Manufacturing places: ‘the problem of mid-wales’

Samantha Saville, Marcus Welsh

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Narratives of change in rural areas are often characterised by declination; of a declining population and economic output. A focal point of such UK narratives centred from the 1930s on ‘mid Wales’, a fuzzy bounded imagined region. Framed as a twin-pronged issue of depopulation and failure to capture industrial capital, mid Wales came to epitomise problems associated with rural change in an era of rapid urbanisation, education and industrialisation.

In this paper we focus on Newtown/Y Drenewydd located in the heart of mid Wales. Dating from the thirteenth century, it was also designated in the final tranche of “New Towns” the late 1960s, resulting in wide ranging powers for (regional) state intervention. As the most rural ‘New Town’, Newtown was Mid Wales’ ‘special growth point’ and came to serve as a laboratory for testing policy solutions to perceived rural decline. The experiments that ensued sought to re-make Newtown into a desirable place to live and work through a substantial programme of house building and incentives for new and existing manufacturing businesses to (re)locate there. Beyond the population growth and employment figures, targets for industrial unit square metres and number of houses to be built, these regional development policies involved substantial material changes.

We explore how assemblage based approaches to analysing processes of continuity and change can bring new insights to how we might conceive such ‘planned’ place-making and shaping initiatives. Focussing particularly on the relationship between the materiality of place and its imaginary, we draw out how regional development policies in this setting have both shaped its economic path and material construction, serving to sediment particular ways of imagining rural towns across the broader ‘region’.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 2017
EventRoyal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual Conference - London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Duration: 29 Aug 201701 Sept 2017


ConferenceRoyal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual Conference
Abbreviated titleRGS-IBG
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Period29 Aug 201701 Sept 2017


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