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Swansea free bus scheme to return for October half-term

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Swansea’s hugely-successful free bus initiative is to return for the October half-term – but there’s some changes to the days of the week the scheme is running and the time of day the offer ends.

During August the scheme funded by Swansea Council saw bus use soar by more than 50% with more than 220,000 passengers taking advantage.

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Now it’s back for both weekends of half-term, starting on Saturday, October 23, for three consecutive days and again from Friday, October 29 for three consecutive days.

Rob Stewart, Leader of the Council, said feedback on the summer stage of the initiative had been extremely positive and some of the busiest routes operated on Gower saw passenger numbers increase by up to 65%.

He said: We launched #FreeRideSwansea to help families and businesses as they emerged from the pandemic. Families told me what a difference it made for them. They were able to enjoy days out without worrying about the cost of travel.

“It also gave a lift to the local economy with people travelling to the city centre and our community attractions and shopping centres. We’re doing it for October half-term so families can get on the move for free once again.”

Mark Thomas, Cabinet Member for Environment Enhancement and Infrastructure Management, welcomed the number of passengers using public transport.

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“As a council were are committed to doing all we can in Swansea to tackle climate change. #FreeRideSwansea at half-term is taking place just a week before the start of Cop26, when world leaders meet in Glasgow to consider the next steps in the international effort to deal with the problem.

“We hope #FreeRideSwansea will encourage people to use public transport more and their cars a little less for the long term, helping cut pollution and congestion.

“It was a real lift to see how popular the summer initiative was and we’re already looking at how we might be able to bring it back during the Christmas school holidays as well.”

The scheme means that people who start and finish their bus journeys within the council boundaries of Swansea on the six days of the offer will not have to pay for the service provided their trip also starts before 7pm in the evening.

The 7pm deadline change from the previous time of an 11pm finish has been agreed following feedback discussions with bus companies and will support them to provide the service during the six days of the offer.

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The initiative is part of the Council’s £20m Recovery Plan, aimed at supporting families and boosting the local economy following the pandemic.

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Lifestyle

Tyson Fury comes to Swansea as Ware-house Gym celebrates first anniversary

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“Gypsy King” Tyson Fury is making a special appearance at Cwmdu’s Ware-house Gym as the venue marks its first anniversary.

Is he retiring or does he have plans for making another comeback?

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Chris Ware, one of the owners of Ware-house Gym says he’s looking forward to the boxing legend’s live and unscripted visit, which promises a great night of entertainment and maybe even a song or two from the people’s champ himself.

Chris said: “It’s amazing to have such an iconic sports man coming to Swansea. Not only has he inspired so many people through sport but also the way he has battled his own mental health problems.

“His story is amazing on so many levels. He appeals to so many people, and it’s a privilege to have him in the gym.

“Between world class dance brands and now one of the biggest sports stars in the world is coming to Ware-House Gym Swansea, it’s been a great first year.”

The gym opened last year during the height of the pandemic, but despite it’s difficult start the venue has gone from strength to strength.

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It even hosted a pop-up nightclub as Sankeys, one of the UK’s most recognisable club brands announced the opening of their first Welsh venue at the gym.

The Cwmdu venue is now attracting national attention, as the gym became finalists in the UK Active awards for “New Concept, Build or Design of the Year.”

Staff at Ware-House Gym with owner, Chris Ware (centre)

Chris added: “We have pushed and stretched ourselves to provide a 5 star facility that everyone is welcome in.

“When we look back at our plans, we have nearly ticked off every little detail we aimed for. It has been exhausting and stressful but the support of our members and professionalism of our staff has helped us keep the standards so high.

“We have set the bar and we want to move forward as the best gym in the UK.”

Tyson Fury is at Ware-house Gym on Saturday 16 July, with tickets available from Warehouse’s website.

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Swansea shows rise in business growth despite fears high streets are empty

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Swansea BID (Business Improvement District) are celebrating the opening of the 60th new business in Swansea City Centre since January 2020.

According to a recent Federation of Small Business report on Welsh towns, only 3% of people feel their town centres are thriving; but given the impact of Covid-19, Swansea BID have continued to see businesses opening since the pandemic began. 

