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City to celebrate diverse contribution to Swansea history in response to Black Lives Matter review

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Swansea is set to do more to celebrate the contribution made by people from different cultures and backgrounds to the development and history of the city.

A major review looked at place names, statues and other ways in which the city has commemorated local and world events and people in the past.

It is being presented to Cabinet next week (March 18) and was commissioned in the wake of a Full Council notice of motion which called for the issue to be looked into following the Black Lives Matter protests.

The review said there is no evidence that the very few people who are commemorated in statues in Swansea had any known link to the slave trade but those statues that exist mainly commemorate ‘city fathers’ rather than the diverse figures who make Swansea what it is today.

It recommends that officers should work with community groups and representative organisations to uncover the hidden histories and characters of Swansea’s past and present, to create a new set of records that could be considered when naming new streets, public places, or landmarks.

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Some existing place or street names do have links to people or families associated with the slave trade with the most prominent being Sir Thomas Picton who has a recorded history of cruelty and exploitation of slavery.

The council will engage with the leaseholders on considering renaming the Arcade and a new name for the soon to be developed public space behind the Kingsway, historically named as Picton Lane and Picton Yard.

Picton Arcade that runs between Swansea’s Oxford Street and Kingsway (Image: Google Maps)

The review is also suggesting more be done – including historical study and the use of technology – to improve interpretation of the city’s heritage.

Across the city, the recommendation is to provide information and interpretation to places named for individuals and families with links to exploitation, as well as new ideas for telling the story of Swansea.  For example, an artist has written a study of the Brangwyn Panels, which tell the story of the British Empire, and QR Codes linked to history sites are already in place at Maesteg House.

It also calls for plans to develop a better understanding of the city’s heritage in collaboration with Welsh Government and by working with local schools. Archive services are preparing learning materials for the national curriculum already.

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Robert Francis-Davies, Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, said: “Swansea is proud to be called a City of Sanctuary and to be home to residents speaking more than 100 different languages. Everyone is welcome here.

“The review has suggested we need to develop a more balanced understanding of our city’s heritage which more clearly recognises the modern as well as historical influences women, LGBT+ and people of black, Asian and other minority heritage had on our communities.

“Street and place names, statues and landmarks have always been a traditional way to commemorate significant people or events in the history of our communities – not just in Swansea but around the entire UK.

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“The review outlines where we are now on that journey and how we can continue to use such landmarks to tell the stories of who we are. With all our new buildings, places and walkways emerging, it’s never been a better time.

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“Just recently the new walkway connecting the city centre with the Copr Bay development has been named for Cyril Cupid and we are unveiling a blue plaque later this month to commemorate the life and achievements of Jessie Donaldson – a prominent anti-slavery campaigner.

“These are the start of us exploring and taking opportunities to highlight the achievements of all our local people and their contribution to the wider world, not just the industrialist families.”

A new street being built as part of the Copr Bay development s named after Cyril Cupid who has Welsh and West Indian heritage (Image: Swansea Council)

Cllr Francis-Davies said the review suggested other actions could also be effective in improving understanding of the city’s heritage in a more balanced way – including creating temporary artwork and heritage information so all residents and visitors to the city can learn more about the shaping of Swansea through the generations.

He said: “The working group set up to look into the issue has done some important work in setting out where we are now and presenting ideas for next steps, next steps which include engaging with local communities about our city, will help ensure we can continue to be a place which respects all of us who are part of it.”

(Lead image: Swansea Council)


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Ambitious plans for city’s future unveiled

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Ambitious plans for Swansea have been unveiled by the leader of the council – including further transformation of the city centre.

Building on success stories like the Swansea arena, new schools and play areas and a £750m new deal for the city centre, the city is set to be transformed in the coming years.

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And as Swansea heads into a summer packed with major international sports, music and cultural events, they’re helping set the stage for an optimistic and vibrant future for the city.

Rob Stewart, Leader of the Council, said that plans being set out for the next five years include the transformation of Castle Square Gardens, the rejuvenation of Mumbles and the sweep of Swansea Bay and the delivery of new, exciting visitor attractions.

And he pledged that none of the city’s communities would be left behind thanks to tens of millions of pounds of investment in road improvements, street cleaning and community facilities alongside support for struggling families and the homeless.

Castle Square is due to be transformed in the coming months (Image: Swansea Council)

He said: “Swansea has always been a city of ambition. Now it is a city delivering on our people’s priorities.”

Among the highlights of the city’s ambition for the future include the delivery of a £750m city centre transformation that started with the arena, delivering a city centre community hub and a new role for the former Debenhams store.

Other pledges include making progress on the £1.7bn Blue Eden renewable energy scheme set to include a tidal lagoon, developing a new aquarium and building new hotels in the city centre and near the Swansea.com Stadium.

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The opening an outdoor adventure park on Kilvey Hill in 2025 that would include cable cars, ziplines and luge runs.

Plans for the Skyline adventure park on Kilvey Hill form part of the council’s future vision for the city (Image: Swansea Council)

The council will also build hundreds more energy-efficient council properties, while also upgrading existing homes to help reduce fuel bills.

