DISMAYED Port Talbot locals have started a clean-up campaign ahead of the world premiere of The Gospel of Us near vandalised buildings at the town’s Apollo cinema.
Residents joined forces to get the area surrounding the Apollo cleaned up, with many volunteering their own services.
The vacant Burger Knight building has had its windows smashed, filling the neighbouring car park with broken glass.
The building is long-term vacant, and is subjected to regular attacks by vandals.
On a Facebook group set up for this Easter’s Passion Memory event, local people have said they are worried the positive impact of The Passion will be diminished by the run-down appearance of the vandalised and empty buildings when national and international media visit to cover the film premiere.
The film is being released to mark the anniversary of The Passion, which last year saw Hollywood A-lister Michael Sheen star in the 72-hour performance.
Director Dave McKean has created a two-hour film of the play called The Gospel of Us. It pieces together the most dramatic scenes with his own visual artistry, and will be shown at the Apollo today.
But the campaigners voiced disgust at the way the vandalised Burger Knight building would portray their hometown.
When picking up her tickets at the cinema, Lisa Jones said: “I was horrified to see the derelict burger drive-through with all its windows smashed and broken glass everywhere, which was next to an abandoned bowling alley. It looks like Beirut. I’m ashamed the premiere is taking place there for all to see.”
Residents contacted Neath Port Talbot Council with their concerns. Council officer Dale Rogers said that despite the area being the responsibility of the landlord, the council would work to clear the site. It was too dangerous for the volunteers to clear themselves, he said, despite Keep Wales Tidy offering to help and pledging equipment for the clean-up.
Apollo Cinema also supported the group, offering free tea and coffee for volunteers, and saying they regularly sent their own staff to clean up after vandals at the burger restaurant and reported damage to the council, although they stressed the site was not owned by them.
Tickets for all six screens for the premiere at the Apollo cinema have sold out.
Commenting on Facebook, Simon Lewis said: “I know this may not look the prettiest of places, but this is an industrial town with lots of stories to tell and I think The Passion highlighted these points. Port Talbot is in the papers for the right reasons.”
While love of their town encouraged the clean-up campaign, many believe it is these quirks that make Port Talbot unique. Resident Jan Griffiths says Michael Sheen is well aware of the town’s surroundings.
She said: “I suppose it makes a statement in itself. This is our town, warts and all. Look what magic was made in our midst.”