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Welcome To Our World If You Want

Welcome To Our World If You WantNearly 500 civil servants have told their bosses at the Office of National Statistics that they do not want to relocate to South Wales to take up jobs in Newport.

Is Gwent's reputation really that bad?

And what is being done to promote the area?

Mark Choueke found out

IT is a major task for any family to relocate for the sake of a job. Years may have been spent perfecting the family home and children who are settled at schools could fail to bed in at a new school so far away from friends. There are reasons to stay put when given the chance to move, but why did so many workers choose job insecurity rather than life in South Wales?

Len Cook, Britain's national statistician said bosses had felt compelled to urge ONS staff in Southampton and London not to judge Newport "by the drive from the railway station to our offices".

So could it be that those living outside South Wales still hold mistaken and stereotypical perceptions of what life is like here?

John Griffiths, Newport East AM said many, particularly in London and the south east, still think of Wales as "slagheaps, smokestacks and miners singing merrily on their way to work".

So how can we change the outdated view of Gwent?

Kevin Dooley makes a living out of marketing South Wales to the rest of the United Kingdom and beyond for both Newport Unlimited and the Welsh Development Agency.

He believes the answer is to attract young people here and make an impression on them.

Born and bred in north-west London, Mr Dooley came to Newport as a student and chose to stay and raise a family here. Now 30, he says he has no reason to regret his choice.

He said: "Arriving in Newport was a culture shock for me initially. I came from a cosmopolitan society in a city that was open round the clock - but now that attitude is spreading here.

"Newport had the benefits of being close to the Valleys as well as its proximity to Bristol and Cardiff but with all the new developments it is now growing as a city in its own right.

"Historically Newport had some bad press with violence in the pubs and clubs but that has been watered down because of all the new opportunities it offers newcomers.

"It's never easy to market a place because every town or city is vying for the same influx of people. We can only tell people what's available here and about our way of life and let them choose.

"You must remember it is a massive upheaval to move a family somewhere new for the sake of a job, there's more two income families out there now than ever before so what happens if the partner doesn't want to move from a job?

"The Assembly is pumping more and more money into regenerating the Heads of the Valleys area, we have the Caerphilly Cheese Festival and the Abergavenny Food Festival and so many other events.

"It's true we're still fighting some people's stereotyping of Wales and those stereotypes are perhaps part of the culture here.

"But I can vouch for the relaxed pace and quality of life here compared to London."

John Griffiths said he is surprised people still view South Wales with such a negative image.

He said: "We've moved on in industry, jobs and culture so I always take care to correct incorrect perceptions.

"I know lots of people that have relocated from London and invariably they are glad they did.

"But it is difficult to shift lingering stereotypes and I think there is room for improvement in the way South Wales is marketed."

(First published in the South Wales Argus on Monday 14 February 2005)

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