The forgotten cinema

By Rhys Humphreys

If you happen to visit Resolven, you’ll most likely go to the Welfare. If you do, only the ground floor will be open, where drinks are served, and events such as pool tournaments, bingo, and pub/video quizzes are held. However, back in the day, this building used to be a cinema.

If you happen to visit Resolven, you’ll most likely go to the Welfare. If you do, only the ground floor will be open, where drinks are served, and events such as pool tournaments, bingo, and pub/video quizzes are held. However, back in the day, this building used to be a cinema.

Funded by the miners of Resolven, the Welfare opened in the 1930s and become a cinema in the 1950s. The theatre room was not just used to screen films, it also hosted talent and music shows.

Local resident, and my grandmother Anne Davies, remembers when the Welfare opened. “We had to queue up for at least half an hour before we could get a seat,” she says.

When the local mines closed in the 1980s the Welfare and the village suffered. Due to these circumstances, the venue had no choice but to close the cinema.

In a campaign called #savethewelf locals have attempted to raise funds to modernise the establishment, hosting events such as the Welf-factor.

One of the trustees of the Welfare, Sian Shock describes the welf factor as an event where “Lots of talented people come along to show what the village is made of and what they can do.”

Hosted by Christina James and Kieron Sims, with Owen Money, Mandy Starr, Darren Bromham-Nichols and Beverly Healey making up the star judges for, the talent show which sold out and was even covered by the BBC.

The Welfare itself requires £124,000 to stay open, the funding to reopen the actual cinema/theatre room will require £4 million. The restoration project has the backing of Suzie Davies, shadow Welsh culture minister, and regional AM for South Wales West.

Port Talbot which is close to Resolven, also has a cinema which has been closed for decades. This cinema is known as The Plaza which was built in 1939 and opened its doors in April 1940. Campaigners have lobbied for the facility to be brought back to life as a multi-use arts and community centre after it was closed in 1999.

Will the welfare become a cinema again? It will be difficult, but it is not impossible. In 1937, a cinema called The Rex was opened in 1937, only to be closed down in 1988. However, the local campaign group Friends of the Rex fought to reopen the Rex, and were successful in doing so. The cinema re-opened to the public in December 2004.

Resolven is not the only place in Wales that is fighting to reopen their cinema. Cinemas have been closed down through out all of the United Kingdom. Communities throughout the United Kingdom and their struggles to help their local areas has sadly become a common struggle. Despite the struggle, events such as the Welf-factor inspire hope, not just for Resolven, but other regions in Wales, and the United Kingdom as a whole.

If the Rex can open again, then so can the Welfare, and even Port Talbot’s Plaza. As Anne Davies fondly remembered when the Welfare opened, about how “it was a great time for the village,” let’s hope that great times will come once again.

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