Wales

Blaenavon: World heritage town challenges Paxman's mocking

  • 5 September 2013
  • From the section Wales

BBC Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman is being challenged to visit a south Wales valleys' town he mocked for being less well known than the Lake District.

Torfaen council said it prepared a short video about Blaenavon, a World Heritage site, rather than complain to the BBC about Paxman's comments.

The video featuring Big Pit, the national coal museum, asks the presenter to take a tour of the town.

Newsnight said it did not doubt that Blaenavon "is a lovely place to visit".

The local authority leapt to the defence of its heritage after the presenter, who is famous for his on-air grilling of politicians, referred to Blaenavon during an interview on 3 September.

Iron and coal

He was in the middle of a discussion about the Lake District bid for World Heritage status when he said: "Blaenavon is one of these heritage sites."

He went on to say people "have heard a lot more about the Lake District than they have Blaenavon".

The former ironworks town in Torfaen won world heritage status in 2000.

Unesco designated the town and surrounding area a world heritage site because of the importance of south Wales as the "world's major producer of iron and coal in the 19th Century".

The Blaenavon Landscape covers an area of 33 square kilometres (12 square miles) and includes the site of an 18th Century ironworks.

The video, with a gentle acoustic guitar music background, begins by asking "not heard of Blaenavon, Jeremy? Well let us show you round our World Heritage town".

'Light-hearted response'

It shows images of Big Pit Museum, the town after millions of pounds has been spent on regenerating the area and a snapshot of the 2012 Olympic Torch passing through last summer.

Image caption Jeremy Paxman sparked a Twitter trending topic when he revealed his bearded look last month

And it has a gentle dig at the presenter's own image change over the years, including a recent decision to sport a beard.

The term "Paxman beard" became a trending topic on Twitter last month, minutes after its Newsnight debut.

The video says: "But like all great heritage sites, as the years go by, we think its appearance gets better and better."

"So why not come and visit Jeremy? Just answer the question, yes or no?"

A spokesman for Torfaen council said: "The great and good of world politics have been cut down to size by the razor sharp challenge of Mr Paxman, but his perceived belittling of Blaenavon created quite a stir on our social media.

"So we felt a light-hearted video showing glimpses of the town's many attractions with an invitation to visit would be the best response.

"We know that many Torfaen residents are passionate and proud of Blaenavon and we would be only too pleased to offer Jeremy a warm Welsh welcome and show him around our wonderful World Heritage town."

A spokesman for Newsnight said: "In a discussion about World Heritage sites, Jeremy made the point that more people will have heard of the Lake District than Blaenavon but he didn't express an opinion about either place.

"Newsnight doesn't doubt that Blaenavon is a lovely place to visit."

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