Sarah Beeny meets the residents of Myddfai in Carmarthenshire, who applied for a grant from the Big Lottery Fund to build a new village hall and set up a business.
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The British countryside.
With green valleys, wild mountains, rolling farmlands and forests,
the landscape is as diverse as it is beautiful.
Many dream of escaping to the simple country life.
But for those who live in rural Britain, it's a different story.
Traditional industries are in decline and across the land
local shops, pubs and farms, the very cornerstone
of country life, are closing at an alarming rate.
It just seems that the heartbeat of our
green and pleasant land is fast disappearing.
This was a really vibrant shopping street
and now we've got one pub left and that's it.
You need to keep these places safe and secure for our children to come and enjoy.
The one thing the countryside has going for it is the people who call it home.
But what if locals were able to take matters into their own hands and
what if groups of volunteers were given a load of money to turn
their dreams into realities and put the spirit back into their communities?
We're only going to succeed in this project
if we involve as many people from the community as possible.
Good service. Want good service.
With just 12 months to pull it off, putting their villages back on the maps is not going to be easy.
-I just know that we're going to have battles every step of the way.
I have no building experience whatsoever.
What a shambles.
But the results might just be spectacular.
It's the biggest chance we've ever had to do something amazing.
It's a big ask but it could work.
When the village of Myddfai has to demolish its past to secure its future...
This is a village that needs to keep its traditions. Isn't it?
It's over to you guys whether it's a success or not in the long term.
..can a traditional community come to terms with change?
Or will it pull them apart?
Explain to people, explain what's going on.
If I've been seen as the representative of change, so be it.
Hidden within the shadows of the Brecon Beacons
lies the tiny traditional Welsh village of Myddfai.
With a 1,000-year history, rich in folklore and legend,
40 years ago, it was the centre of a thriving community.
Now, it's struggling for survival.
Myddfai has lost all its amenities.
And with no job opportunities here besides farming,
the village's population is now just 82.
There was big families here, the place was full,
heaving, everybody enjoyed it.
Now we've lost them all. You hardly see anybody.
You wake up one day and you think, gosh, we've lost so much.
I mean, Myddfai is just haemorrhaging away
unless we do something about it.
It's incredibly quiet here.
It's sort of lifeless, really.
It's actually really rather sad.
The next generation that should have kept Myddfai alive has steadily moved away.
with devastating consequences on the village,
and the older generation they have left behind.
The way it has changed in the last 40 years, you'd hardly believe it was possible to change.
For instance, first of all the smithy stopped being a smithy really in the '50s.
So that would have started changing.
Then the carpenter kept going until probably the '70s and '80s, that went.
The pub has closed, that's a big knock to the area, especially to the youngsters.
They loved coming there on the Friday night.
It was heaving there and it was lovely to see.
Everybody enjoying it and putting the world in its place.
The turning point in the village was the closing of the shop.
Mrs Richards went old and nobody wanted to take the shop on.
Closing the petrol pumps.
Then came, very sadly, closed the school.
-Where are the children?
-At the seaside.
You know, when you close the school, you lose everybody, don't you?
If you lose the young people, all of a sudden, 20, 30 years
down the line, you've lost a community,
you've lost 50, 60 people who should be here at the moment.
They've moved on.
So, unless we can allow the youngsters to come back
and live here, it could decline into an old age pensioners' village.
Myddfai has a rich and colourful past but right now it's dead, really.
It needs a beating heart back in it to regenerate it for the future
because without that,
I think there's a danger it just ends up a massive retirement home.
Ironically, the key to securing the village's future could lie in its past.
An ancient local legend tells of how, 1,000 years ago,
in a lake above the village, a mythical lady rose from the waters.
Her son became the first Physician of Myddfai.
The area became world-famous amongst medical herbalists.
The village flourished as a centre of excellence for herbal medicine for centuries.
People think it's a legend. It's not a legend. It was facts.
Emmlyn Morgan has farmed here his whole life.
They did cure people. That was the only medicine available for people.
They were known all over the world.
-So actually Myddfai really was once on the map in a big way?
-Yes, of course.
There's no other village I know of that can be proud of their physicians
and they're proud of their history.
A group of locals believe setting up a business making products
inspired by this tradition
could generate jobs in the village, and a reason for tourists to come here.
The man spearheading this plan is Hugh Davies.
Since he retired here from the Midlands,
he's been deeply affected by the village's plight.
Myddfai is a beautiful historical village with a huge tradition
and the custodians of both the landscape around us
and this little community have been here many generations.
It would make me feel very sad for it to gradually go into complete decline
or just become a holiday home centre entirely.
