has the honour. Derry/Londonderry was the first and Hull the second.

Speaking in the House of Commons this week, Matthew Hancock, a minister in the Department of Culture etc said that the award was “designed to use culture as a catalyst for economic and social regeneration and to raise the profile of arts and creativity locally, nationally and internationally.  Success in these competitions also helps areas to develop a broader high quality arts and culture sector, as well as attract increased business investment and boost tourism.”

inside the cathedral

West Wales could do with some regeneration there being little other than tourism, farming and public service jobs for school leavers to contemplate.

Competing with St David’s for the honour in 2021 could be Paisley in Scotland and Coventry, Hereford and Stoke-on-Trent have all expressed interest in being nominated as have Cardiff, Perth and Sunderland. Dundee, Leicester and Swansea were nominated against Hull last time. Will they try again?

Given the size of these other places, what chance might St David’s have? Could such a small place plan and operate all the administration that comes with being given the award? The answer is probably no. It would require Pembrokeshire County Council and Welsh government assistance but there is no doubt that would be forthcoming.

St David’s will be told whether it has been successful this May or June.

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