Xcel Bowl, Carmarthenshire's unique experiment in fundamentalist evangelism and ten pin bowling, officially opened in June last year. The council's share of funding for the project was just over £1.4 million if you include the building gifted on a 99 year lease, and part of the package sold to councillors was that "around 17" new jobs would be created (see Council press release).
Visitors to the bowling alley have been struck by how many
of the staff appear to be church volunteers as opposed to employees. How
many people have really been employed is not clear, even though almost
every penny of the funding came from the public purse.
To mark the opening Carmarthenshire County Council granted the new bowling alley a licence to sell alcohol from 10 am to 9.30 pm, despite earlier promises from the church to local residents that it would not sell booze.
Why it was necessary to be licensed from 10 am is not clear, but perhaps there are some young mums who appreciate an early morning can of cider or bottle of rosé as they watch their toddlers enjoy the new play area.
In addition to the new play area, the church's bowling alley also has a smart new website which proudly displays the logos of its various benefactors. They include Carmarthenshire County Council, CWM (the council's wholly owned waste management company), CAVS (run by the council) and RDP Sir Gâr (EU funding managed by the council). The other sponsors are the Big Lottery Fund and the Welsh Government.
The Big Lottery Fund gives anyone considering applying for funding the following advice:
If you receive funding from the Big Lottery Fund to deliver a project in Wales, you will need to do
so bilingually, in line with Big Lottery Fund’s Welsh Language Scheme.
Offering your projects services in both Welsh and English is a term and condition of grant, but it is also a fantastic opportunity for you to make sure that you’re project is accessible to everyone in your community.
Despite this, Xcel's website and Facebook page are available in English only.
Presumably the county council, which is supposed to encourage its partners to use Welsh, also forgot to make a bilingual service a condition of the funding package.
But let's not forget that this is a social enterprise which is committed to ploughing any money it makes back into community good causes. What constitutes a good cause is open to discussion, but sponsorship of Carmarthenshire News, the council's controversial newspaper, is not what most people would consider to be a good cause.