The residents of Newtown are invited to come and discuss their views on the effects of globalisation on the town at a new exhibition. Assembling Newtown: Moving with the Times is a ‘pop-up exhibition’ based at Newtown’s Market Hall and runs from Tuesday September 19th until Saturday September 30th (open 10am til 4pm every day except Sunday).
As part of the GLOBAL-RURAL project, researchers have been examining ‘everyday globalization’ in Newtown. Since 2015 members of the research team have been finding out more about Newtown through interviews, focus groups and fieldwork research.
They have been researching the past, present and future of Newtown, trying to find out what it takes for a small town to survive in a global age. Areas covered include migration to and from the town, the trading relationships of the town’s businesses, awareness of global events, and international influences on food, shopping and culture.
The findings of a large survey conducted by staff and students from the University in autumn 2016 were presented in the form of a report to Newtown Town Council in July.
‘The exhibition marks an ending of the Newtown phase of the wider project’ says Dr Marc Welsh, a member of the GLOBAL-RURAL team, but it is also a chance to shape the next phase which will include a book to be written next year about Newtown.
“Newtown is in many ways an archetypal small market town, common to many parts of the UK and Europe and further afield. Like all these other towns Newtown is also totally unique, with its own history, its own mix of people and businesses and buildings, and its own problems and opportunities for the future in a rapidly changing world,” said Dr Welsh. “Our work over the past two years has focused on the local to global relationships that characterise modern life, and enabled us to build a picture of Newtown and try to tell its story. This exhibition is our opportunity to tell this story back to the people of Newtown and ask them whether it makes sense to them, and whether they identify with it.”
“And”, said Dr Welsh, “with the new bypass currently being constructed around the town, we hope the exhibition also gets people thinking about the changes that are coming, the opportunities and threats these pose, and how they can influence the future development of their town.”
A central feature of the exhibition will be “Voices of Newtown” a wall of quotes from members of the local community, and exhibition organisers are hoping that people will take this opportunity to post their own thoughts.
Artist Caitlin Shepherd has also been working with the team through her ‘Listening to Newtown’ project that gives the voices of local people centre stage through new audio artworks. Caitlin will host a special recording session on the final day of the exhibition.
The exhibition also poses a number of provocative questions, including; “Imagine you had £50m to spend on Newtown, what would you spend it on?”
Often referred to as the ‘oldest new town’, Newtown/Y Drenewydd traces its roots back to 1282. Being the birth place of the globally influential industrialist and social reformer Robert Owen and the home to the first modern international mail order business (Sir Pryce Jones’ Royal Welsh Warehouse), Newtown has some claim to being truly ‘global’ for hundreds of years. Driven by extensive rural depopulation between the late 19th century and the middle of the 20th century, which saw mid Wales lose up to 40% of its inhabitants, Newtown became the focus for an ambitious and controversial economic regeneration project during the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Under the auspices of the Mid Wales Development Corporation and subsequently the Development Board for Rural Wales, new industrial estates and new housing estates were developed to attract new businesses as planners sought to double the town’s population.
The Newtown study forms part of the wider GLOBAL-RURAL project, funded by the European Research Council, which is exploring the impacts of globalization on rural areas around the world and the responses of rural communities.