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.
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.