The latest contender for the 2021 ‘City of Culture’ title is St. Davids, the smallest city in the UK. The scheme utilises the arts and culture as a catalyst for economic and social regeneration, aiming to increase the creative reputation of cities across the country. If St. Davids is successful in its bid, the title could boost regeneration and economic growth in the area through tourism and by driving artistic innovation. News that St. Davids would be entering the competition was met with a mixed response. On the one hand, St. Davids has a rich cultural and religious heritage. On the other, it was questioned how a city with a population of 2000 could compete with past title holders such as Derry-Londonderry and Hull.
Located on the St. Davids Peninsula in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the city was home to the Patron Saint of Wales, St. David. Today St. Davids Cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century, attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world offering a place of peace for prayer and devotion. The Cathedral is steeped in religious history and has been a site of pilgrimage and worship for more than 800 years. The Cathedral itself is hidden from the town view, it is only when you walk through the gatehouse that the enormous structure emerges. The sheer size and beauty of the Cathedral is remarkable, an architectural gem in its own right.
The city is also home to numerous galleries, craft shops and local businesses that celebrate the Welsh culture. The Oriel Y Parc Gallery which is located in the National Park Visitors Centre is home to a state of the art gallery and national treasures centred around Welsh folklore. The pieces displayed in the gallery are inspired from myths such as, ‘Cantre’r Gwaelod’, ‘Gelert’ and ‘Barti Ddu,’ which are famous Welsh legends that originate around the coast of St. Davids. A walk down any street in the city will reveal independent galleries with works that reflect the rugged landscape that surrounds the centre of town. St. Davids’ unique location brings the urban city into contact with the natural world, and through the gaps in the multicoloured houses you can catch glimpses of the rugged terrain that inspires the works of art around the city.
St. Davids is also home to a plethora of food outlets and excellent dinning experiences. The local delicatessen boasts a range of Welsh produce supporting local businesses and offering the best of what Wales has to offer. Whilst the range of pubs, coffeehouses and restaurants offer a unique dining experience with the chance to mingle with the locals. The tourism and local life of St. Davids coexists, and the Welsh language that is so important to the cultural identity of St. Davids can be heard throughout the city.
The locals argue that the St. Davids Peninsula has the most magnificent coastal scenery in the whole of Pembrokeshire. To see the true beauty of the rugged coast it is recommended to go on a boat trip. The daily excursions take you in and around the coves showcasing Pembrokeshire’s rich wildlife and exploring the lands that inspired the myths and legends. The culture and creativity of St. Davids really comes to life in their annual St. Davids Cathedral Festival which showcases classical and contemporary music in the picturesque city.
Culture is in St. Davids’ lifeblood, and creativity flows freely throughout the city. The strong arts and culture scene is a celebration of what Wales has to offer, and the title of 2021 ‘City of Culture’ would do well to increase the city’s creative reputation across the country. It is demonstrated clearly in the case of St. Davids, that size has no correlation to the value and breadth of its culture.