Glan-Yr-Afon/The Riverside is the fantastic new cultural facility in the heart of Haverfordwest town centre.
It is however, just the beginning.
According to Mike Cavanagh, Head of Culture, Leisure, Tourism and Registration Services for Pembrokeshire County Council, ‘Glan-yr-Afon is at the vanguard of our ambitious vision to transform and regenerate the County town and just the first chapter in our work.’
The outstanding new facility in Haverfordwest includes a 21st century County library, a National Gallery-quality exhibition in partnership with the National Library of Wales, visitor information service, children's ‘Play & Learn’ space, and a beautiful glazed extension housing a coffee shop run by a local business, ‘Café Rio’.
Mike understands the reality of the challenge facing Pembrokeshire County Council:
“The truth is that just like everywhere else in the UK, high streets in our towns are struggling; the lure of out-of-town shopping and the growth of online shopping is fundamentally changing the dynamics of how town centres work.
“Understanding that this was a national, possibly even a global issue, an important part of our strategy to regenerate the County town is now to create high quality leisure experiences; reasons for people to get off their sofas, turn off their tablets and come and experience something fantastic. Glan-Yr-Afon is just the first of a number of leisure interventions coming to Haverfordwest.”
While there is so much work yet to deliver, the quality and multi-faceted nature of Glan-Yr-Afon sets the bar high for more exciting things to come in the town, showing what is possible in the County. Mike sets the agenda for change, declaring ‘Raising ambition among residents and visitors about Haverfordwest is a core aim of the regeneration programme, as well as increasing footfall, volumes of business in our shops and cafes and creating a greater vibrancy in the town.’
There is reason for optimism at this early stage. Visitor numbers since opening have been phenomenal and Glan-yr-Afon is averaging around one thousand visits per day. ‘We saw a 10% increase in town centre footfall in December 2018 and we expect the summer season to be even busier’ says Mike.
Now nationally recognised for its impressive facilities, Glan-yr-Afon’s partnership with the National Library has developed due to an increasing profile for Pembrokeshire and the growing commercial ambition of the County.
Mike is justifiably proud of this recognition:
‘We currently have a phenomenal exhibition on display, Treasures, the most ambitious exhibition the National Library have ever produced outside of its own building in Aberystwyth. The exhibition includes a masterpiece by J. W. Turner, and pieces of huge significance to the Welsh nation such as the original score of the Welsh national anthem, the first translation into Welsh of the Bible (1588) and the unique and irreplaceable medieval manuscript known as the Black Book of Carmarthen. We have something even more exciting planned for 2020!’
Mike is unwavering in his commitment that more will follow:
‘This is just the start. We will be unveiling plans and developments as they happen in order that residents, visitors and business can share in the optimism of what we aim to achieve, offering a chance to be involved in shaping our County for the better. The work has only just begun.’