Strategies for growth

Building resilience and confidence in Caernarfon

A strong community spirit and the desire to do good are central to Galeri Caernarfon in north Wales.

The Galeri was founded in 1992 and contributes £3 million annually to the coastal town’s economy.

Gwyn is one of our 2016 Faces of a Vibrant Economy.Gwyn Roberts

‘It was formed as a social enterprise to tackle the physical and economic decline of Caernarfon,’ says Chief Executive Gwyn Roberts (pictured).

‘At the time the local authorities were unwilling or unable to address the multiple problems we faced, while any private sector regeneration activity was totally absent.

‘We have shown people in Caernarfon that they don’t have to be dependent on public handouts or grants to withstand constant economic downturns.’

Positive effects

‘One of our core beliefs is that encouraging participation in creative activity leads to resilience and confidence. That, in turn, has a positive social and economic effect.’

Home to 10,000 people, Caernarfon has faced economic problems common to many seaside towns – seasonality of economy, a depressed property market and lack of employment opportunities.

The organisation bought and refurbished 20 units that were vacant, derelict or for sale and turned them into commercial and residential units.

‘For most of the past 25 years the units were operating at around 80% occupancy levels but over the past three years this has risen to 95%,’ says Roberts.

And since 2005 the group has also run its showpiece cultural hub comprising a cinema, theatre, art gallery, rehearsal rooms and cafe.

Its expansion plans are ambitious too, including an extension to the existing cultural centre – but everything is tied to the success of the town and to improving chances for local people.

‘The extension will house two new cinema screens and additional creative facilities, as well as a shop selling locally manufactured jewellery,’ explains Roberts. ‘In addition, we are co-developing a site with Caernarfon Harbour Trust Authority to redevelop derelict harbour buildings as a creative manufacturing and retailing site. Construction is expected to start in 2018.

‘Any business can be a force for good if it wants to be but most CEOs are under pressure to perform in a financial sense.

‘Making a profit is important. But for us it’s more about being relevant and sustainable to the local communities in which we are based and having respect for the local and global environment. CEOs need to find out what communities actually want, not what the words in their CSR documents assume they want.’

Words: Chris Beanland

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