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Live music venue heading for Swansea’s Albert Hall as part of £8m development by Loft Co

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Cardiff’s biggest independent events brand has announced it will open a second live music venue inside Swansea’s Albert Hall.

The DEPOT, which has established itself as one of the biggest entertainment brands in the capital city, has confirmed it will be one of the first new tenants of Loft Co’s latest redevelopment project in Swansea.

The £8 million refurbishment of the former opera hall on the corner of De-La Beche Street and Cradock Street is being led by Simon Baston, director of Loft Co. Loft Co is also responsible for the development of The Tramshed in Cardiff, Goodsheds in Barry and the J-Shed in Swansea, amongst others.

Loft Co’s plans are to restore the 157-year-old building back to its original splendour, creating a mixed-use development which will include The DEPOT as an 800-capacity music and entertainment venue, as well as dedicated new spaces for lifestyle businesses and offices. The full refurbishment is expected to take between 12 – 18 months.

An artist’s impression of what the interior of the Albert Hall’s music venue will look like

A ‘boutique apart-hotel’ comprising of ten serviced apartments will attract tourists, as well as ensuring the long-term sustainability of the scheme and contributing to a low carbon footprint existence. These will be available to rent for periods between one night and six months.

Academy Coffee have also been confirmed as tenants of the new scheme. The family-owned group of speciality coffee shops originated at The Pumphouse in Barry, with several venues across South Wales in Barry, Cardiff, Penarth (and Newport under construction).

Each venue has its own individual look and feel, from Victorian industrial brickwork to modern shipping containers; at Albert Hall, they have plans to operate an all-day venue serving coffee and light lunches during the day, transforming into a cocktail bar and lounge by night.

A roof terrace will also be created but will be open to staff and clients of the tenanted businesses only.

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Artists impression of the exterior of the Albert Hall

SWANSEA’S £1BN TRANSFORMATION

Swansea city centre is undergoing a £1bn transformation thanks to work driven by Swansea Council. It’s one of Europe’s biggest current city centre regeneration schemes.

Heritage sites being saved for future generations in and around the city centre include the Albert Hall, the Palace Theatre building and the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks Powerhouse. Hundreds of new homes and modern workspaces are also being created through private and public sector funding.

A catalyst for the regeneration is the £135m Copr Bay Phase One scheme, with an arena, parkland, homes, commercial space, parking and landmark new bridge. The scheme is due to open later this year.

The Albert Hall as it currently looks (Image: Google Maps)

Council leader Rob Stewart said: “I welcome the new vision for the Albert Hall, one of Swansea’s most iconic city centre buildings. The council has worked with Loft-Co to get to this stage and, pending planning permission, will continue to support the scheme. It can be a fantastic new venue and will be a near neighbour to our indoor arena that’s due to open this year.

“Together, they can help Swansea become a place where people want to live, work, study and spend quality spare time.

“The city will be leading wales out of the pandemic.”

Simon Baston, Loft Co, said: “At Loft Co, we pride ourselves on creating spaces that are unique, accessible and most importantly, fun. We are excited by the plans we have for Albert Hall, and its potential to be a place where the community of Swansea can come to work, relax, and play when the restrictions of COVID-19 are long behind us.”

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Artist’s impression of the interior of the music venue

Nick Saunders, founder and Managing Director of The DEPOT said: “Despite starting life as a temporary pop-up back in 2014, The DEPOT has since established itself as a key part of Cardiff’s alternative night-time economy, and we can’t wait to do the same in Swansea – providing a diverse and exciting events space for both locals and tourists alike.

We’re really excited about moving into a second site – and becoming neighbours with some other fantastic local businesses in the process.”

ABOUT THE ALBERT HALL

The Albert Hall first opened in 1864 as a public assembly and concert venue known as The Music Hall, Swansea, with a 2,500 capacity.

It became the Albert Hall in 1882, and over the years it has hosted performances and speeches from Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, David Lloyd George and opera singer Adelina Patti.

The venue – on the corner of De-La Beche Street and Cradock Street – became a silent movie cinema in 1922, switching to talkies in 1929.

The doors of this 156-year-old building have been closed since 2007, when it last operated as a bingo hall.

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Education

Council to review Swansea Valley ‘Super School’ decision made by previous administration

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A reprieve could be on the cards for Alltwen, Godre’rgraig and Llangiwg Primary schools as Neath Port Talbot’s new coalition administration say they want to review the decision made to create a new ‘super school’ in Pontardawe.

The new administration says it wants to establish if an alternative way to bring 21st Century School standards to the Swansea Valley can be achieved, which would be more acceptable to the community.

