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The Real Merthyr

Merthyr is often in the headlines for all the wrong reasons with journalists and politicians often pointing the finger at this  former hub of the industrial revolution for high unemployment, high crime rates and high teenage pregnancy figures. 

Hannah Thomas is proud to call Merthyr home. She explains why in her latest blog for ITV Wales (Photo: Chris Sampson)

But there’s a very different side to Merthyr Tydfil that often doesn’t get reported

ITV Wales Valleys reporter Hannah Thomas is proud to be from and live in Merthyr Tydfil, she explains why in her latest blog.

Poverty, unemployment, and high levels of crime. It’s a picture most people would associate with Merthyr. Time and time again another report is released from somewhere giving figures which paint such a negative image of the town.

But for those of us who live there, life isn’t the gloomy, humdrum existence it’s supposed to be. In fact, it’s very different. We know Merthyr’s not the richest of places. But it’s full of warmth and soul.

Watch Hannah tell the story of The Real Merthyr on Wales This Week.

When I was asked to present a Wales This Week programme looking at the positive images of Merthyr, I jumped at the chance. As a child, I spent hours on my bike cycling up and down the Taff Trail. And in the programme we met members of Merthyr Cycling Club – all enjoying a quiet ride on the outskirts of the town. They say it does wonders for their fitness. And Merthyr’s supposed to have soaring levels of obesity, apparently.

Merthyr’s also supposed to lack ambition and any sense of creativity. Not if you listen to Merthyr Amateur Dramatics Society. They’re putting on top class shows and seeing new recruits every week – many of them youngsters. They challenge the perception of the town’s youth as lazy and demotivated.

Many recognise that Merthyr does have poor health statistics. But that’s the same for any Valleys town. And according to Nicola Johns from Public Health Wales, the figures are often misrepresented. Merthyr is a tiny unitary authority. It has no affluent areas to balance out statistics from deprived parts. So therefore its average is always much lower than anywhere else.

Crime is also highlighted as another big problem. But South Wales Police say the number of offences have dropped and more people are ready to work with them to make the town a safer place.

Local businesses want to make the town the regional hub for the Heads of the Valleys. Money’s being invested into attracting multi-national companies to set up in the area. There’s a drive to create jobs among the people we spoke to. And make Merthyr a busy, vibrant place to live and work.

I have no shame in saying that I come from Merthyr.

In fact, I could have chosen to buy a house anywhere in south Wales. But I stuck with the old home town I knew and loved. There’s still that old fashioned sense of community and neighbourliness. Many people who live there want to shrug off the bad impression of the town. They say it’s moving on, and they say the glum ideas should be changing too.

And there’ll be more of my look at ‘the real Merthyr’ on WALES THIS WEEK, TONIGHT, 7.30PM, ITV1 WALES.



12 thoughts on “The Real Merthyr

  1. Thanks Hannah, for a very positive blog about Merthyr Tydfil. Both myself and my sister were born and bred here and we love the town. We too are fed up of the constant negative press and it’s about time the town was presented in a better light. We will both be watching Wales This Week, we both look forward to it. Thanks again!!

    Posted by Julie Evans | June 7, 2011, 6:22 pm
    • Many thanks for this Julie – sorry for the late reply! Let’s hope people start changing their attitudes about Merthyr! Take care, Hannah x

      Posted by Hannah Thomas | June 12, 2011, 9:40 pm
  2. Well done on your programme Hannah. I’ve just blogged about it at: http://lloydreeslive.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/the-real-merthyr-tydfil/ Congratulations to you and your team at ITV Wales. Lloyd.

    Posted by lloydrees | June 7, 2011, 8:15 pm
    • Many thanks for this Lloyd. Keep blogging about Merthyr! Hannah x

      Posted by Hannah Thomas | June 12, 2011, 9:40 pm
  3. Thank you so much for this post and the programme, it’s about time someone showed people that there is much more to Merthyr than people think. I am also glad to see someone from Merthyr who is doing well that is proud of where they come from, and you have every reason to be, I live just around the corner from your father and all i can say is, what an absolutely lovely man, these are the types of families that are found throughout merthyr but are so commonly overshadowed by negative press. Thanks again.

    Posted by Anon | June 7, 2011, 8:28 pm
  4. Finally a positive show about Merthyr and it’s people.We have a beautiful town with alot of green spaces and some fantastic people. It is a great place to live but I just wish that local government and central government would do more to ensure more jobs are brought to the area and the skills and training are available for the jobs because at the moment things are looking rather dire for our youngsters and many are leaving the town to find work. I am 45 and my job is only safe for a couple of months and that is the same for alot of people here.

    Posted by Linda | June 8, 2011, 9:18 am
    • Hi Hannah, just got round to watching your excellent programme on Merthyr. Every year in the Spring I intend writing to our local paper regarding the beautiful blossom trees that stretch from Dowlais to the town centre, our Parks Dept. really work hard to keep Merthyr looking lovely throughout the year, Cyfarthfa Park looks lovely whatever the season,as does the rest of Merthyr, and of course at this time of the year there’s hanging baskets adorning every lamp post. I wish the television companies would update their footage of Merthyr, they show the same thing all the time. I agree with all what was said on the programme, and Merthyr is a lovely place to live. As I am a keen gardener I have highlighted natural beauty of our town,I just wish the whole of the country could have seen the programme,just like the whole of the country reads the bad press! Dilys Ayling

      Posted by Dilys Ayling | June 9, 2011, 10:13 pm
      • Hi Dilys! Really enjoyed reading this. A delightful comment. I’m in the middle of organising Royal Welsh coverage at the moment – it’s that time of year again! So keep a look out and make sure you watch The Show 2011 and keep up to date with what we’re doing this year! Hannah x

        Posted by Hannah Thomas | June 12, 2011, 9:44 pm
    • Thanks Linda. I’m glad you enjoyed the programme! Hannah x

      Posted by Hannah Thomas | June 12, 2011, 9:42 pm


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