In March 2012 BBC Wales ran a couple of programmes about homelessness in Swansea. The fact that my home town is now ‘the homelessness capital of Wales’ prompted a response. My post about the first programme can be found here, and the post of the second programme here. Due to Google censorship I can only transfer posts from my old blog to my new one – via RSS Owl – without comments. Of those comments many were supportive of my position, but there were a few from devotees of political correctness, those choosing to focus on my pithy terminology as a way of avoiding the meat of the issue. Tossers!
This week the Beeb returned to the subject with Swansea: Back on the Streets, linking up with some of the stars from previous shows – such as Gheorgika, the exuberantly religious Romanian – and to let us meet some of the new faces around town. Chief among these was an Irish alcoholic straight from central casting, named Tim (shown above, right); given when drunk to a kind of maudlin loquacity that could be mistaken for profundity. (Especially if the hearer was also drunk.)
I had a good idea what to expect of the programme from the information given on the BBC Wales website. Though I guarantee that the Jacks do not “boast” about their city having “the highest number of homeless in Wales”. Though others do. I’m referring now to those who promote Swansea as a magnet for dossers so they can then run to funders claiming there’s a terrible problem that can only be solved by throwing lots of money at it. (Or rather, at them.) And of course, to achieve the desired funding porkies must be reared and fattened, a few of which we heard on this week’s show.
In trying to explain why Swansea is the homelessness capital of Wales we were told that, ” . . . people come from the surrounding valleys because there’s more help on offer here. It’s also at the end of the railway line, they get off the train and stay”. But if I was a homeless person from the Valleys, with enough money for a train ticket, why would I pay the extra to go to Swansea, passing through Cardiff? For are we not constantly told that Cardiff is wealthy beyond the dreams of Jacks, Gogs, Cardis and assorted other provincials? People from across southern Wales don’t just drift into Swansea because it’s at the end of the line. (Anyway, it’s not.) The giveaway is “more help on offer here”. They’re drawn here by the Third Sector homelessness industry. And then of course there’s the uncomfortable truth that Irish Tim, and our Romanian friend, plus many others, were not sired in Merthyr, nor were they suckled in Tonypandy.
A lot of people in Swansea – and other parts of the country – think that the Welsh media is rather too keen on promoting Cardiff while ignoring or even undermining other areas. Programmes like this only increase that perception. So one such programme would have been enough, but four in just over a year is overkill.
On the one hand we have individuals, groups and agencies in Swansea trying their best to improve the city’s image, to attract visitors and investors, and then we have BBC ‘Wales’ doing this. So it’s: ‘Come and enjoy the Maritime Quarter . . . Don’t forget the Dylan Thomas centenary celebrations in 2014 . . . You must visit Gower . . . Go see the Swans . . . ‘ While from BBC Wales we get – ‘But remember! Wherever you go in Swansea you’ll be pestered by winos and panhandlers – cos Swansea is the dossers capital of Wales!’
Though perhaps in recognition of the fact that these programmes do not go down well with the Jacks, the Beeb is also currently running a few programmes about Swansea Market. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a local institution, biggest covered market in Wales and all that, the only place I’d buy my laverbread and cockles; but if the BBC wanted to balance things up after so much air time given to the negative publicity of the homelessness industry, then they could have done a hell of a lot better than a few progs about the Market. Must try harder.