Highways are set for investment with a £10m boost for road repairs, new PATCH road repair teams being rolled out, more electric vehicle charging points and more walking and cycling routes.

Other commitments for Swansea communities include Cleansing, littering and weeding teams dedicated to every neighbourhood,

Continued support to encourage eligible households to claim the Welsh Government £150 cost of living payment, investment in thousands more trees, our parks and biodiversity with investment also seeing play area upgrades and improved skate facilities.

Swansea Council say they will spend £10m on road repairs in the next year (Image: Swansea Council)

Cllr Stewart said the free bus travel initiative and upgrades for outdoor play areas was helping families make ends meet at a time when every penny counts. At the same time city centre regeneration spearheaded by the council was attracting millions of pounds of private sector investment.

He said: “The cost of living crisis and climate change will be among the biggest challenges any of us will face over the coming years.

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“From food banks to free bus travel, from better homes to better schools, we’ll carry on supporting families and communities who are struggling to get by.

“We’ll continue investing in major projects and community priorities like schools, children’s welfare and adult wellbeing. This combined investment enables resilience and promotes wellbeing. It creates and protects jobs and it makes Swansea a better place to live, work and do business.

“And by investing in green energy, growing our green spaces and welcoming new people, new investment and fresh ideas, we can look forward to building a better future.”

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Transport for Wales

New trains for Wales and Borders services go on show

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Brand new trains that aim to transform services across Wales and the English borders have been on show today at Chester railway station.

Assembled by CAF at their factory in Newport, the first Class 197 train with its ‘Made in Wales’ tag was revealed to the public today (Friday 1 July), offering a taste of what’s to come for customers in the next few months.

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TfW are spending £800 million on new trains throughout their network and the Class 197 will be the first of the brand-new stock to enter service in North Wales before the end of this year.

Providing an increase in capacity, reduced emissions and enhanced comfort onboard, these trains will allow TfW to run faster and more frequent services to key routes including services in South West Wales – Manchester to Milford Haven, Cardiff to Fishguard and Swansea to Pembroke Dock.

Offering leather seats, modern air conditioning systems, wider doors and customer information screens, the new trains will transform the customer experience. They’ve also been fitted with electronic charging points and disability features for those with limited mobility.

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change with responsibility for Transport, Lee Waters said: “I am pleased to welcome the new Class 197 trains to the rail network. These new vehicles represent a real transformational improvement on the trains that they will be replacing, providing comfortable and frequent services, encouraging people to leave their cars behind and move onto a more sustainable form of transport.”

Alexia Course, TfW’s Director of Transport Operations, said: “At Transport for Wales we’re continually moving forward with our transformational plans to improve public transport for the people of Wales and the borders.

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“The Class 197s on show at Chester railway station today will be an important part of the transformation of the Wales and Borders network, and when they enter service, they will enable us to run more services and carry more customers in comfort.

“The construction of our new trains has been four years in the making, and customers and colleagues are incredibly excited to welcome passengers onto them from later this year.

“It’s also important to recognise that these trains have been made in Wales at the CAF factory in Newport and the building of them has provided jobs and supported the local economy”.

Richard Garner, UK Director CAF said: “CAF is thrilled that the first of our Class 197 trains for the Wales and Borders network has been officially launched.

“We are immensely proud of our key role in delivering Transport for Wales’ vision to transform rail travel for passengers.

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“The manufacture of our trains is taking place at our state-of-the-art facility in Newport, South Wales. We see ourselves as a local manufacturer, supporting highly skilled jobs and bringing employment opportunities to the local area whilst focusing on sustainability issues and addressing the needs of the Welsh economy.

Our trains are being built in Wales to serve the Welsh communities”

(Lead image: Transport for Wales)

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Education

Pontarddulais school’s physical education department supported by Amazon

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A comprehensive school in Pontarddulais has received a £1,000 donation from the Amazon fulfilment centre in Swansea.

Pontarddulais Comprehensive School plans to use the donation to purchase new safety mats for use in PE lessons.

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They say this will allow their pupils to enjoy activities such as gymnastics and inspire more pupils to follow in the footsteps of their peers who have recently succeeded at a national level.

Christopher Law, General Manager at Amazon in Swansea, said: “At Amazon, we recognise the value of extra-curricular development, and we are pleased to lend a helping hand to Pontarddulais Comprehensive School with this donation. We wish the school well as it seeks to inspire and engage the leaders of tomorrow through both academic and physical education.”

Nigel Hughes, who is an engineer at Amazon in Swansea and put the school forward for the donation, added: “My children receive a fantastic education and genuine support at Pontarddulais Comprehensive School, and it’s great that Amazon is providing this donation to help fund new equipment.”

Julie Evans, Area Coordinator for Health and Wellbeing at Pontarddulais Comprehensive School, said: “We want to thank Christopher and the Amazon team in Swansea. This kind and generous donation will support us in continuing to create the high-quality facilities required for a first-class educational experience. It will be a great addition allowing us to strengthen and expand our school’s physical activity opportunities.”

The donation to Pontarddulais Comprehensive School was made as part of Amazon’s programme to support the communities in and around its operating locations across the UK.

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(Lead image: Pontarddulais Comprehensive School)

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