The opportunities for economic regeneration
and for social regeneration
will get more and more distant.
Myddfai needs now to find a new way forward, another future.
Currently the only meeting place for locals is their quaint village hall.
But there's a problem!
The kitchen has been condemned, and the rest of the building is in a terrible state.
These days, it doesn't quite pull in the locals as much as it should.
Hugh's not alone in his passion to change things.
The village currently has very little to offer local mum, Lesley,
and her children.
Our particular village, the village hall is so important as there isn't anywhere else to meet.
Welsh culture traditionally has singing festivals or plays,
that's very much our culture and it would be great
to bring them back here but this hall is really depressing and cold.
Nobody wants to come here any more so that's why it's so important to us.
As well as starting up a business, Hugh intends to give the locals
a building, the likes of which they have never seen before!
What we want is to replace the old village hall with something bigger.
A village hall plus, if you like, so that the community themselves
will find that they've got a facility that they can do things in.
At the moment, they can't imagine.
To make all this happen, it will take a lot of money.
But fortunately, Myddfai just hit the jackpot!
CHAMPAGNE CORK POPS AND CHEERING
They have been awarded a grant for £430,000 from the Big lottery Fund
as part of a scheme to boost rural communities.
The village can now go ahead with the building on which all of its hopes of regeneration now hang.
The shop will be a platform for local products and artists.
Visitors will be able to learn about the area's rich history
over a cup of herbal tea.
An auditorium will give the village a new space to gather in.
The rest of the money will help set up a village trading company.
As part of the grant, the village must employ outside help.
And they think they've found just the woman for the job.
Tory Councillor Jo Gideon is giving up the bright lights of Thanet,
to spend one year living and working in Myddfai.
It's the most fantastic opportunity.
If I could write my own ideal job spec, it would be "Set up a business.
"Help rural regeneration." Who wouldn't say yes to that?
Not only is Jo a successful businesswoman, but as a local politician,
she has been a driving force in the regeneration of Thanet,
one of the most deprived areas of Britain.
Helping communities to develop and everything really matters to me.
Whether it's in Thanet or Wales, actually the key thing
is about helping people to improve their circumstances.
That's what drives me.
Jo thinks she knows exactly how to reverse the village's decline.
To really turn it around, Myddfai needs a brand
that pulls together everything that happens there, all the values of the community.
It needs this destination brand that actually will bring people,
new people, new blood to Myddfai. And the world will know where we are.
Jo might have been a political hit in Kent.
But can she come up with a rousing speech
to rally a small Welsh village behind her?
Jo has moved to the depths of the Welsh Countryside,
and is adjusting to her new surroundings.
Jo's plan to develop a village brand is going to be especially tough,
given that here in Myddfai,
branding is something farmers do to their sheep.
They don't yet see it because they don't quite understand what branding is, even,
but I see it very clearly that it's a fantastic opportunity.
My vision is to produce a Myddfai herb and beauty product range based on the physicians of Myddfai.
We'll have things like teas, beauty products, culinary herbs.
And also, there are lots of craftspeople in the village
so we'll be able to incorporate local crafts within the Myddfai brand.
It's a big challenge for anyone to set up a new business,
but in a small rural community it's going to be even tougher.
Jo will have to be focused and aware.
A ruthless and tough approach may work in a city,
but in a small village, she's going to have to tread very carefully.
A world apart from her life in Kent, this country cottage will be Jo's home for the next year.
Hello, hi. Nice to meet you.
Hi. Come on in.
-This is gorgeous.
-This is a very special place.
Kind of surrounded by all the natural herbs and things
that are what this project is all about.
I'm really lucky to have found this and in the heart of the village,
-which is what it's all about.
-This is the nicest boardroom I've ever sat in, I have to say.
Today, Jo is on a mission to find out what Myddfai can make for her village brand.
Jo has found the perfect opportunity to road-test the brand
on the public - the Royal Welsh Show.
It's Europe's biggest agricultural event. And it's in just three weeks' time.
Jo's asked local crafters to come up with products they think will be hot sellers.
The grand prize, the chance to sell through Myddfai's brand.
Lesley has a part-time job 15 miles away.
So as a mum, it would be a great opportunity for her to work closer to home.
She's been busy developing a range of soaps.
-Have a smell.
-They look good enough to eat!
Cupcake-shaped - they might want to eat them!
Oh, wow. So how many kits will you be able to make?
Probably only about 25 at the moment.
I can make a product that someone's willing to pay for.
That in itself is actually an achievement.
Not everybody can say they've done that, which is quite nice.
Someone would pay money for something that you've made yourself.
