Let the Vulcan die with diginity

Vulcan-Streetview

If you live South Wales you’ve probably heard of the Vulcan pub, perhaps only as a result of the long-running campaign to save it from being demolished.

The Vulcan is a pub that has been around for over 150 years, and the area that it is in has seen radical changes in the past 40-odd-years. It’s been around so long that the area that it was originally built in no longer exists, yet somehow it lives on, just.

Where it is now is a nowhere area – in between the city centre and Adamsdown – everything around it has been demolished, new buildings have been built up and it’s no longer a residential area – save for the 21-storey block of student flats right next to it.

Local brewery, Brains, keeps threatening to close it and knock it down, suffering the fate of every other building around it – but a high profile campaign that started in 2008, which drew in celebrities like The Manic Street Preachers, politicians like Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and thousands of signatories on a petition has saved it thus far.

Here’s the problem with the campaign to save the Vulcan – despite 5,000 people saying that they want it to remain, none of them actually go to drink there. It’s a love affair with the past that has to end, and will inevitably end, probably soon.

Hell, if they can’t even get the students in from next door – of which there are about 650 – to help them pay the bills by buying a few cheeky pints, what chance have they got?

I’m not one of those people that thinks the past should be unnecessarily levelled to “make way for progress”, but in some circumstances it is right to do so. The Vulcan now stands out like a sore thumb, and it’s preventing anything else from being built on the land around which it stands, where workshops were demolished a couple of years ago, and now is just a tarmac car park. It’s almost there out of spite.

The Vulcan had a reprieve, its supporters had a chance to make a go of it, the fought the good fight, but it didn’t come off – send The Vulcan to Switzerland, it’s time to end it all.

Save the Vulcan campaign

Why I think “Viva Hate” is the best debut album ever…

It’s because I can imagine buying the album – fresh, crisp and new – unheard – putting it on for the first time and the music starting, “Alsatian Cousin”; a new beginning, a phenomenally strong track which was Morrissey truly announcing “WORLD, I AM STILL HERE”. This launches, without a pause, into “Little Man, What Now?”, the story of a child star become irrelevant and insignificant, confined to re-living his glory days through daytime chat shows, a true marvel of songwriting finesse.

This has to be one of the best lines from any song, ever, and because it’s said with such gusto and knowing charm;

A note upon his desk:

“P.S. Bring Me Home And Have Me!”

Leather elbows on a tweed coat

- Oh! Is THAT the best you can do?

So came his reply:

“But on the desk is where I want you!”

To celebrate Record Store Day (today, April 23rd), EMI have re-released the “Suedhead” single (the Mael Mix). This follows hot on the heels of the re-release of Viva Hate on March 26th.

What Cardiff needs (from a ruling party)

Polling Station - Gorsaf Belidleisio

With council elections coming up soon, May 3rd, Welsh citizens get their first chance since the last general election to decide who runs their area for the next four years.

I would argue that these local elections are as important as, if not more important than, Parliamentary elections; the voter pool is significantly smaller, so in a lot of cases “every vote counts”, and the candidates that are being voted for can make a difference to a city, an area, an individual or set of individual directly. Think about it, what was the last thing that David Cameron or Nick Clegg did just for you, your area or your city? The councillors that are being chosen here are working for a smaller group of people, so their attention is more focused and they can make a difference for more people on a more personal level than an MP, and in Wales an AM, probably would (or could).

Cardiff has always been known as a new, little city with big ambitions, but right now is at a crossroads. In years past there was a clear direction, that was presented by necessity – like the replacement of The Arms Park by the Millennium Stadium – or by a policy decided and directed by the council – like the decision to revamp the city centre, focussing on retail and the courting of big chains, but right now Cardiff does not have a very clear set of change policies or ambitions. The global recession certainly helped on this change in priorities, since there are now very few investors willing to pour money into big, adventurous projects – where before they may have had a go, and Cardiff council would have been willing to grease the cogs of bureaucracy for them.
There are a few half baked ideas, which are continually being announced, changed, then eventually scrapped, for example:

  • The Cardiff “business district”
  •  Transport hub (AKA a bus station)
  • Ely “Urban village”

In fact, these two projects are really one and the same, since they encroach on each other’s area, both being situated on Wood Street. These are the only two (major) projects that I can think of that are “in the pipeline” that could significantly affect Cardiff’s fortunes, and both of them are long talked about with no visible progress having been made in at least 4 years.

Cardiff’s bus station terminal was demolished in 2008, the highly visible area surrounded by construction boarding and has been used as some kind of parking lot for construction vehicles ever since. The latest set of plans set out the site of Marland House, about 100m East of the original bus station site, as where the new “transport hub” will be built, and on the site of the old bus station will be the “Cardiff business district”.

According to Cardiff council the plans are still on time and work will begin later this year, which means demolishing Marland House and all surrounding buildings, including the NCP car park. To do this the council will need to use compulsory purchase orders to get the current tenants of Marland House to vacate, these businesses include National Express, Londis, Boots, CEX and Burger King. I have seen no indication that the process of purchasing Marland House, or the land that Marland House stands on, has even begun – though if somebody wants to tell me otherwise, I’d be glad to hear the details.

All this is getting to the real points I want to make, that Cardiff is a unique city that needs a particular type of administration, and this is what we need:

  • Thoroughly planned, innovative projects that benefit the city as a whole.
  • Firm leadership and decision making, because we have endured too many years of “flip-flopping” and bowing to public pressure, like in the case of the “school restructure” debacle.
  • Ideas that buck the trend, not just follow it, or are a knee jerk reaction to other city’s plans, like the “Enterprise zone” farce, that was a reaction to Bristol’s proposal (which has now started construction).
  • A leadership that will engage with its citizens wholly, and take ideas for the future from them. Cardiff has an amazing pool of talent, as demonstrated by some of the groups that have been set up in recent years, such as ThinkArk.
  • A more open council, with good communication at its core. We don’t want to have to read the formal minutes from council meetings, or sub-committee meetings to know what is being discussed or planned in our city, or else be kept in the dark until its formally announced and there is nothing we can do but comment on the decision that has been made.

I think these are some very simple things that can be achieved very easily, but will positively affect every resident and business in the city and make our “capital village” a much better place to live and work.