They closed the Vulcan for good on May 4th, boarding it up with steel panels early in the morning with no forewarning. Loyal regulars who had kept the pub going for years against the odds were thus spitefully denied one last get-together, while Cardiff has been further diminished and impoverished by the loss of one of the few city centre social spaces not dedicated to vacuous consumerism and rapacious big business.
Clearly, this pre-emptive strike was carefully planned to cut the ground from under the ‘Save the Vulcan’ campaign ahead of this Friday’s planned demo outside the Rapport HQ. You can tell because Brains’ Press Release was already prepared and winging its way to MediaWales before the shutters were bolted into place and, ever obliging to the powerful, the Echo regurgitated it more or less verbatim the next day. Headed “Historic Cardiff Pub Saved for the Nation”, the statement from Brains is a tour de force of Orwellian double-speak and cynical spin-doctoring, made all the more sickening because public bodies Cadw and the National History Museum, St Fagans, have been roped into collusion with this brazen con-trick.
We are asked to believe that, at some unspecified time in the far distant future, the Vulcan will be reassembled brick-by-brick and tile-by-tile 5 miles away at St Fagans, and then we are invited to be grateful to dear old Derek Rapport (under cover of one of his companies, Marcol Asset Management Limited) for generously “donating” the building, before we are urged to cheer its closure and imminent demolition as a good thing, nay a triumph, for Cardiff and indeed Wales. Forgive me if I don’t swallow one word of it, but I possess a few operating brain-cells.
Brains, Cadw and Rapport have co-ordinated a triple pincer-movement designed to disable the campaign that was starting to inconvenience the vultures who prey on Cardiff. Does anyone seriously think that, of all the thousands of pubs closed in Wales over the years, the one that will be lovingly re-erected by our National Museum will be a routine, mid-Victorian inner-city boozer of no particular architectural merit? I don’t think so. In any case, even if it ever happened, saving the Vulcan was never just about saving the building, but about saving a working public house in Adamsdown. Plonked in the bosky countryside of St Fagans for the passing distraction of tourists, school trips and heritage junkies, the Vulcan will be no more “saved” than deep coal-mining is at Big Pit, Blaenafon. It will be another example of Theme Park Wales, a hollow, Disneyfied farrago stripped of all context and practical purpose, an anodyne, sanitised morsel of self-congratulatory cultural clutter, a box-ticking exercise sentimentalising and lionising post-mortem what was neglected and despised when alive and kicking. I can see it now: they’ll probably hire an actor to drift around saying “Arf a Dark at the back of the Arms Park” in purest Kairdiff – that authentic touch to send a shudder of appalled delight through the slumming-it middle-class visitors. No, this is Game, Set and Match to the unaccountable, unchecked, unelected profiteers who know the price of everything and the value of nothing, coming to a pub/park/community asset near you soon.
There will be no march on Friday. Instead campaigners will meet at 12.30 in the city centre’s oldest surviving pub, the Rummer Tavern, to give the Vulcan the send-off it deserves, and hopefully build the links that will be needed to defend Cardiff’s ever-dwindling special places in the future. Mine’s a large absinthe.