Jo is quickly finding that Myddfai's crafters are not used to working to deadlines,
and are more accustomed to working at their own pace.
Jo's call to arms is getting some highly skilled crafters,
like 75-year-old John, to dust down his tools.
Well, it was my full time work until I retired.
Now it's just a hobby, yes.
So, I don't... I don't charge for my time.
John's wife Carol has been seeing a lot less of him recently!
He was more or less your classic retired person -
you know, a bit of gardening,
wishing the pub was still open,
watching the telly, and all of that.
And now there's so much to do.
I used to ask Carol, I'd say, "What's on the agenda today?"
If anybody is a little bit frightened at the pace of entrepreneurial activity,
now's the time that they'll feel it
because everybody knows that it has to be ready,
and there's a lot of work between now and then to make that happen.
I'm pretty nervous.
Everything's happening so quickly.
It's a real experience.
Fun but frightening.
First on my list today is Sue.
Sue is doing the quilting kits
and mobile phone holders.
I think she's a little bit apprehensive
because I think she's finding the quantities a bit daunting.
I'm actually making up 50.
Obviously we're hoping to sell all of them at the Royal Welsh, but...
That's the thing -
are we going to sell all of them, or be left with them all?
Hello! How's it going?
Last week I thought I was nervous.
This week I know I am.
Why? Is there anything in particular that's worrying you?
I'm actually concerned about whether it's going to, you know, sell.
We'll just have to wait and see, won't we?
That's what the Royal Welsh is all about.
-Finding out what works, and what doesn't.
With their first deadline looming, Jo has asked the retired folk of Myddfai
to help out in the village's only meeting space,
its crumbling hall.
Jo has brought in a range of dried herbs and teas
to make sure the village's tradition of herbal healing
has a 21st century twist.
I want you to label the jars...
Recently hired as the project's coordinator,
Lesley's first job is to make sure everyone pulls their weight.
You need to try to keep it a bit lower because that's a bit crumpled.
So, this is tea production down this end.
Yes, we're packing them into different-sized bags.
So, this is where you're weighing out your herbs?
It all looks rather naughty, to be honest. But anyway...!
All totally legal!
'More accustomed to cake making in the WI meetings,
'the ageing workforce is struggling to meet Jo's targets.'
I'm getting a little bit stressed because we really don't know
how successful we're going to be at the Royal Welsh.
Worst case scenario, we could sell half a dozen jars of tea,
and the weather could be awful and nobody will turn up.
I'm getting a little bit on edge.
With the villagers' hopes of regeneration
riding on their new village brand, it simply has to succeed.
We're hoping, obviously, that it will totally rejuvenate the village,
and bring it back to its former glory.
It's the day of the Royal Welsh Show.
With 200,000 visitors expected,
Jo will soon find out exactly what the public make
of Myddfai's crafts and herbal products.
-How big a village are you?
-So we're tiny. We're absolutely tiny.
But we punch well above our weight.
This is the acid test for the first launch of the products.
Will the people actually put their hands in their pockets and buy our things?
It's an unbelievable experience,
coming into a place like the Royal Welsh Show,
with all these stalls,
and thinking that my little, humble, pocket things
are also part of the things on sale.
But I've absolutely no idea whether any of them have gone at all.
Sales figures and consumer reaction will help Jo decide
which products will be developed, and which products will be dropped.
It's a masculine flavour...
-Is it really?
The herbal teas may need some refining,
but the beauty products and scented gifts have been a big hit.
What I like is the smell. You know, the smell of the soaps is just...
You could eat it! It's fantastic.
Don't eat it! It's soap.
I bought a lavender bag, myself,
which will be very good - keeps the moths away.
-And she's bought an apron to cook.
-Yes, I bought an apron.
The visitors at the stand may be able to part with a few quid on some herbal soap,
but it's not going to sustain a business with global aspirations.
In a month's time, Jo will launch brand Myddfai
to national and international retailers at Birmingham's NEC.
But, before she can do that,
she's going to have to fine-tune the product range,
and drop the items that just haven't delivered.
-Hi, Jo. How are you?
I just wanted to give you the feedback
on the number of products sold.
As you know, we had an awful lot on the stand.
We only managed to sell one of the seven folders made up, and one kit.
I think we just need to think
where the best place to market the products would be.
Sue is one of two crafters whose products now won't be going to the NEC.
It's a mixture of disappointment and relief,
because I honestly did think that if it had been a roaring success,
I'd be sat behind a sewing machine forever!
So... And it's a learning experience.
So, you've just got to take it all on board.
I've been brought in to help this village regenerate
through earning as much money as possible through a business.
