In 1974, a hundred and ten years after its initial construction, Tenby’s statue of Prince Albert was to experience a remarkable renovation. Long before make-over shows became the popular fare that now clogs up TV channels. like cultural Imodium, Welsh language television was enjoying a renaissance. Arfon Haines Davies was a phenomenal talent and in the early 70s rattled off television formats by the dozen.
Most are lost in the mists of time but their legacy lingers on. Confined to the ghetto of Welsh language television they failed to gain a wide audience but their genius cannot be denied. Perhaps Arfon’s greatest and most underrated show was inspired by his trip to America to cover the Watergate scandal. The outrageously gregarious style of Washington gangsters and brothel keepers, with their enormous customised cars gave him an idea.
Back home he would combine the make-over concept (then known as doing stuff up) with the Welsh love of civic architecture. This he would call “Pimp My Monument”. Margaret Pritchard shared presenting duties with Arfon in a cheeky foreshadowing of the way Ant and Dec now tickle the nation’s funny bone. Thirty years ahead of its time it was doomed to failure and ran for only one series. No tapes exist but the monuments stand to this day.
Another thing that worked against the show was the name. Pimp in the Welsh language is the number five. Spelled pump but pronounced pimp, it bred confusion amongst a viewer-ship consisting of hill farmers and political activists. It didn’t help that they broadcast the program at five o’clock. The show premièred on March 18th 1974 and featured Tenby’s Prince Albert statue. At the time it stood outside the local Tesco, on an eight inch platform, looking for all the world like a car park attendant.
The unrelenting glamour of BBC Cymru swept into town and whisked Albert away from car park duties to his now prominent position overlooking the town. The great contribution of the show was to site him atop a massive plinth. In retrospect it might look overly large and there are those who insist it overshadows the statue itself but you can’t deny its grandeur. You also can’t deny Welsh language television’s status as a visionary beacon which burned so bright but tragically, too soon.