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Swansea University hosts major international conference on statues and monuments

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In June 2020, protesters toppled the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston from its plinth in Bristol and debates about controversial statues became front-page news in Wales and around the world.

Twelve months on, those issues are the focus of a major international conference organised by academics at Swansea University.

On 28 and 29 June, Swansea University will host researchers from around the world in a conference entitled ‘Contested Histories: Creating and Critiquing Public Monuments and Memorials in a New Age of Iconoclasm’.

The conference aims not only to discuss the history of statues and memorials, but also to pose questions about what the events of 2020 might tell us about the future. What purpose do statues and memorials hold in modern society and what do they reveal, or conceal, about our past?

The conference will host 180 delegates from more than 20 nations including Australia, China, Chile, America, Japan, and several European countries.

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The conference will feature more than 40 talks by international academics on subjects including:

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  • The representation of women in statues.
  • The US Civil War and the legacy of slavery.
  • What might the future of statues look like?
  • War memorials in Wales, Croatia, Belgium and Italy.
  • Statue case studies from Turkey, Israel, the US, India, Italy, Sweden, Cyprus, and others.
  • Instances of statue toppling in the distant past.

Academic speakers represent a range of expertise, including history, architecture, art history, heritage, philosophy, sociology, political science and anthropology. 

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Dr Simon John, Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at Swansea University and conference co-organiser, said: “A key aim of this conference is to explore how societies at different times in the past and in different settings around the world have approached the creation, alteration and destruction of monuments. The discussions that we will have will show how important historical perspective can be to the live, pressing debates about controversial monuments unfolding across the world today.”

The conference is not just a conversation between academics. A key role will be played by people actively involved in campaigns of different types. Delegates will hear from campaigners trying to bring public awareness to controversial statues. Speakers will also discuss their efforts to erect new statues to historically neglected figures. Attendees will also hear from artists who have the challenging task of giving artistic representation to complex histories.

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Dr Tomás Irish, Senior Lecturer in Modern History at Swansea University and co-organiser of the conference, said: “This conference demonstrates that Swansea University, and the members of the Conflict, Reconstruction and Memory Research Group, are at the centre of cutting-edge research into some of the most urgent contemporary issues in Wales and the wider world. We are excited about hosting this important event and hearing from a wide range of international experts as well as highlighting our dynamic research in this area.”

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(Lead image: Swansea University)


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Lifestyle

Swansea ranked in top 10 best places to go camping in the UK

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silhouette of person standing near camping tent

Swansea is ranked 8th in the best camping hotspots in the UK according to new data – and with the fantastic Gower coast just on the doorstep, it’s no surprise to those that live here!

New research by GO Outdoors has ranked the best spots across the United Kingdom for camping, based on factors like price; pet friendliness and internet access.

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The research also looks at the best places for families, couples and luxury camping, for those who aren’t as keen to pitch a tent!

Cairngorms National Park is the best place to camp in the UK. The area is home to stunning scenery and breathtaking landscapes, and is popular with people of all ages. Wigwam Holidays Glenlivet nestled in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park is the ultimate place to camp in the middle of woodlands, while Glenshee Glamping is an idyllic location with llamas, donkeys and goats.

The average cost of a small tent for two adults is £24 per night – cheaper than most locations on our list. 83% of campsites are also pet friendly and 57% are open all year round, while three quarters have internet access.

With the top four camping hotspots in Scotland, Suffolk is ranked as the best place to camp in the UK, with an overall camping score of 7.08 out of 10. The region reported an average price of £24.50 to camp, while reporting 79% of pet-friendly camping sites – making it a great spot for a family-friendly break. 

Swansea also ranked in the top 10 for luxury camping sites. If your Greatest Day camping involves a glamping pod, private bathroom, electricity and running water, then luxury camping is perfect for you.

Swansea ranked 5th in the UK for ‘Couples Camping’ which looked at the number of peaceful, pet friendly, adults only campsites that are open all year, that have internet access and a hot tub.

It’s not just couples though, Swansea also ranked in the top 10 for family camping too, looking at good value facilities suitable for children, including playgrounds.

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Business

Two more Barclays Bank branches to close in Morriston and Tenby

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Banking giant Barclays have announced the closure of two more South West Wales branches, this time in Morriston and Tenby.

