Thank you to everyone who attended our meeting at Galeri in Caernarfon on May 26th to hear Adam Price discuss the concept of Arfor. The principle behind the scheme is the foundation of a partnership body for the north and west (Môn, Gwynedd, Ceredigion, and Caerfyrddin); those areas where the Welsh language is at its strongest. Since these areas face the same challenges and opportunities regarding language, culture and economic development, a body such as Arfor would allow for strategic planning and development; an approach that would acknowledge culture as a key element.
Adam outlined the urgent problem of out-migration from these areas; that 117,000 young people have left these counties over the past decade. One of the first steps to challenging this trend, Adam argued, is to recognise the Welsh language as a valuable resource, which can potentially contribute to economic growth. Indeed, he emphasised that a strong local identity provides a strong and viable foundation for regeneration.
With £2 million available to develop these ideas, the initial challenge is to plan an appropriate and sustainable structure for the long term. A structure which, as Adam puts it, makes the most of the “high level opportunity to re-draw the map.” Following the agreement of a Strategic Plan and management structure, the possibilities can be fully explored and developed – innovative ideas such as Enterprise Towns and Community Banks, infrastructure projects (such as transport), as well as making the most of, and co-ordinating the good practice which already exists across the various organisations and sectors.
There was an opportunity for further discussion following the presentation. Support for the Welsh language beyond its heartlands was discussed, and it was agreed that Arfor had to provide inspiration beyond its boundaries, and encourage wider ownership of its principles.
Since reversing the tendency for younger people to leave the north and west is one of the scheme’s main aims, it was agreed that colleges and Universities have a key role to play, and that incentives should be made available to students to study locally, with a view to contributing to the area’s future economic prosperity.
Among the other matters raised was the importance of positive action – extending Welsh language administration within the public sector, for instance. It was also stressed that we need to celebrate all that has been achieved already, and establish these successes as a foundation for further development.