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High Street Giants Replaced by Independents

Since January 2020, 66 new businesses have opened in the city centre. In the same period, only 27 have closed, with over half of these businesses citing the pandemic as the reason. As many large high street names such as Debenhams, Disney, Topshop and Pizza Express have closed, the rate of smaller, independent businesses opening has increased.

“We have seen strong growth in start-up businesses over the last few years. I think excellent customer service and experience is a key factor in their success,” said Russell Greenslade, Swansea BID Chief Executive. “We have also seen sharp growth in the hospitality sector, independents and more sustainable businesses.”

Responses to the FSB survey showed that 67% of people in Wales feel that their town centres are ‘bad’ or ‘bleak’. The Vision for Welsh Towns report makes a series of recommendations to support and grow businesses in town centres, many of which Swansea BID actively do; including helping to reduce business costs and directly supporting businesses. 

A new independent restaurant has opened at the former Pizza Express chain next to Swansea’s castle

The High Street is Resilient 

Simon Kendrick, Director of the Games Emporium on Swansea’s High Street said the business is likely to renew their lease for another 10 years thanks to their confidence in the developments happening in Swansea.

“We’ve enjoyed growing with the High Street, it has been fabulous to see the once run down and talked down part of town continue its transformation towards a vibrant part of the city’s cultural life,” he said.

“Swansea BID have been helpful in driving some of that change with initiatives like the Big Heart and city-wide treasure trails to drive shoppers our way, as well as more behind the scenes support like advocating reductions in street-table rates for local cafes. 

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“Currently, the BID is assisting us (and many other businesses) with applying for grant funding to renovate our shopfront, which will further enhance the appearance and character of the High Street,” said Kendrick.

Swansea’s High Street has seen massive transformation over the last few years

Investing in Regeneration

With £1bn set to be invested in regeneration projects over the next few years, the landscape of Swansea is set to transform. 

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Investment and Tourism said, “The growth is encouraging. It shows the combination of our business talent and the work the council and its partners are carrying out to regenerate Swansea to create a modern, confident city that’s attracting more and more businesses to invest.

“We’re doing all we can to create an environment where businesses can thrive, such as the £135m Copr Bay district and our work to transform the look and feel of The Kingsway and Wind Street.

“Much more is planned too, including a revamp of Castle Square Gardens, a state-of-the-art office at the former Oceana nightclub site, and the work our development partners Urban Splash are leading on to transform parts of the city centre, including the old St David’s Shopping Centre.

“Our business community, residents and visitors have lots to look forward to.”

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Museums

University’s Egypt Centre in running for top museum award

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Swansea University’s Egypt Centre has been shortlisted for the Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award, it was announced today.

Charity Kids in Museums has run a prestigious annual award for 16 years, recognising the most family friendly heritage sites in the UK. It is the only museum award to be judged by families.

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From late March to early June, families across the UK voted for their favourite heritage attraction on the Kids in Museums website. A panel of experts then whittled down hundreds of nominations to a shortlist of 16 heritage attractions.

The Egypt Centre is vying against four other museums in the Best Small Museum category.

Curator Dr Ken Griffin said: “We are thrilled to have been nominated. Since the museum opened its doors to the public in 1998, we have had a strong focus on families and young people. This includes family activities such as mummifying our dummy mummy, handling of real Egyptian antiquities, and playing the ancient board game Senet.

“To be in the running for this award recognises all the hard work undertaken by staff and our wonderful volunteers!”

The Egypt Centre is Wales’ only museum dedicated to Egyptian antiquities and houses around 6,000 objects in its collection. With a small team of staff and more than 100 enthusiastic volunteers, including Young Volunteers who run the Museum every Saturday, it boasts a popular schools programme and a variety of events, including workshops, talks and family activities.

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Over the summer holidays, the museum will be visited by undercover family judges who will assess the shortlisted museums against the Kids in Museums Manifesto. Their experiences will decide a winner for each award category and an overall winner of the Family Friendly Museum Award 2022.

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in October.

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