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Community Pembrokeshire West Wales

Historic chapel prepares for new lease of life as National Poetry Centre of Wales

One of Cardigan’s most majestic landmarks is moving closer to becoming Wales’ first designated poetry centre as project developers step up their bid for a Community Ownership Fund grant. 

Tabernacle Chapel, which is situated in the heart of Cardigan town centre, closed its doors for the final time last year. Now locals are doing all they can to ensure it remains a vibrant culture provider on both a local and national level. 

The project developers, led by local farmer Richard Jones, are currently preparing a Community Ownership Fund application in an attempt to claim some of the government’s £150 million match funding initiative which they are providing to support community groups in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England. The aim is for communities to take ownership of assets which are at risk of being lost. 

Since its closure, Tabernacl has fallen into a state of disrepair however project leaders are hoping that the 200-year-old building will remain an important cultural venue focusing on both English and Welsh poetry which has a connection with Wales. 

The project is being spearheaded by CAS (Cymdeithas Aberteifi Society) and 4CG, which is the town’s community regeneration group. 

Grant funding has already been secured from Ceredigion County Council, and now project leaders are finalising their feasibility study in order to proceed with the Community Ownership Fund application. They are currently appealing to members of the public to complete a questionnaire concerning the initiative, the results of which will be included in the feasibility study in time for its submission at the end of April. 

“Tabernacl is an extremely beautiful and iconic building that has served Cardigan for over 190 years,” commented Richard Jones. 

“And as a result, we’re determined to ensure that we don’t lose it forever.” 

In addition to the chapel, the property includes a chapel house, which will be used to accommodate resident bards, and a large vestry to the rear which will be used as a community centre. 

The main chapel will house the poetry centre. 

“Our plan is to remove the pews and use the wood to construct shelves which will be on wheels,” explained Richard Jones. “This will enable them to be easily moved so that the floor space can be used for discussions, readings and numerous other activities organised by the poetry centre.” 

The cost of developing the centre will be in the region of between £500,000 and £600,000 and, subject to grant funding, is expected to take up to two years to complete. 

“Tabernacle Chapel was built by the people of Cardigan for the people of Cardigan, and this is why we feel so strongly that it should be preserved,” concluded Richard Jones. 

“Poetry has been used for generations as a means of recording and transferring knowledge, so our aim is to carry on with this tradition through this project.” 

Links have already been established with the Museum of Literature in Dublin and the Seamus Heaney Homeplace in Bellaghy, both of which have expressed their support for the project. 

The questionnaire can be viewed on https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/PSHVI2/