Why is it that the Land of my Fathers still manages to tie itself up in knots whenever anyone comes up with a good idea? Welcome to Wales indeed.
The plans to create three iconic pieces of public art at key gateways into Wales is a fantastic opportunity, but yet again we seem to get bogged down in negative criticism that deflects from the original idea and inevitably makes the entire process a long, painful and ultimately half-hearted exercise.
The Landmark Trust’s attempt to drum up enthusiasm for the iconic gateway project is in danger of being sidelined by such criticism.
The latest “controversy” is about the process to shortlist five artworks for the three key gateways. The 15 projects are certainly varied and I can see several of them providing the sort of iconic gateway the country wants.
The decision to give the public a vote on the various schemes, however, has been labelled “deeply embarrassing”.
The “populist” approach has been heavily criticised. Yet I find this type of approach a refreshing change.
Previous attempts at creating a genuinely iconic legacy for Wales have foundered on criticism that the schemes were being imposed on the Welsh public and the people were being given no say in what their own country deserved.
The shining example of this was the ill-fated Opera House scheme for Cardiff Bay a decade or so ago when Wales lost out on the opportunity for a genuinely world class facility. Ironically, Cardiff Bay now has the Millennium Ats Centre – an opera house by another name?
So there is a certain sense of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” whenever anyone attempts something remotely interesting in Wales.
Maybe it is living in “exile” for a few years that does it, but I see other cities and regions in the UK busy getting on with similar projects.
There is very little navel-gazing taking place in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Brighton, Glasgow, Belfast and even London at present. There are ideas, there is consultation and there is decisive action.
But back home in Wales we still seem to have a “Why us?” attitude.
It is high time that changed to a “Why not us?” attitude.
A large injection of self-confidence is long overdue. It could be argued that three iconic gateways chosen by the people of Wales would go a long way to changing attitudes.