Now, if that means that we have to make some tough business decisions,
then that's what we're going to have to do.
People need to understand that.
It may seem harsh, but Jo's hard-nosed approach
has built a remarkable product range from scratch in just three months.
But if the trading company is to secure big money orders
from high street retailers,
they're going to have to make sure every item relates
to Myddfai's unique selling point.
The next plan is to take a stand at the NEC in Birmingham,
which is a huge exhibition, and what are you going to be taking there?
We've selected the best sellers, basically.
Things that fit very nicely into the theme of the herbal traditions.
The story of the physicians is so strong,
you should just keep on - that's your marketing line, in a way.
The story of the herbs is what gets people to Myddfai.
Yes, and that has to be clear and exciting.
While Jo has focused on building the village brand,
Hugh has been busy, too.
After months of red tape, he has finally got the green light to start the build.
I have a three-dimensional model of your new hall,
-which might make it a bit easier to visualise.
I don't know if you know, planning permission has been approved.
Fantastic, isn't it?
It's going to be beyond any dream I'd ever hoped.
At last we have planning permission and need to get rid of the old hall. Down it'll come,
and as soon as we've got that down then we're ready to go,
and the contractors will move in and start digging.
We've got a lot to do in a very short time.
It doesn't look possible, but we'll get there.
The old hall is due to be demolished in just a few days' time.
There is now huge pressure on the trading company
to deliver enough sales to make sure the new hall is a success.
Jo and project co-ordinator Lesley are at the NEC Autumn Fair,
to pitch their brand directly to some of Britain's biggest high street buyers.
With 2,5000 independent retailers
competing for business, competition is fierce.
Yep, ready for action. Raring to go!
We've got to try and convince them that our brand is going to be big,
and they need it in their shops.
This brand has definitely got world potential.
I mean, everybody who's seen it has said it's absolutely superb.
So, hopefully we should start doing some serious talking
in the next few minutes.
-Are you gift shop, or...
-Yes, from Wales.
From Wales? Fantastic!
Smaller Welsh retailers are quick to embrace the Myddfai brand.
This is absolutely brilliant.
It's one of the best Welsh product stands that I've seen.
Wonderful to hear, isn't it?
Fantastic! Thank you very much.
The more lucrative market from England is proving harder to crack.
Yeah, I'm a branding person, basically.
Do you like our brand?
-No. It's unpronounceable.
-But it's a village, it's Myddfai...
-I don't care what your village is.
If you want to go outside Wales, that's a very hard name to say,
and I'm not sure I'd even want to say it,
and that's a huge disadvantage in starting a brand.
That's good feedback, interesting.
The name they've built their entire brand around
means little to people outside of Wales,
putting their company at a serious disadvantage.
It's the double 'D', that's the only thing that people don't get.
I think 'Mid-vye' is what most English people kind of say,
I don't think it'll change, we just have to get people to know it.
Myddfai is what we're branding,
it's the place as well as all the products, so...
And we spent a lot of money on it,
so, I don't think we can backtrack now, we haven't got the money to do it.
By the end of the fair, money is still an issue.
They may have landed £4,000 in small orders,
but not the killer deal Jo was looking for.
Every new company going to a trade fair
hopes that a big high street name's going to walk on the stand
and you go from zero to mega-business in one fell swoop.
That didn't happen.
The pronunciation of Myddfai is not something that I find difficult,
but clearly you forget that for people from the other side of the bridge,
you know, in England and beyond,
it's difficult to even to know how to pronounce Myddfai.
I think, actually, that it's a talking point.
People look at it, they struggle, but they remember you,
you're the company with the name they can't pronounce,
and hopefully, as the brand becomes familiar,
people will learn how to speak a little bit of Welsh.
The future of the trading company may be up in the air,
but the villagers do know one thing for sure -
tomorrow, their old hall is to be demolished.
Tonight, they're gathering to celebrate its past.
For 60 years, this has been the heart of their village,
a place to meet and keep their rich traditions and Welsh heritage alive.
And now it's time to say goodbye.
I know that this building holds many fond memories for everybody,
so please spend this evening enjoying those memories
and sharing them with each other.
Yes, I remember John.
His bed was on fire?
Oh, it was such a view, such excitement!
It's a time to reflect upon decades of memories,
and ponder the uncertainties of days to come.
I'm one of the few here tonight that remembers this hall,
this building, being built.
It was an exciting time, and it is, nowadays,
an exciting time once again.
But I will look back with great enjoyment
at the things that have gone here,
because this was a heart of the village.
And can I wish, in your wisdom, all of you,
that we don't forget that this is a village
that needs to keep its traditions, isn't it?
