Penrhys : Hope for the Future
Now I could sit here and talk about Penrhys’ troubled history over its 50 year lifespan, but I could also do that about any other area in the Rhondda Valleys.
Focusing on the negative points of an area is only ever gonna breed more negativity, it’s the age old story of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Its seen in schools all the time, if a child is told repeatedly they are stupid or a problem child, they begin to act in that way, because what is the point of acting differently when the system has already written them off.
This same fate has affected Penrhys for years, the area is a long way away from the “notorious” dark days of old. But you still read news articles pointing out these troubled times, you still hear the same old jokes of cars being stripped and tyres being stolen, even though we have one of the lowest crime rates in the local area.
So if we are an estate full of criminals and vagabonds how could we have the lowest crime rate?
That’s because we are not an estate full of criminals, we are an estate of hard working families, determined volunteers and a tight knit community who pulls together and works tirelessly to improve our community and the lives of everyone who lives here.
Penrhys has survived regardless of the bad press, the community marched to object when the local authorities called for the demolition of the site. We replaced government funded schemes with volunteer led activities and projects, where others may have given up in the face of adversity, Penrhys just pulled closer together and survived.
At the heart of Penrhys is Llanfair Church, a church of multiple denominations, this building is so much more than your regular church. They accept and help people from all races, nationalities, lifestyles and backgrounds. They bring visitors from over seas and they become an integral part of the community, and Penrhys becomes a second home to these multicultural, multilinguistic workers. They offer the children and adults of the village an insightful look into the lives of people from other countries and backgrounds different from their own.
The church whilst offering religious services and a place of comfort for many in need of a cuppa and a chat. Is also open as a functioning and affordable Café most days of the week. It provides a Homework Club, which enables children from the local schools to come and get support and guidance from a group of patient, and helpful group of volunteers.
Two evenings a week, the church opens as a kind of youth club, these nights are billed as Children and Family Evenings (C.A.F.E) where the Llanfair workers are supported by parents and grandparents of the community to give the children somewhere free of charge and easily accessible to come and play games, watch movies and enjoy fresh food and other snacks. These nights are extremely popular and are attended by many children, and adults all year around, in all weathers.
The church has always worked closely with the other major players on Penrhys, but the closest relationship has always been between the church and Penrhys Partnership.
The Partnership has offered many different services over the years, it is a landlord to multiple businesses including the local shop Woody’s, which is open nearly every day of the year, no matter if it is snowing as the majority of the workers are from Penrhys itself. Woody’s offers the people of Penrhys with somewhere to get groceries, send post and also get money out of the bank. It also provides meals with an affordable delivery charge. it is a lifesaver for the older generations of Penrhys or those reliant on public transport.
The Partnership buildings are also home to tenants who live in flats above the shops, these houses are much larger than your normal flats and provide some absolutely stunning views of the valleys below. These properties and businesses help fund the Partnership, which has enabled it to sustain itself over its lifespan.
Whilst the Partnership has struggled in recent years due to communities first funding being pulled, the organisation has provided adults with multiple forms of training and work opportunities, ranging from first aid and basic food hygiene, to woodwork and community development. It also provided courses for cookery, pottery and IT. All of these services have helped the population of Penrhys to better their chances of employment, bettered their health, and improved their overall confidence.
Presently the Partnership is going through a bit of a reshuffle and the framework for the way the building and organisation is being run is being rebuilt. With volunteers coming in from Penrhys and the local surrounding area to try and bring it back to what it was in its glory days. It’s a lot of hard work, but the volunteers are no strangers to hard work as they have already been involved in multiple groups and activities within the communities immediate past.
One of the groups that had the most substantial effect on the modern Penrhys community was the outspoken community group known as Penrhys Voice. The Voice was made up of tenants, workers and homeowners on Penrhys, who dedicated themselves to challenging decisions made by Trivallis, the social landlord, and RCT council, whilst also working with them for the betterment of Penrhys as a whole.
The group tackled everything from housing issues, criminal issues, litter issues, the failed cladding project and provided fun days and table top sales for the enjoyment of the community. The group also played a major role in tackling a rat infestation last year, getting the estate up to gold standard and getting a much – needed new play area for the children.
The group is open to anyone to join as a member, with the management committee made up of an annually rotating selection of community members.
Whilst Penrhys Voice was successful in what it did, it did find it difficult to procure funding for activities and projects, as Penrhys community cannot fund itself entirely of the population as a lot of the families on the estate are from low income backgrounds.
This is where the new group making waves on Penrhys and the surrounding areas comes in, Red Project-tion. This group of un-paid workers is putting on multiple events and projects open to anyone, focusing not only on children but adults too. In the short time since the group’s conception Penrhys is being brought back slowly to what it once was. Red Project-tion is supported by and supports all groups who are working towards a better Penrhys.
The group have held bingo nights, discos, quiz nights, arts and crafts, play scheme and music sessions. Most things are free of charge or with a small entry fee just to cover running costs. They even held an amazing firework display on bonfire night which was wildly successful and open to anyone from anywhere, all profits have gone back into ensuring the group can continue to grow and provide fun affordable experiences for everyone to enjoy.
Penrhys has also been said to have one of the greatest community spirits there is, and this was never more apparent than when a young boy passed away from terminal cancer last year. The community pulled together in support of the family, donating what money, help and other resources they could to help the family in what ever ways they could. Some members even transformed a local fly-tipping ground into a beautiful nature reserve overlooking the valleys on the side of the mountain. The young lad loved animals and nature and was overjoyed to see the place before he passed.
So yeah, after reading all of this and all the great stuff happening in a community that was written off so long ago, I hope you at least stop and think before you make stupid comments or believe what news articles say about this mountain top village. We know we’ve got a storied past, but we have put a lot of effort into building a strong community and will continue to do so. If you could support us or help in anyway that would be great, but even if you don’t we have still got hope for our future.