Carmarthen ten-pin bowling’s right up our alley

As part of our rebrand to become The National Lottery Community Fund we went to visit some of the projects that we’d awarded grants to over the years. Alex Davies from our Communications team tells us about his visit to the Xcel Bowl centre in Johnstown, Carmarthenshire which was awarded a Community Asset Transfer grant of nearly £800,000 way back in 2010.

“My initial thoughts about my visit were that I could have picked a better day to go and visit the centre as there was some of the heaviest rain I’ve driven in for a long time. That thought, however, was quickly dispelled once I’d arrived as I wasn’t sure where I’d be able to park given there were so many cars there. It turned out that it was the perfect day for dozens of families that were looking for something to do to go there as the place was full-up, and I even spoke to a few students from the local school who were there on their lunch-break to play a few games who said how valued the venue was to have so close to them.

The bowling alley is not the only facility at the centre though; I met up with Paul Griffiths and Dave Insull the Centre Managers, and Dave took me for a comprehensive tour of the building. First was the furniture recycling centre that takes second-hand furniture and white goods, refurbishes them, and sells them back to the community at an affordable price. All in all they recycle about 70 tonnes of furniture and white goods, roughly the weight of 500 fridge-freezers, and it’s clear that they’re making a positive difference to the environment as well as to people on low-incomes.

After that Dave took me around to see the community shop and foodbank. Similarly to the recycling centre, the community shop takes unwanted items from people in the local community, providing they’re in good condition, and sells them on at an affordable price to people that might not be able to afford them otherwise. Clothes, toys, jewellery, books and more are all found here and walking around the shop was like walking through an Aladdin’s cave of things to buy. The foodbank was opened in partnership with the Trussell Trust and is run by 20 volunteers giving food to people that most need it thanks to among others, Carmarthen Tesco and Kidwelly Co-op.

We go back to the bowling alley for a spot of lunch; the bowling alley is jam-packed at this point with the sound of pins clattering almost constantly and the atmosphere is palpable. I’m told that the place isn’t just used for bowling but a lot of people go there just to meet up and have lunch and they have lots of local groups use the space to simply meet up with each other, it really is a thriving hub of activity.

The National Lottery Community Fund awards grants to hundreds of projects in Wales each year and it’s fantastic to see the difference that projects make to communities in Wales thanks to National Lottery players. Going to Xcel Bowl was no exception and it was truly astounding to see the scale of the impact that the money is having here.”

Towy Community Church received a grant of £798,202 through the Community Asset Transfer programme to acquire and refurbish the former cheese packing plant in Johnstown, Carmarthenshire to turn it into a multi-purpose community facility including a ten pin bowling alley, furniture recycling facility and foodbank.

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