When the hall is demolished they will have nowhere to meet
until the new hall is completed.
As it will be six months till they can gather again under one roof,
it's crucial the villagers keep their community spirit alive.
Emmlyn has sung in the choir here for 50 years,
a childhood memory of a building that will be reduced to rubble in the morning.
We've had lots of memories, lots of happy memories,
and we both had our wedding receptions here.
1956, we got married,
and we had about 50 guests - quite a lot in those days.
Supported everything that was going on here over the years.
It's the end of an era, end of the old hall.
Farewell to an old friend, as they say.
I really, honestly didn't think I'd feel quite so nostalgic.
It's a bit mind-blowing.
I feel sorry to see it coming down, I feel very sorry,
because, you know, we've been brought up in it.
We've been brought up here for the last 50 years,
we've enjoyed every minute in there.
We had a lot of fun there.
And it's come to an end.
It's certainly going to be a gap in having a heart in the village.
It's that thing that the community saw the village hall very much
as the heart and where people come together,
and that coming-together will be more difficult until the new hall's up.
A week later, the builders have moved in
to begin the construction of the new village hall.
When I came yesterday, they were just clearing the boundary here,
I come today, almost the entire footing of the building
is not only dug, it's full of concrete.
It's buzzing around the community now.
"Wow, look, won't it be good?"
And I'm hoping that the community,
when they see these walls rising up out of the ground,
they'll get a real sense of what we're about here,
because this project starts and finishes with the community of Myddfai.
There's someone else in the village who is fired up by the project - Mike Hill.
'If you're looking at rejuvenation,
'you do have to create some sort of sustainable business.'
If you don't, nobody's going to come to the village - why would they bother?
Mike has left his job as an optician to start working part time
as the trading company's new administrator.
What I don't want to see in a year's time is I'm not doing that
because the project hasn't been successful,
so it's in my interest to drive the project forward
and make it what we want it to be, which is a sustainable business.
Today, Jo has enlisted Mike to help her win
a crucial order for the trading company.
If they pull it off, it could really help Myddfai get back in business.
After disappointing sales at the NEC,
the brand needs success, not least to keep the confidence of the locals.
Big meeting today, there is an awful lot at stake,
because once you're dealing with a larger company,
I think that gives us credibility with other organisations,
so it's really key that we get this right today.
Yeah, it is a biggie today, we need some cash in the bank
and, hopefully, this will be where we start to bring it in.
National cancer charity Tenovus have invited Jo and Mike
to pitch for a potentially lucrative deal to fill some
of its 67 stores with the trading company's merchandise.
There are certain lines which we feel could go
to all of our shops in Wales - there's 38 of them -
and, potentially, some in England as well,
and we are looking for exactly this sort of stuff.
As the meeting progresses,
it's clear the product range is hitting the mark.
Presumably you could have these in any size.
They will be a best seller.
Things like these, which we would see as till pick-up lines,
I think we would want to do all-store.
Given the nature of the product,
are you able to supply that sort of quantity, initially?
Um, it is a one-man activity,
but it's a one-man activity who's experienced in producing these
and can possibly sub-contract.
With a pledge of an order worth £10,000 in the bag,
the deal has surpassed all expectations.
'Just great people to deal with, and if everything comes to fruition,'
what we've discussed in there, we're on our way.
I feel elated, exhausted, um, excited,
you know, all those emotions, and, um...
..and just a little bit terrified
that we've got to go back to Myddfai and deliver this now!
Back in the village, Lesley goes to break the news
to woodcraftsman John that he can't hang up his tools just yet.
Got some news to tell you.
Lesley's got some news for us.
We've got a big order for a company called Tenovus.
We're talking possibly around about 1,400 key-rings we'd need.
Phew, that's a lot.
Yeah, as soon as.
It sounds really, really good.
I think it's...
..it's quite a shock!
Until John was brought out of retirement by Jo,
his mind was preoccupied with his battle against skin cancer.
I almost want to use the word "miracle",
which is a bit strong - it's just joyful.
It's great to have him back again, it's lovely.
Usually what happens with people when they retire,
they gradually sort of fade away...
..but I shan't fade away.
Over the winter months, the new hall begins to very visibly take shape.
With no meeting-place in the village,
Jo and her most loyal volunteers
continue to build up the trading company behind closed doors.
As winter progresses, the project team are unable to keep
the wider community involved in their plans.
So, when spring arrives, it's only a small group of people
from the heart of the village who are excited
by the new hall and what it has to offer.
Look at the size of it in here now.
It's really amazing.
Mind you, it's a huge space now, it's bigger than I envisaged,
I don't know about you.
Hello, how are you?
