Voluntary Sector Review, 2(3) pp 317-335

In this paper we examine the contested character of local civil society in rural North West Wales. Recent years have seen an increasing research and policy interest in the nature of civil society activity at the local level. In contributing to this, we argue that greater attention be paid to how relationships between civil society actors and organisations are shaped by local context. Drawing on the accounts of key individuals in a rural locality, we identify how the actors who have skills and experiences in running organisations relate to people in a disadvantaged, former slate-quarrying village in which such capacities are perceived to be lacking. Such relations between key actors, and between key actors and local people, are overlaid by divisions of class, language and incomer status, producing a contested field. We argue that these tensions have significant implications for statutory area-based regeneration projects aimed at community empowerment, which, in the worst instances, work to reaffirm rather than overcome such divisions.