Page last updated at 06:56 GMT, Monday, 26 October 2009

Valleys promoted as nation's soul

Poster image for Heart and Soul of Wales campaign
Local people are being asked to say what they like in the area

The valleys are being branded as the "Heart and Soul of Wales" in a three-year marketing campaign.

The campaign entitled The Valleys - Heart and Soul of Wales, intends to build on investment in the region to date and help boost the local economy.

The scheme is part of a £22m three-year assembly government project to raise the profile of the south Wales valleys.

For the first time marketing the area will focus on promoting attractions to local people and visitors.

Organisers said that research has shown that the valleys are seen by many as the "heart and soul of Wales, reflecting the warmth of valleys people, strong sense of community and the area's unique industrial past, turning rural Wales into the world's first industrialised nation".

Leanne Jones with Tyler
Leanne Jones, New Tredegar, pictured with Tyler

All of my family are valleys people and I think that's instilled a sense of community inside of me and that's something I want to pass onto my children.

When you go into a big town or city that community feel isn't there - and that's something I would miss terribly if I moved away.

I enjoy going on long walks with my children and our dogs. There aren't many places you can easily walk to the top of a mountain and take in the great views. I think it can be something people take for granted but when I see it I know I'm home.

Last year we were thinking about moving to Tenby with my husband's job. But when we asked the kids for their opinion we were met with "no way - I'd miss home too much.


The drive covers nine areas - Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, Merthyr Tydfil, Caerphilly, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Bridgend, northern areas of Swansea and Neath Port Talbot and the eastern valleys of Carmarthenshire.

Residents are being asked to take part by saying what makes them most proud of the area by texting the campaign or visiting its website.

The campaign is using a number of local people as "ambassadors" for the area, including Mavis Ashford, of Ton Pentre, Rhondda, who said: "Lots of people have the wrong idea about life here. But we aren't only about greenness, scenery and interesting places to visit - we've also got great communities."

Cardiff University's Prof Kevin Morgan, an expert in regional development, welcomed it as "more than just about narrow economic development, important as that is".

He said: "This is a very important, long overdue, strategy if we want to stem 70 years of depopulation."

Prof Morgan, originally from Rhigos in the Cynon Valley, said the campaign was picking up on decades of regeneration schemes.

"We have been doing this off and on since the 1930s but we haven't done it consistently. and we haven't done it 'with the community'.

Part of the logo promoting the south Wales valleys
The English-language section of the logo promoting the valleys

"This is programme is the most serious attempt ever to try to create sustainable communities with a viable future.

"It is not creating facilities for tourists, it's addressing the needs and aspirations of local people in the first instance, and this will create an environment in which tourists and others will want to come to the region."

Rhondda AM Leighton Andrews, the assembly's deputy minister for regeneration, said: "The valleys have changed beyond recognition in just a generation.

"The area has become a great place to live, with an excellent environment, lots to do and plenty to be proud of. We know that's what many people think.

"The Heart and Soul of Wales campaign is a way of taking that message to a wider audience, to attract more people to come and see for themselves."

Here are a selection of your responses.

Surely some mistake ? The heart and soul of Wales is both ALL of Wales and the place where you come from / live / work / feel emotionally linked with. To promote just one area is to set up yet another stereotypical view of our fantastic country. I am a big supporter of devolution but surely it's about being progressive not diving back to the past. All the great things you can say about the Valleys you can also say about every other inch of Wales.
Julie h, coedpoeth, cymru

Sadly, the Valleys are victims of a massive shortfall between the number of people and the available work since industrial investment in the area collapsed. I don't know if the area can experience any serious increase in living quality without a continuing drop in population.
Richard, Swansea

I can see what they mean, i miss lots about it. Mainly the community spirit and the good banta. But on the turn side the place is overrun with crime, drugs and unemployment. Focus on jobs before promoting it!
Rhodri, Newcastle originally Rhondda

£22million would be better spent promoting all of Wales to the world. I have worked and lived throughout the south wales valleys and I agree there is a sense of community, one where everyone talks about everyone, crime by your neighbours is rife, health standards low, poverty high, benefits dependency high, young single mothers high, broken families high and old people living in isolation and fear. Not something we really want to promote to the world is it? The assembly has already wasted millions trying to address some of these issues through communities first and the reality is it hasn't worked.
Andrea, Bridgend

As far as complaints about needing regeneration and getting jobs for the valleys; isn't that the *whole point* of this exercise? Why are people complaining?
Julian, Barry, S Wales

South Wales,South Wales, South Wales,thats all we hear from the assembly... The assembly has nothing to do with devolution for Wales, Just South Wales,innit BUD !!!
Yachydda, Wrexham North Wales

Wales is a small country - and this sort of biassed thinking will never serve those who wish to see Wales as a nation - if the Valleys are being touted as the 'Heart and Soul' then where is the Brain? Clearly not in the heads of those who dreamed up this divisive idea. West Wales, North Wales, Mid-Wales and Ynys Mon - and South Wales, these are all part of one country and that is was should be promoted.
Richard Noyce, Welshpool, Powys

Is this a joke?

The valleys are fast becoming a ghetto. By the time the older generation have moved on, it will be left with mostly lazy, third generation workshy benefit claimants!
Dave Davies, Porth

Valley's = heart and sole? that's just ridiculous! what about the North or Mid Wales?
David, Anglesey, Mother of Wales

The Welsh Valleys are an area all Britons should be proud of. They reflect all that is good in British society: community spirit, a sense of being, courage in the face of adversity, trust and care for others, beauty, awe and tranquility in spades. They are arguably the Heart and Soul of Britain, not just Wales.
Paul Williams, Marlborough

Ah South Wales yet again. Do they know about North and Mid Wales in the Assembly?
Russ, Corwen North Wales

the valleys are full of crime and poverty fill them in make it flat and forget about them theyr'e just a drain on society
ryan, pontypool

No, concentrate on getting the jobs for the valleys, way too much unemployment.
Michael, Cardiff

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