-It's been all change here.
-Very much changed, yeah.
-Amazing. Good to see you.
-Nice to see you.
'Hugh's state of the art hall has so much more
'to offer the villagers than its draughty old predecessor.'
So, you'll have a cafe, you'll have theatre?
This auditorium is rigged as a complete theatre, yeah.
OK, cafe, theatre, classes...
Classes, conferences, black-tie charity events...
It's pretty much geared up to cater for all those markets.
I see there being enormous amounts of potential to invigorate people,
to sort of think, maybe they could start little businesses here,
which will, by its very nature, encourage people to come and live here.
This is one of the hopes we had for the whole project,
that it would encourage individual initiatives and start-up businesses.
It's not just businesses making things,
it's the classes and crafts and things we could have in the hall.
That would bring more people to the village,
make it more prosperous, bring a bit of life back into it.
This is a wonderful and inspiring building,
but it is really big, and I think the big challenge now
is to get enough people engaged so there's enough things
being sold in the shop and there's enough activity going on
so that it doesn't end up a great, huge white elephant.
'It is the sheer size of a hall that is causing alarm to spread
'amongst the farming community.'
One thing that has concerned most people
is that we're not sure about the full costings of anything.
We haven't been involved, we don't know enough about it and how thing's are going to cost,
I think there'll be a lot of hidden costing.
How are we going to run it?
How are we going to finance everything, are we going to fill it?
Is there going to be enough things happening there?
We're all fearful that, at the end of the day, there may be
a shortfall and we might have to dig deep into our own pockets
just to bail it out.
The project team call an emergency meeting
on how to tackle the rumours and win back support.
It appears as though people
are beginning to lose their nerve a little bit,
and I sense a closing of ranks.
They signed up to take on the challenge.
Now the challenge is here it's very real,
and it feels to me as though they're actually scared to face up to it,
so they're going, "Whoa, whoa."
There's a real anxiety in the village about what we've built.
There's an anxiety about what it'll cost to keep the hall running,
an anxiety about what it's going to cost to use it,
there's a worry we've run out of money before it's finished,
and, generally, this whole sense of panic is showing itself
in the form of people gossiping and being negative,
and, I suppose, blaming us in a sense
for having put it there in the first place.
Emmlyn is more clued-up on marketing and PR than Jo might think,
especially when it comes to village matters.
Explain to people, explain to people what's going on
and get everybody involved, that's what my motto would be.
To get everybody, all the youngsters,
all the young children coming up in the locality,
get everybody involved.
With just three months left in the village,
Jo realises she has to take urgent action.
In what could be the biggest challenge in her political career,
Jo knows that she must get the village behind her
to stop the project from folding.
Unless she can convince the key people in the community to attend
a crisis meeting, Jo knows all her work in the village will have been for nothing.
The aim of the meeting is to reassure those people who are worried
about this big building that has taken centre stage in the community.
That it's there for the community
but also as an opportunity for the community.
It's a fantastic facility but unless the community
take ownership of it, it's not going to flourish.
From what I understood,
the trading section is raising the funds for running the hall after...
No, you understood wrong already!
This Saturday is basically a gathering of the community
cos a lot of people don't really know what's going on.
What worries me is Dave is in the inner circle of people who
should know what's going on and
if he doesn't know, then for people who have really not been
involved at all, clearly they're not going to have a clue!
That is worrying.
Anxious that Chinese whispers about the project might be getting out of control,
Jo redoubles her efforts to make sure everyone attends the meeting.
It's about if somebody comes, finds out the information then tells...
Spread the word, the right word! There's been lots of words spread
that haven't been entirely accurate.
Jo is learning that, especially in the thick of lambing season,
farmers have more pressing matters to address.
In the farm next door, Emmlyn hasn't slept for two days,
and has delivered so many lambs he's lost count.
-How many have you had so far?
-Haven't got a clue. Over a thousand, anyway.
As Emmlyn is one of Myddfai's most highly respected residents,
Jo knows he could convince the whole community to back the project.
Shoo, shoo, shoo!
I'm shooing sheep!
I think that's the technical term for it.
Come on, mummy, wherever you are.
Hope the hall won't be too expensive, that's the trouble.
Are people worried about that?
Well yes, compared to the old one but we'll get used to it, no doubt.
There's a fear the hall is much bigger
and therefore will cost more to run, more demanding of people's time.
They're afraid the community has bitten off more than it can chew.
Two days later
the villagers gather for the meeting that will make or break the project.
With Mike and Lesley fighting their corner,
Jo and Hugh know they simply have to get the village behind the hall and trading company.
With the new hall unfinished, they've had to hire a marquee.
