“TOURISM has always been important to the area but what I think has widened is the wealth gap between the local community and the visitors and you can see that in the type of cars they drive and the houses they are building.” 

Singer Al Lewis grew up in Llangian, just inland from Abersoch - the Llŷn village that has almost become a byword for the impacts of holiday homes and tourism on small Welsh coastal communities. Last year, the Gwynedd village was identified as having Wales’ most expensive street with an average property price of £2.1 million. 

“The house prices are so astronomical, it’s hard to think there are houses going for over £1 million,” said Lewis. 

It’s the startling property prices – driven by holiday homes and putting housing out of the reach those in the local area, and the impact on where he was born and bred – that has inspired Lewis’ new single ‘The Farmhouse’

Released last Friday Al said he has been pleased that he has been able to make a contribution to the debate on housing affordability and the sustainability of communities. 

“The reaction I’ve got is that it’s something people care about and I hoped that would be the case as that’s how I felt about the subject and from social media people who’ve been sharing the video are saying it’s something we need to talk about. 

 

“It is something the Welsh language community has been talking about a lot but possibly the non-Welsh speaking community wasn’t as aware and that’s why I wanted to write the song in English to highlight it to a wider audience.” 

The video directed by Gwenno Llwyd Till was shot around the Llŷn peninsula and her camera dwells on stones or slate baring the names of houses, from traditional Welsh ones to new English names, especially on many of the large new builds. 

Also captured on camera are Yes Cymru and Hawl I Fyw Adr (Right to live locally) stickers in windows of terraced houses or on road signs. 

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Lewis sings: “It's English on the door/but this is Cymru to the core/This land is it our land, anymore?” 

The National Wales: A scene from The Farmhouse video. Picture: Gwenno Llwyd TillA scene from The Farmhouse video. Picture: Gwenno Llwyd Till

The singer said the aim of the video was to capture the changing nature of the area: “It’s gone from a Welsh language community to no community at all. It’s not even an English language community as these houses are empty most of the year. 

“For me the Llŷn peninsula is the heartland of the Welsh language, were we to lose that visibility it weakens the language and it losses viability as well and we’re not represented in the area. 

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“For me you have to respect the area, there are people who cannot speak the language but they respect it. But if a house has been called a certain name then they should take a minute to think why that’s the case before changing it to some meaningless, random name that doesn’t mean anything to the area or the community.” 

The most recent example of the changing nature of Aberscoch was the closure of the primary school, due to a falling rolls, in December with the pupils transferring to Lewis’ old school. 

The 37-year-old had barely started primary school when the Meibion Glyndwr campaign, fire bombing holiday cottages, had reached its peak in the 1980s demonstrating the issue ins’t a new phenomenan. 

Lewis said his grandparents would live in a caravan during the summer months and rent out their home to holiday makers but said he now sees a “wealth gap” that wasn’t previously evident. 

The National Wales: A 'Hawl i fyw adra or right to live locally' sticker featured in the video. Picture: Gwenno Llwyd TillA 'Hawl i fyw adra or right to live locally' sticker featured in the video. Picture: Gwenno Llwyd Till

“I don’t want rural Wales to be just somewhere for the wealthy and it isn’t just rural Wales but it’s areas like Cornwall and the Lake District as well. I’ve got a good friend from Cornwall and I played her the song and she said she could definitely relate to it and she showed me an article about people going through similar things to us in Wales.” 

But he is also conscious that housing affordability is an issue in other areas of Wales, including Cardiff where the singer lives –and whether by moving from the area where he’d grown up he’s also a part of the problem. 

Lewis, who often mixes Welsh verses into his songs, sings in Welsh of “a son who has long since fled far from his ‘bro’ (valley) and will he ever return from the city where he’d gone in search of work and where he quietly lost his language”. 

“I’ve obviously moved away and there’s probably an element of guilt for me, in the fact I haven’t stuck around and made my family home on the Llŷn peninsula and that part of the song is me reflecting on the fact I’ve moved away, like a lot of people my age, and what my role is in all of this?  

“There are some difficult questions and I was writing a song about rural communities and what do we want them to look like and sound like? 

“I’m lucky enough to own my own home and this song talks about rural Wales but it really affects all of Wales and in Cardiff prices are going through the roof and I think I’m saying my bit about where I grew up. It’s an issue everywhere and it needs to be understood.” 

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At the end of this month Lewis will resume his tour which he first started in early 2020 and which will see him perform in Cardiff as well as visit Aberteifi, Aberystwyth and Caernarfon and also link up with local choirs. 

“It’s the tour that started before lockdown and got shut down so there are places I didn’t get to visit and I will be going back to a few places as well and singing with local choirs who like me haven’t had a chance to sing live for two years.” 

Though life is returning to normal following pandemic restrictions the slower pace of life has given people time to question what was normal. 

The Farmhouse is out now and available on streaming services. 

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