Welfare Hall Cinema
Neath Road & Coronation Avenue,
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Located in Resolven, near Neath, fundraising for the establishment of the imposing four-storey Welfare Hall began in 1924, although it didn’t open until the 1930’s. The downstairs opened first, followed by a theatre upstairs a short while later. The Hall had been funded by the miners themselves – they gave a penny in a pound – plus some sponsors, amongst them the Cory Brothers, the biggest private mine owners at that time (they built five terrace streets of houses for their workers, including John Street and Yeo Street, named after the brothers, and Cory Street and Company Street).
The theatre was used for all sorts of talent & music shows, and productions by local amateur companys Resolven Dramatic Society and Resolven Welfare Players (which also performed all over South Wales). Among other amenities, the Hall contained a library and reading room, billiards hall, committee rooms (where the South Wales Federation – which predated the National Union of Mineworkers – had their meetings) and a kitchen.
The Welfare Hall Cinema was created in the 1950’s in the theatre space. This complemented the village’s existing cinema, the Pavilion Cinema, “a small one, just around the corner”, which also came under the management of the Welfare Hall. The 1953 edition of Kinematograph Year Book shows the Welfare Hall Cinema under the proprietorship of Resolven Distric Miners' Welfare Association, with 551 seats.
In the 1960’s, to bring more revenue in, a bar was added on the ground floor, later on this became a fully functioning social club, with its own committee that reported to the Hall’s trustees. Unfortunately, the local mines started closing in the 1980’s, so the Hall lost a large part of its income, although coal was donated for its heating. Also in the 1980’s, the red brick exterior was smothered in a garish cream coating, which is sadly now peeling away in patches.
The Welfare Hall Cinema was listed in the Cinema Theatre Association’s 1980 Directory of Cinemas (under the same proprietor, but with a slightly reduced seating capacity of 541). Some refurbishment took place in 1987, but the cinema closed in the early-2000’s. It was still (just about) viable, but the space was not up to code: there was no money to comply with new fire regulations, there was no disabled access and new wiring was required. Remedial work was budgeted at over £30,000 and, with numbers dwindling, it was just not practicable. The ageing committee was proving rather ineffective, but that was replaced by younger and more energetic trusteess in December 2017, who are hoping to re-open the main auditorium as a multi-purpose entertainment space, complemented by a cafe, restaurant and tourist information centre. (more groups, such as Resolven Young Performers, are using the downstairs social club, but this is too small). They are also investigating whether the building could be listed.
The group thinks it will have to raise about £4 million. However, according to a report on Wales Online in April 2018, it does have the backing of Suzie Davies, Shadow Welsh Culture Minister and Regional AM for South Wales West, who has said “I am giving this group my full backing and will be supporting all their bids for funding. They have shown vision and imagination in what they are proposing, but it is very well grounded. There is nothing ‘pie in the sky’ about their plans – they are responding to a recognised demand but they also speak to the ability of people to build confidence withing the community”.
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