Is there plenty of money to finish the hall off?
The equipment inside is shortage?
We've got what the budget would bear.
-Has it been spread around evenly - the kitchen, the curtains, the platforms?
But the kitchen will be the most money for you. You'll be catering and hiring it out.
Why have you cut back on the kitchen?
We haven't cut back on anything.
That's simply not true.
-It's coming to me.
-These are Chinese whispers that we set up this meeting to address.
We've said please come here today.
I'm suspecting some of the people who said
they never hear anything aren't here today.
You know, what more can we do?
We had to believe, and I hope you guys believe, that the
aim of building this hall is not just to do what we did before,
but to bring in new people, and by doing that, it will help regenerate the village.
Everybody else believes in us, so we have to believe in us.
If we don't believe in us, then it's not going to happen.
Ultimately, it's over to you guys
whether it's a success or not in the long term.
The community may have got their concerns off their chest,
but have Jo's words been enough to sway the most influential elders?
Remember one thing, ladies and gentlemen, nobody in the area
or locality has put a hand in their pocket to build this hall.
So, we're being given the hall, more or less, so let's work together to keep it going.
Emmlyn's eyes, at least, have been opened to the potential of the new hall.
This is a brand new hall from scratch.
There's not an old stone in it.
I look forward to singing here and I'll sing my guts out.
I know the choir will do the same.
Inspired by Emmlyn's rallying speech,
a small group of volunteers have stepped forward to
take on the running of the shop.
But without a village shop for 20 years,
no-one has the first idea of how to go about it.
So they're heading to another Welsh village, where the locals
have been able to keep their shop open by staffing it
entirely with a work force of volunteers.
For the people of Llanmadoc, their shop has become so much more than a place to buy the papers.
This is the village.
This is where you find out what's going on, meet your neighbours, your friends, have a cup of tea.
Find out from the local papers what's happening,
where they can buy fresh stuff, where they can do home baking.
This is the village, here.
Can we go in?
It's all based on volunteers.
Nobody gets paid except the post mistress.
We've got home baking group, they bake, volunteers - two every morning and afternoon.
-How many volunteers on your books?
-About 40 or 50.
One of the most important things is keeping the volunteers happy. Are they around?!
It's very important to keep them happy.
-So, you've got a rota then?
-Everybody knows what the rota is.
It's fixed. Very simple.
There's some important issues there we need to consider.
We need dedication and more volunteers.
That's the bit that's most worrying is being able to open on a regular basis and have volunteers.
Did you see how many volunteers they had in their books?
The community were committed and they had a lot of support.
But with us we haven't got much volunteer support behind us.
Let's be honest.
A lot of people against the project are not prepared to volunteer.
Knowing that the secret of its success
is the support of the whole village,
the task of opening their own shop and cafe in just eight weeks seems all the more daunting.
Just a year ago,
this was the building that the villagers had to meet in.
A place where, because the kitchen was condemned,
they couldn't even share a cup of tea.
Now, with the financial support of the Big Lottery Fund
and dedication of Hugh, Jo and a team of locals,
Myddfai now has a new auditorium, a shop where visitors
can buy village- crafted goods, its own product range
and a warm and inviting cafe.
Just three days from launch, and the impressive new hall
may be completed, but community support remains a big problem.
Hugh and Jo have pulled out all the stops to create
the most impressive community building within 25 miles,
but it will all have been for nothing unless the locals use it.
You'd think that knocking down an old decrepit hall and building
a swanky new one would be met with delight but I think what the old hall represented
was a rich culture which local people feel is under threat.
So it's not really surprising
it's been met with quite a lot of animosity.
With final preparations for the hall's launch under way,
no-one knows just how many people will turn up.
Hugh has poured his heart and soul into the project,
so failure for him just isn't an option.
This is something I want to do to help the community.
I give it every ounce of goodwill that I can,
and every hour required to make it happen.
I don't do "not happen."
I'm not built that way, it's not in me, in my DNA, it's not in whatever.
I like to make things happen and help people make things happen.
If it doesn't happen,
all I'll know is I tried my damndest to make it happen.
I can't do any more than that.
It's launch day for the hall.
It's a big day for Hugh.
He not only has to win around the locals,
he also needs to convince potential business customers to hire the hall.
I'm feeling full of adrenaline.
And rather tired but the adrenaline is overcoming the tiredness.
I don't think many of us got much sleep last night.
Ask me again in about four hours!
The space is quick to win admirers from outside the village.
This is a facility that I'd want to use as an organisation
in the future to show people the real feel of rural Wales,
what it means to be in a rural community, the spirit of it
rather than being in a sterile hotel in the middle of Cardiff or Swansea or somewhere like that.
