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Artist helps celebrate the stories of influential Swansea women

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Swansea artist Patti McKenna is using the regeneration of a city landmark to celebrate the lives of local women.

She has painted eye-catching murals of three women on red safety hoardings around the base of High Street’s historic Palace Theatre building. More will follow.

Swansea Council is working to save the flatiron-shaped structure and give it new life as a centre for young creative businesses.

Patti said: “I’m pleased that the council has allowed me to celebrate strong local people in this way. A number of local residents have told me how pleased they are to see them.

“I’ve had lovely feedback from local people – they think it’s beautiful that women’s stories are being told and that the murals represent a wide range of ethnicities.

“Each of the women featured has given a great deal to local communities here and further afield and I hope that my murals on the Palace hoardings allow their endeavours to be more widely appreciated.”

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Council cabinet member Robert Francis-Davies said: “I’m delighted that Patti came to us with this idea – and I know that the murals are already bringing a lot of joy.

“They represent a wide variety of women who, in their own way, have made Swansea a better place.

“Our city has a vibrant cultural landscape and the council is pleased to be at the forefront of encouraging public art.”

The women featured on Patti’s Palace murals so far are:

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Helen Griffin – an actor, playwright and screenwriter who appeared regularly in Welsh theatre and on TV. Her work included Doctor Who, the 2006 film Little White Lies and a writing partnership with Jo Brand. Born in 1959 and died in 2018.

Bintou – a support worker known for her important work with Swansea’s homeless

Jan Kauffling – a homelessness nurse whose endeavours had a direct effect at street level and who now helps with the roll-out of the Covid vaccine.

Patti’s murals are easy to enjoy – they’re at street level and are protected from damage by newly installed CCTV cameras.

Over the coming months, she plans to add other images, including tattoo artist Farhana Ali, industrialist Amy Dillwyn, community worker Samantha Evans, singer Kizzy Crawford, Paralympics archer Jodie Grinham, singer Mary Hopkin and film director Rungano Nyoni.

Other projects that Patti’s also working on include a mural in Clydach – a partnership with allotment holders. A well as working as an artist, she teaches music and art and works with homeless people. She is also involved with the Swansea Print Workshop.

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The council acquired the 133-year-old Palace from private owners last year; it is a poor state of repair and needs a complete overhaul, with its architectural style and integrity remaining intact.

Tramshed Tech plans to create a modern workspace for young and growing businesses, especially those in the tech, digital and creative sectors. There will be public areas and there will the opportunity to hold small events and performances there.

Funding for the Palace redevelopment is being sought from the European Regional Development Fund and the Welsh Government, via the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns programme for the project.

(All images: Swansea Council)

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