The Enterprise Park branch in Morriston will close on Friday 9 September, with the Tenby branch closing on Wednesday 16 November.

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The Barclays closure notice leaves Tenby with just one bank branch following the latest announcement. The move leaves Barclays with just one branch in Pembrokeshire at Haverfordwest.

Morriston saw its Woodfield Street Halifax branch close on 18 July and it’s Lloyds Bank branch, also on Woodfield Street close on 4 August.

Barclays closed its Gorseinon and Port Talbot branches in February.

The nearest Barclays branch for Morriston customers is now on Oxford Street in Swansea City Centre or on The Parade in Neath Town Centre.

Tenby Barclays customers who need to visit a branch are being directed to Haverfordwest or Carmarthen.

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Barclays are blaming the closures on changes in the way people use banking facilities, with more being done online and fewer customers visiting branches.

(Lead image: Google Maps)

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Business

New Swansea axe throwing venue to include a ‘rage room’

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A 24-year-old business owner is hoping to make his new leisure venue all the rage in Swansea

Matthew Griffin, 24, opened the first Lumberjack Axe Throwing on Catherine Street, Cardiff in July, 2019 aged just 21.

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Now, thanks to a £35,000 micro loan from the Development Bank of Wales, Matthew has opened a Lumberjack site on Dilwyn Street, Swansea.

As well providing a venue for axe throwing – an increasingly popular indoor sport – the new venue will see the addition of Wales’ first permanent “rage room”, which gives customers the chance to work out their stresses by freely smashing up crockery and other items, which Matthew plans to open later in the year.

Matthew, who won Businessperson of the Year at the Cardiff Business Awards 2020, spotted the gap in the market for an axe-throwing venue in Cardiff and took the opportunity to open his first site while continuing to work as a self-employed carpenter and working towards his university degree.

At the Cardiff venue, which was the first urban axe throwing centre in Wales, guests have the chance to test their physical and co-ordination skills and compete against one another by throwing axes at targets, under the supervision of trained members of staff.

After opening in mid-2019 and successfully navigating the business through the difficulties posed by the Covid-19 pandemic by working in the Nightingale field hospital in Cardiff, Matthew set his sights on expanding Lumberjack in late 2021 and discovered a suitable site on Dilwyn Street in Swansea city centre.

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The £35k micro loan from the Development Bank allowed him to keep the business stable during renovation work for the new site, with the development also supported by Swansea City Council’s Property Enhancement Grant.

Matthew added: “Working with the Development Bank was a breeze – I’d always thought coming for a loan would mean a cycle of refusals as being a young person can have its limitations, but this was proven to not be the case and I can’t praise the Development Bank enough.

“I was funding Cardiff by myself and it took all my personal savings at the time to get it off the ground. The loan has assisted massively in ensuring the Swansea construction doesn’t have too much of an impact on the cashflow of the company as a whole.

“As you can imagine, running a company while trying to construct a premises twice the size of the one bringing in the revenue can majorly drop capital reserves, risking the whole company and making the project almost impossible after the years of economic uncertainties that we have had.”

“The process was straightforward, and investment executive Donna Strohmeyer was always on hand to explain things when needed, which I can’t be more grateful for. They took the stress out of it completely. I will always approach the Development Bank for any future funding I may need.”

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Matthew plans to host tournaments for the sport at the new site, as well as continuing existing relationships with hospitality partners Smoke Haus, who work alongside Lumberjack Axe Throwing to provide food and entertainment packages for customers.

Donna Strohmeyer, a micro loans investment executive at the Development Bank, said: “We’re very pleased to have worked with Matthew in helping him to secure new premises in Swansea, allowing him to expand his existing business and bring this exciting new sport to a whole new customer base.

“It’s great to see the Swansea site completed, and we wish Matthew the very best as he brings Lumberjack Axe Throwing to a new city.”

Bethan Cousens, new investments director at the Development Bank, said: “We’re keen to work with promising young entrepreneurs like Matthew, who might not think they have a strong base from which to look for investment.

“We can help check their suitability for any investment, and guide them through every step of the way, giving them the chance to make their business dreams a reality.”

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Lead image: Matthew Griffin, Lumberjack Axe Throwing, and Donna Strohmeyer of the Development Bank of Wales.

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