To meet the rush of first-time customers,
Lesley has roped in enough volunteers for the shop.
Really busy. Everyone has said how amazing the place looks
so hopefully they will all come back, too.
The feedback has been excellent. Everyone's impressed.
As well as bringing in money, the new hall also has to win over
those who hold its predecessor close to their hearts.
Like Megan, who spent the happiest day of her life there
and has recently celebrated her Emerald wedding anniversary.
I was telling Hugh if it had been opened earlier we'd have been
celebrating 55 years here of married life.
Hopefully we'll reach our Diamond wedding anniversary. Who knows?
For Emmlyn, as the old hall is where he sang his socks off as a young boy,
the new one has a lot to live up to.
Tonight we'll be with our local choir, will be singing,
the choir always supported everything on in Myddfai over the years.
We were invited to do it tonight and we're very proud to be here.
I'm looking forward to the choir, there is something special
about a male voice choir. It's quite a special moment.
# If I ruled the world
# Every day would be the first day of spring
# Every heart would have a new song to sing
# And we'd sing of the joy every morning would bring... #
There was hundreds of people there and it was fantastic.
The response from the crowd, that makes it all to us.
We sing our hearts out but the response from the crowd was marvellous.
# Every voice would be a voice to be heard... #
We sung hundreds of times in the old hall,
but in this new hall we're the first artists to sing. It's marvellous. It's like being in heaven tonight.
For Hugh, the night has been an overwhelming success.
It seems the whole community have turned out to share in a very special night.
That's the most people Myddfai's ever seen for generations in one place at one time.
So, I'm absolutely delighted,
and the spirit and joy and smiles on their faces makes the difference.
Otherwise, this is just a pile of bricks.
# ..If I ruled the world
# The world. #
After twelve months of living and breathing the brand, the people, and the village,
it's time for Jo to say goodbye and return home.
So, you're leaving and how does it feel?
Good, because it's the right time. Job done, out of here. That was always the plan.
When I came to the village, I didn't come to make friends with everybody.
And I think change is very uncomfortable for some people.
So, if I'd been seen as the representative of change,
so be it because that's what I was here to do.
And what have you learned from this? Do you feel a different person?
Yeah, it's been a personal journey as well
because as Myddfai's grown with the challenge,
it's been professionally challenging every step of the way.
It's been a pleasure.
'What I experienced is, a couple of people in particular,
'who have been phenomenal.
'As human beings, I wouldn't want for better friends,'
without whom it could never have happened.
-We'll be in touch.
This is not the end, this is the beginning!
With Jo's departure, it will now be down to Hugh, Mike and the rest
of the villagers to make sure the business continues to grow.
Thank you for being wonderful and...
I'm not going to blub.
I don't do that!
Right, there we go. Start again.
With seven big bookings for the new hall already in the diary,
Hugh's and Jo's legacy is beginning to pay off.
So much has been achieved in such a short period of time,
which was never possible for the money.
And never possible in the time.
That challenge is quite seductive. It pulls you in.
We've done it.
In the last year, the village has gone through the biggest change
in Emmlyn's life here.
But has it been for the better?
Marvellous. I think it's a wonderful building. It's a credit to those involved with it.
Did you expect it to be that amazing?
No, I didn't know what to expect.
I just wanted a nice tidy hall and we've had it. A lovely hall.
What do you feel the next stage is now you've got the hall?
The next stage is to fill it every week with functions.
And pull together, that's the most important thing.
To keep this lovely building going.
Myddfai now has a building that suits all its needs.
Built in a year from scratch, it's an amazing achievement.
The real question for this village
is what will it look like in 20 years' time?
I think if the community manages to keep up the momentum,
and build on their remarkable past and history,
it might be that Myddfai doesn't just survive, but flies.
If you have been inspired to create a community project in your area
and want to find out how to apply, visit our website.
Will people power be enough to turn around the fortunes of a mining village?
If everyone gets together, it will benefit everyone.
It's like a lifeline for everyone in the village.
Will their ambitious plan leave them in the pits of despair?
Most of the area is now mud. It's going to be covered in water.
We've worked really hard to get to this point.
It is a big disappointment.
It's shocking news, frankly.
Where have you gone wrong?
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Sarah Beeny follows a passionate group of locals as they spend a year trying to rescue their community. When the residents of the Welsh village of Myddfai in Carmarthenshire applied for a grant from the Big Lottery Fund to build a new village hall and set up a business, they had no idea what was in store. The village has just 82 residents, but unless all of them support the project the chances of rejuvenation are low.