Tryweryn mural threatened with removal likely to remain as pandemic forces council to focus on other issues
Hannah Neary, local democracy reporter
A homeowner’s ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn’ mural looks likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future as the pandemic has forced the council, who was opposed to it, to focus on other issues.
Bridgend Council had previously told Sian Thomas-Ford she could be prosecuted if she did not paint over the mural last summer. The council’s planning application fees for adverts range from £120 to £460.
However, Sian Thomas-Ford said she has “no intentions whatsoever” to get rid of it. She said she decided to paint the mural on her home after the original ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn’ mural in Llanrhystud, Ceredigion, was vandalised in April 2019.
But a council spokesperson told the Local Democracy Service that the authority has made “no further developments” on the issue since last year, because “the pandemic largely meant everything had to be reprioritised”.
They added: “From the council’s perspective, advertising consent is required to protect the householder, but we do not currently intend to take any further action. It remains open to the owner if they wish to regularise the matter.”
Sian Thomas-Ford said her battle with Bridgend Council over a mural on the side of her home led to “important” conversations about Welsh history.
When Sian Thomas-Ford decided to paint a mural on her property in Maesteg, she hoped it would remind passers-by about a controversial event that has been memorialised by many artworks across Wales.
With the help of friends and family, she painted the words “Cofiwch Dryweryn” on the side of her home in 2019, in memory of the controversial flooding of Capel Celyn in 1965. The village was flooded to build a reservoir in the Tryweryn Valley that would supply water to Liverpool.
When it was first painted, the mural contained the words “Yes Cymru” written in a smaller font underneath “Cofiwch Dryweryn”. Yes Cymru is a political campaign group for Welsh independence.
The words “Yes Cymru” were later removed and two dragons were added to the design, inspired by stories from the Mabinogion, a collection of medieval Welsh folk tales.
Despite the council’s legal threat making her feel “anxious” last year, Sian Thomas-Ford said her dispute with the authority has caused people to come and look at the artwork, which led to important discussions with locals about Welsh history and culture. This was what she wanted to achieve with the mural in the first place.
“A lot of people have been asking questions about it. So people are being educated about this part of our history as well,” she said.
“We’ve also had little boys coming and asking what the dragons are about. We’ve been having lots of conversations around things people didn’t know anything about before.”
Sian Thomas-Ford’s battle with the council over the issue has been ongoing for more than two years but now it seems it is likely to stay with no further actions taken.
In September 2019, the authority sent her a letter stating the mural is an advert and their highways department found the mural is a “distraction to drivers”.
Ms Thomas-Ford received another letter from the council in July 2020 stating she would be taken to court if the mural was not painted over within 21 days.
In August, the council reviewed the matter and found the mural no longer posed a potential distraction to drivers but was still an advert. Ms Thomas-Ford was told to apply for retrospective planning permission for the piece to remain.
At the time, she told the Local Democracy Service she had no intention of applying for planning permission because she does not believe the piece is an advert but rather a celebration of Welsh history and a reminder of an event that should not be forgotten.
Almost 3,000 people signed a petition in support of keeping the mural, which Ms Thomas-Ford said was “fabulous”. She said she was “really pleased” by the support she has received from people of “all age groups”.
Ms Thomas-Ford said she has heard nothing from the council since last year and she intends to keep the mural. She does not wish to apply for planning permission as she maintains the piece is not an advert.
There are multiple artworks across Wales that pay tribute the Tryweryn residents who lost their homes, including a mural in Aberystwyth that was graffitid with a swastika last September.
She is not the only resident to clash with the council over a Cofiwch Drywern piece. A local couple was told to remove a similar mural painted on the side of a sweet shop in May 2019.
The painting, located in Bridgend’s Nolton Street, also contained the words “Yes Cymru” and the council said it fell under the category of an advert.