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A Grand Ambition for Swansea

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A new “creative collective” has launched based at Swansea’s Grand Theatre that aims to “focus on a new perspective to capture the arts through the Swansea lens”.

Named Grand Ambition the group is a collaboration between Swansea Council and Swansea based professional artists Richard Mylan, Steve Balsamo, Michelle McTernan and Christian Patterson.

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A spokesperson for Grand Ambition said: “Swansea has such a wealth of talent, an incredibly rich cultural heritage, so why then do so many artists and creatives go elsewhere for work?

“The last two years have been difficult for everyone especially within our industry. The pandemic has hit venues and fellow freelancers very hard, so now more than ever there is a greater need to encourage, support and connect the arts to our home city.

“Swansea is changing and it’s cultural landscape is changing with it. We want to be a part of that change. It’s a very exciting time. Time to regenerate and reimagine.”

“Everything that Grand Ambition produces will be through the Swansea lens. We will focus
on its cultural and diverse communities and champion the unheard voices of its people as
well as nurture and support established and emerging artists.

“We want to work with local freelancers and organisations that are passionate about celebrating our city’s history as well as carving out an exciting and ambitious future.”

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Rachel O’Riordan, the Artistic Director of Lyric Theatre in London’s Hammersmith said: “I am delighted to be able to contribute to this endeavour, and look forward to bringing exciting work to life on these amazing stages . Wales is very close to my heart and I look forward so much to being part of the Grand Ambition we have for Swansea.”

Writer, Gary Owen said: “Grand Ambition want to break the mould of Welsh theatre – creating brilliant shows that connect with a wider audience. The appetite for theatre in Wales is vast, as packed houses at the cavernous WMC show. But so far Welsh theatre companies have failed to connect with our audiences. Grand Ambition are out to change that, and I’ll be helping in any way I can”.

Tracey McNulty, Head of Cultural Services for Swansea Council: “Grand Ambition will contribute to our cultural strategy for the City and region, helping us and all our partners, engage with new audiences and help deliver a vibrant cultural offer now and for our future
generations.

“We’re so pleased to have been able to work together to create this partnership. It’s an exciting time to get involved in the arts in Swansea and we hope many will take the opportunities to participate in the work, as they develop”.

Robert Francis Davies, Swansea Council Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism said: “We are delighted to be supporting our home grown talent to create even more opportunities for young people and communities in Swansea to get involved in the cultural and creative industries here in Swansea.

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“The investment in our cultural offer is taking shape with the new Arena and city centre regeneration, as promised when we sought a ‘city of culture’ status previously. Working in partnership with local and national talent will help sustain this and ensure Swansea takes its rightful place as Wales’ capital of culture”.

Grand Ambition members

Richard Mylan is a Swansea born Theatre, Film & Television actor, whose work ranges from drama to comedy in television shows such as Waterloo Road & Coupling (BBC), to leading roles in Theatre productions in the West End & Olivier winning plays.

None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for the crucial support from Swansea Council, which enabled Richard to train at the Urdang Academy in London. Richard says, “At the time, I was 12 years old, living in Blaen-Yr-Maes, zero income, single parent family with two siblings. There’s no way I’d have been able to afford the train fare, let alone go to London & train full time. Swansea Council literally made my dreams a reality”.

Ever since then, Richard has been driven by thoughts of giving back to the city that made it all possible. Sadly, it took the death of his mother who passed suddenly in September 2020, to realise that life is far too short for ‘One Days’ & he immediately took steps to come home & finally be in a position to give back.

By May the following year, Richard, his wife Tammie, son Jaco & young son Acen had moved back home. A meeting with Council leader Rob Stewart quickly followed, after which Richard assembled a formidable creative collective who went on to work with Tracey McNulty (Head of Cultural Services in Swansea) & roll out an ambitious creative plan for the city at the city’s cultural home, the beautiful Grand Theatre Swansea, where Richard’s love of theatre began. “It’s very much full circle” says Richard.

Michelle McTernan is a Professional Actress who has worked extensively in Theatre, TV, Film and Radio. Most recognised for Stella (Sky 1) The Crown (Netflix), The Revlon Girl (Olivier Award Nominated). She is also a Drama/Arts Practitioner, Writer, Tutor and Community Artist.

In 2009 she launched her own business Jamba Drama which provides fun, dynamic drama classes/workshops for young people. Jamba Drama is about developing key skills for young children, building confidence in a fun and safe environment.

In 2012 Michelle was employed as The Artistic Director of The Rising Stars Theatre Co which is a Disabled Theatre Company based in Swansea and has over 40 young members who are Neurodiverse/Additional Learning Needs. October 2015 Michelle became an Acting Tutor for HIJINX Academy, Carmarthen.

Michelle has been a lead tutor for West Glamorgan Youth Theatre’s Outreach. She has
worked in various schools throughout South Wales as a drama practitioner for the Lead
Creative School projects run by The Arts Council of Wales.

“I’m so excited to be part of Grand Ambition. Together we can build new beginnings,
spark new energy and create a space for the arts that feels like home”

Steve Balsamo born in Swansea and raised a stone’s throw away from The Grand Theatre in the Sandfields, passing it every day on his way to school. Learning the ropes in local rock bands, Steve shot to fame in the mid 1990’s as Jesus in the West End revival of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, where he won The Variety Club’s ‘Best Newcomer Award’.

Soon after Steve was signed to Columbia Records where he released and toured a solo album, ‘All I Am’ before forming The Storys with three other Swansea singer-songwriters. The Storys signed to Warner Records, recorded 3 albums and travelled the globe, opening shows for Elton John, Celine Dion, Joe Cocker and Santana – winning amazing reviews, fans and song writing awards along the way.

Five very enjoyable years as a singer and songwriter with Jon Lord of Deep Purple followed, as well as writing songs for many artists including Meatloaf, Slash of Guns and Roses and Sir Cliff Richard. Steve is currently performing with ‘Balsamo Collins Riley’ and their debut EP is coming soon.

“I’m very excited to be part of Grand Ambition. I am passionate about passing on my
knowledge of the industry and can’t wait to develop, mentor, facilitate and inspire the
next generation of musicians, songwriters, composers and performers within my home
town of Swansea. If we don’t act now, we will lose them”.

Christian Patterson born in Swansea, trained as an Actor at the Welsh College of Music and Drama and graduated with a 1st Class Honours Degree. As well as being a TV and film actor, he has worked with many of the major theatre companies in the UK including the Royal Shakespeare Company, The National Theatre, Theatr Clwyd, The Donmar Warehouse and The National Theatre of Wales to name but a few.

He was appointed Associate Artist of Theatr Clwyd by Terry Hands in 2003 and still remains an Associate Artist under Tamara Harvey.

As well as working as an actor, Christian is an award winning writer. Writer for Theatr Clwyd, Bristol Hippodrome, The Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury, The Regent Theatre in Stoke and Venue Cymru in Llandudno. He has directed hugely successful Pantomimes for the Ambassador Theatre Group, First Family Entertainment, Qdos and Crossroads Live and in 2019 he directed the world premiere of Jacqueline Wilson’s ‘Wave Me Goodbye’ for Theatr Clwyd.

“I am incredibly proud to be an integral part of Grand Ambition’s Creative Collective and I look forward to producing, creating and curating world class theatre by the people of Swansea, about the people of Swansea, for the people of Swansea”.

(Lead image: Kirsten McTernan)

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