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The decision to establish a new £22.7m English-medium 3-11 school and specialist Learning Support Centre for pupils with a statement of Autistic Spectrum Disorder in Pontardawe to replace Alltwen, Godre’rgraig and Llangiwg Primary schools was taken by Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet on October 20th, 2021.

The controversial decision triggered a process of communicating with local schools around the next steps and general planning for the construction of the new school and swimming pool.

A successful tender exercise took place to secure a contractor to begin stage one of a two stage process.

Neath Port Talbot Council say that under its own procurement rules, it says it has been necessary to approve the appointment of the contractor to undertake Stage 1 contract works only, with no obligation on the council to proceed to the second stage. Stage 1 includes developing the design information; carrying out assessments of traffic and site conditions; ground investigations; and obtaining planning approval.

The council say that this first stage contract does not commit them to the construction of the school and pool, with a further contract being entered into at Stage 2, which is the actual construction phase. 

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It adds that allowing stage 1 works to progress will ensure that the opportunities to meet the timescales of the October 2021 decision could still be realised if a review does not highlight any changes are needed to the project.

This will avoid further anxiety for the school staff and families due to unnecessary delays, particularly important for those pupils in Godre’rgraig Primary School who are currently educated in temporary accommodation awaiting the new school.

Neath Port Talbot Council say they will now start discussions with Welsh Government Ministers to establish what information they might require from the council. This will inform the consultation process which the council will undertake with stakeholders.

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Books & Literature

Carmarthenshire author’s Carmarthen Crime series hits the bookshelves

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Ferryside author John Nicholl is celebrating the re-release of his Carmarthenshire-based detective books as the Carmarthen Crime Series.

His new publisher, Boldwood Books – winner of Publisher of the Year in the 2022 Independent Publishing Awards – has repackaged the four books with a strong emphasis on the Carmarthenshire setting and covers depicting local locations including Carmarthen, Dryslwyn Castle and the Tywi Estuary.

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The first two books, The Carmarthen Murders and The Tywi Estuary Killings, are on sale now, with the other two – The Castle Beach Murders and The Dryslwyn Castle Killings to follow soon.

The books focus on DI Gareth Gravel, an accomplished, old-school policeman affectionately known as Grav, who feels out of step with the modern world as he approaches retirement.

“Grav is something of a legend within the West Wales Police Force, liked and respected by the rank and file but not so much by the top brass due to his sharp tongue and a willingness to bend the rules to get results,” says Nicholl, who lives in Ferryside.

“Grav is overweight, loves rugby, drinks too much, particularly since the loss of his wife, and is struggling with chronic health issues. The job matters to him, victims matter to him, and he often goes the extra mile to protect the vulnerable victims of crime, particularly women and children, who he has a strong inclination to protect.”

The books draw on Nicholl’s own experience as a police officer and then as a child protection officer in Carmarthenshire. He started writing fiction after his psychologist recommended it as a way to process traumas he had witnessed during his career, which left him with PTSD.

He self-published his first book and it became an online bestseller; he went on to get signed by a publisher and now has 11 bestsellers behind him. His focus is on crime and the darker side of human nature, with a strong empathy for victims of abuse.

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“The four-book Carmarthen Crime Series, while fictional, draws on my real-life experiences as a police officer and child protection social worker,” he says. “I hope this gives the stories a gritty realism readers will enjoy.”

He adds that he is delighted to see the books republished as the Carmarthen Crime series.

“I grew up, live and write in west Wales, and so I’m delighted my publisher has given the books a strong Welsh identity, with stunning covers featuring some of the beautiful locations I know so very well,” he says.

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Port Talbot

Port Talbot RNLI shop open again for business

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Following refurbishment, visitors to Port Talbot will once again be able to visit the shop located at the lifeboat station at Aberavon seafront.

The shop refit marks the start of a new era. The shop was opened in loving memory of the previous shop manager, Phil Jones, who sadly passed away in early 2021.

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Phil had kept the shop open single-handedly for over twelve years with much success. Phil’s wife and daughter kindly agreed to officially open the new shop on Sunday 12 June when many memories were shared and there were plenty of best wishes for the future.

RNLI shops started out as simple cake stalls run by volunteers to raise money for their local station. Around 1920 commemorative RNLI products were added and shops were selling souvenirs and Christmas cards, all profits helping to save lives at sea.

The RNLI now has over 170 shops around the coast and inland all of which are run by dedicated volunteers: Port Talbot is no exception.

The shop volunteer team has grown since April 2021 from a team of one to thirteen and is also involved with fundraising.

New Shop Manager Kirstee David says: “It has been amazing watching the shop team develop over the last twelve months and to see how passionate the team is about developing what we offer – and about the RNLI!”

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(Lead image: Port Talbot RNLI)

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