Monday, July 14, 2008

Swinging Wales

This newspaper advertisement from 1967 recently caught my eye. It is promoting Adams Beach discotheque in Merthyr Tydfil. There are, of course, no beaches in Merthyr Tydfil - it being up a valley - but nightclubs are often about potential and fantasy, so hey, why not?

Ordinarily, nightclub ads will attempt to seduce the viewer with a glamorous picture or, at least, a promise of cheap booze and a good night out. But this particular oasis of hedonism is offering punters something more serious - a complete change of culture. "We are going to create our own scene - our own fashions - our own pop culture - our own happenings". That is an extraordinary thing to say. This is more than some cheap ploy to get the punters in, it is no less than a cultural call to arms.

In fact, the advert reads like a manifesto - a manifesto of swing. It desperately wants Adams Beach discotheque to be a Welsh focal point of the perceived zeitgeist. The amount of "swinging" that actually occurred in London and the sixties has, over the years, been called into question. But, clearly, whoever wrote the copy for this ad completely believed in the hype and mythology.

The advert is also a complaint, an expression of dissatisfaction with the status quo. But, more than anything else, it is a provincial cri de coeur: "Who said the Valley is uncool?" Also interesting is the way it makes an appeal not just to the residents of Merthyr Tydfil but to Wales as a whole. It is, after all, attempting to drum up a "swinging Wales" campaign. At a fundamental level it is patriotic: "Let's show them all".

The last word in the advert: "Interested?" is almost heartbreaking. You can tell that the whole enterprise is a triumph of hope and optimism over probability. Wonder if anyone actually heeded the swinging call, or went along to see them "day or night". Must admit, I'm tempted to pick up the phone right now and punch in the number 3362 to sign up for some retrospective swinging action.