Boys from the Black Stuff meet Steptoe and Son

I was born in Llanelli in 1964. That was around the time Steptoe & Son hit the TV screen. The loveable duo made us laugh and cringe as the old man continually put pay to any aspirations the young Harold had. There was sadness but great comedy through the excellent writing of the script writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. The rag and Bone man was a familiar sight and sound on the streets of Llanelli at one time. It was a precursor to charity shops and the recycling boom, which turned unwanted clothes into cash. How many of us now use those shops on a regular basis for so many reasons?

The Boys From the Black Stuff was another dark comedy made in the 1980s following a group of tarmac labourers and their struggles. It touched on the issue of mental health and depression and the social pressures of being unemployed. It could easily be remade today but the cast would have to reflect far more social issues given that hardly any of the lessons from this awful period of politics have been learned. Music also played its part in commenting on the every day for most working class people. Ghost Town by The Specials is worth a listen on your walkman as you strut down Stepney Street. Perhaps Wind of Change by The Scorpions on full blast will give you some hope. All available at the Library, which has a great collection. Also available at the Llanelli record shop in the market and another close by opposite Tinopolis. Please feel free to send me your mix tape suggestions for Llanelli spanning from 1960 to 1990. Email

Music and Television can be a great mirror for us to gaze into and listen to and really get to know something about ourselves. If the viewing or listening  is uncomfortable then it is achieving its intended purpose. It can take us on a journey through history as it punctuates all of those things we did, we bought, we shared. I’d love to see some television footage of Llanelli from the 1960s to the 1980s as this was my generation of living in the town and a boomtown at that.


I visited the town for the first time in a while recently and part of me had to block out all of those lovely memories to deal with what I was seeing. It was much easier to just look at it all and accept that this is what has happened and that there really is nothing I or many other people who genuinely love the town can do.

The number of empty premises is incredible. The lack of people, the completely boring palette and lack of greenery, lack of joined up spaces. There are hidden jewels, the old buildings still standing, and the indoor market. There really is no one who would ever admit responsibility for allowing a once great and beautiful town to descend into such a mess.

Whatever plans, master plans, task and finish groups or political posturing have been thrown at this town have failed and failed miserably. Whenever a pot of money comes along it is the politicians who declare they have the answers or claim any credit for any developments. I’m afraid to say that it is like the sticking plaster you used to get as a child for visiting the doctor. It loses its hold and falls away and decays very quickly.

A wind of Change is needed

There are solutions, there is hope, there is something that can be done and those people who really are grafting in the face of such adversity deserve our thanks and recognition. As usual though, they will be so busy that they are hardly noticeable. They Rarely take a photo opportunity and rarely get credited.

I won’t go into detail about the potential for a long term plan involving scaffolding for local people, small businesses, repurposed buildings and spaces, most of what I have said in the past has appeared in the ‘It Were my Idea’ section on someone or other’s A4 speech notes.

Before those guardians of the cash spend another penny they really need to get a topographical image of the town and then walk it inch by inch, look at it from different angles, get inside it, get to know how it is living and breathing, sample the best and experience the worse. Then and only then can they begin to think about a short and long term plan, which should at every step of the way involve every single trader, every single resident and every single idea giving credit where credit is due.

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