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Round And About - Trefor Roberts

After talking to Max Boyce about his long career last week, I got to thinking about the large number of very talented people in the entertainment field who have come from Neath and Port Talbot.

Immediately names such as Ray Milland, Richard Burton and Ivor Emmanuel sprang to mind. Lesser known, but also important, are Reginald Truscott Jones, who became the first British actor to win an Oscar in 1945; Henry Parry Davies, the famous lyricist and pianist to Gracie Fields, who wrote the 1939 smash hit Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye; Michael Bogdanov, one of Britain's best-known theatre directors who co-founded the English Shakespeare Company; and Bruce Dargavel, of whom Sir Thomas Beecham said had the finest baritone voice in the world.

But to these you can add Anthony Hopkins, Michael Sheen, Rebecca Evans, Bonnie Tyler, Anwen Williams, Rosser and Davies, Katherine Jenkins, Siwan Morris, Rob Brydon and, of course, Max Boyce.

I doubt my list is complete but it does show the huge reservoir of talent residing in our towns over many decades.

As well as actors, singers and entertainers you can add notable scientists, engineers, politicians, artists and educators. What is it, I wonder, that makes our area so special?

What we haven't had, yet, is a great band. Where is our Stereophonics or Manic Street Preachers?

It's not that there's a shortage of talent, we probably have more young bands to the mile than any other borough.

Talking of young bands, I was disappointed we didn't produce the winner in the Break Through battle of the bands contest held by the Guardian and our sister papers last year.

In recent years I have heard a good number of very good bands from Neath and Port Talbot who didn't enter. That's a pity, as the prize - including a spot at The Pop Factory - gives the winning band excellent exposure. Last year the winning band came from Ebbw Vale.

We will, in conjunction with our sister titles, be running the competition again this year. The talent is out there - let's make sure we have a Neath or Port Talbot winner this time!

Talking of winning, the valley communities haven't been winners for many years. They lost out when the big industries, factories and mines closed, bringing with them a sudden rise in unemployment and changes in the communities. Many moved away to find work, others had to commute - often as far as Cardiff - while many were unable to find a job and had to survive on benefits.

Over the years, things have changed. More are in work now and the mining scars are being healed (with the exception of the huge opencasts around Glynneath). And optimism has risen with the council's announcement of its Valleys Strategy.

Now it seems there is a move to bring back deep/drift mining to the Vale of Neath. A few might welcome the idea, but where will the skilled labour it will need come from? And what hopes are there of developing tourism if the landscape is scarred again?

Newspaper: Neath Port Talbot Guardian
Date: 08/02/07