Wales has a wealth of cultural assets, often discussed in terms of language, music, theatre, writing, dance, art, sport, festivals, broadcasting, cultural diversity and cultural tourism of our historic environment. Together our culture, heritage and language defines us as a nation, providing opportunities for regeneration and growth (see our ‘‘prosperous well-being goal‘ summary for further information) as well as educational and cultural benefits to our society.
Conwy and Denbighshire County Boroughs both have a dense network and range of culturally significant heritage sites, buildings and features, including thousands of buildings which are statutorily listed as being of special architectural or historic interest. This local heritage forms an important part of the appeal of the county for visitors and has a significant contribution to the local economy. Key sites include:
Conwy Castle and Town Walls: a site that has a global designation as one of the few UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the UK.
Llandudno town and pier, one of the finest Victorian resorts in England and Wales.
Aberconwy House, dating back to the 14th century, is believed to be the oldest surviving townhouse in Wales.
4,000 year old Great Orme copper mines.
Dolwyddelan Castle built by Llywelyn the Great which is one of the few castles built by the native rulers.
Conwy has an excellent reputation for its arts provision. The 1,500 seat North Wales Theatre is one of the UK’s leading receiving theatres and plays host to some of the country’s finest touring productions from opera to rock, drama to comedy.
The Mostyn art gallery in Llandudno is internationally renowned as a contemporary art gallery; while the Royal Cambrian Academy in Conwy displays the best in Welsh fine art.
The county houses a network of small museums, each with a unique story to tell. These include Llandudno Museum with its exquisite collection of fine and decorative art, donated to Llandudno by the Victorian collector, F.E. Chardon and Sir Henry Jones Museum, which looks at life in a typical 19th century Welsh community.
The County Borough also has a rich historic and architectural heritage of international importance. Conwy town’s castle and walls are a World Heritage Site. There are also 23 conservation areas outside the National Park; some 1400 listed buildings and over 100 scheduled ancient monuments.
The area has a significant place in Welsh language culture. Two people instrumental in saving the Welsh language come from the County Borough – William Salesbury who translated the New Testament into Welsh in 1567 and the Bishop William Morgan who translated the entire Bible into Welsh. William Morgan’s home at Ty Mawr, Wybrnant is open to the public.
A variety of other festivals, such as Llawn, Helfa Gelf, Take Part and Conwy Feast are also held throughout the year.
Denbighshire is similarly rich in heritage, key sites include:
Industrial heritage such as Pontcysyllte World Heritage site, which encompasses Horseshoe Falls and the Llangollen Canal as well as the aqueduct itself, crossing the boundary between Denbighshire and Wrexham, Meliden Goods Shed, Llangollen Steam Railway.
Ruthin gaol is the only purpose-built Pentonville style prison open to the public as a heritage attraction.
Historic Houses such as Nant Clwyd Y Dre, Plas Newydd, Bodewyddan Castle, Ruthin Castle, Faenol Fawr, Dolbelydr
Historic Churches and Chapels including; St Asaph Cathedral, St Margret’s Church – Bodelwyddan, Llangar Parish Church, Rug Chapel, Tremerichion Corpus Christi Church
Medieval Castles at Ruthin, Denbigh and Town Walls, Rhuddlan and Dinas Bran (Llangollen)
Iron Age Hill Forts throughout the Clwydian Range and Llantysilio Mountain including;
Monuments such as the Owain Glyndwr statue, Eliseg’s pillar, Jubilee Tower Moel Famau, Derwen Cross, Escob William Morgan memorial and HM Stanley statue.
Llangollen’s International Musical Eisteddfod holds a special place in the world’s musical calendar, established in 1947. It began with a vision that the ancient Welsh eisteddfod tradition could provide a means of healing the wounds of the Second World War, and help to promote lasting peace in a celebration of music and dance from across the globe.
Both counties also have a range of indoor and outdoor facilities for heritage and cultural events. For example, Venue Cymru, Rhyl and Llangollen pavillions, the old pavillion site in Corwen (used for events such as the Welsh Medieval Festival, Gwyl y Fflam).
Preservation of the written heritage is equally important and the counties’ archives services preserve and provide public access to artefacts, documents and photographs. An exciting and innovative project is being developed to establish a brand new joint-archive facility (between Denbighshire and Flintshire councils) on the same site as Theatre Clwyd. The facility and activity plan will allow our rich collections as a source for storytelling and performance, transforming our service and influencing archive audience engagement practice across the UK.
The abundance of cultural provision in Conwy and Denbighshire attracts large numbers of tourists to the county boroughs. In Wales, of total tourism expenditure of £1.8 billion, it is estimated that some £360 million can be attributed to the historic environment sector. Museums and heritage contribute to civic engagement: there are 3,000 volunteers and over 140,000 friends linked to major UK museums.
We do not have any information about how the current and predicted future picture of local heritage compares with the past.
There is a strong association between culture, language and heritage. People care deeply about our local heritage. In a 2014 report the Arts Council for England stated that: “…art and culture make life better, help to build diverse communities and improve our quality of life. Great art and culture can inspire our education system, boost our economy and give our nation international standing.” The link between visiting site of local heritage and well-being are less well documented, but the same report demonstrated the positive impact local heritage and culture has on individual and community well-being, education and the economy.
As we emerge from the global Covid-19 pandemic, we are uncertain as to whether access to local heritage sites and cultural experiences and events will return in the same was as prior to the pandemic. Tourism is not simply limited to visitors from outside the area.
Culture-led regeneration, linked to our unique and historic heritage and landscape, together with more sophisticated forms of ‘experience’, led by technological advances, hold many promising opportunities. It will be important to view tourism within the context of the area’s Welsh culture and heritage, not only our landscape but also our strong agricultural culture. Culture and creative industries are likely to be at the heart of town centre regeneration; developing capacity of both counties’ cultural, creative and tourism industries. Over the longer term, people will look for more sophisticated online/virtual reality experiences from across the globe, especially as we all adapt to the consequences of climate change. Authenticity and uniqueness will be critical to making these experiences fun, fulfilling and worthwhile. The Wales Centres for Public Policy suggests that Covid-19 and Brexit will have an impact on young people developing ‘soft skills’, particularly within the arts and culture sector.
A North Wales approach to maximising opportunities from tourism and regeneration could ensure benefits are targeted on areas and groups whose well-being tends to be poorer.
 Wales Centre for Public Policy (2021). Briefing on well-being and the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.
People have told us they would like to see more done to sustain, value and protect Welsh language and culture, with accessible and affordable Welsh language classes within the community and in schools. They also would like more cultural and community events e.g. Eisteddfodau, carnivals, pavilion events, food festivals, Christmas markets etc, with more done to promote our cultural sites to increase tourism, and make the most from our assets (for example, St Peter’s Square in Ruthin).
What barriers experience by people with protected characteristics/people in poverty? Some venues are free, others are not.
The trajectory for cultural hubs, particularly in rural areas is not clear currently. Will village halls, pubs and other rural institutions like churches attract enough participants to keep them economically and socially viable?
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