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New photos and video take you inside Swansea Arena

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New photos and video show how the 3,500-capacity Swansea Arena looks as the eye-catching venue builds up to key test events taking place tonight and tomorrow (Friday February 25 and Saturday February 26).

The photos and video show features such as the elegant foyer, magnificent auditorium and smart VIP areas.

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Swansea Arena is one feature of the £135m Copr Bay phase one district being developed by Swansea Council and development managed by RivingtonHark. Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd is leading on its construction.

The test events featuring local bands at the arena will enable the testing of all aspects of the venue ahead of its opening in March. This will include crowd evacuations as part of safety testing.

Only test event ticket holders will have access to the arena for the test events. Ticket holders arriving by car are asked to park at either the St David’s multi-storey car park, the Quadrant car park or Paxton Street car park. Marshals will be on hand at each of these locations to direct ticket holders to the arena.

Ticket holders arriving by taxi or on foot are asked to head to one of these car parks, where marshals will be available to direct them to the arena. No drop-offs or pick-ups will be permitted in the area of the arena on Oystermouth Road or on Victoria Quay in the Maritime Quarter. A designated drop-off and pick-up point for private hire taxis will be available at Paxton Street car park.

The arena foyer, the landmark new bridge over Oystermouth Road, the 1.1-acre coastal park and the 345-space car park beneath the coastal park are due to open to the public early next month. Other features of Copr Bay phase one, including the new car park on the city centre side of Oystermouth Road, the adjoining apartment development and the new business units on Cupid Way will open in subsequent months. The St David’s multi-storey car park will remain open and operational in the meantime.

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Seating inside Swansea’s new Arena (image: Swansea Council)
Seating inside Swansea’s new Arena (image: Swansea Council)
Inside Swansea’s new Arena (Image: Swansea Council)
A decorative ceiling inside the foyer (Image: Swansea Council)
Swansea’s new Arena (Image: Swansea Council)
Greenery outside the new Arena (Image: Swansea Council)

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, said: “The new images and video footage from inside the arena show the exciting progress being made as we head towards next month’s opening of the world class Copr Bay leisure and entertainment destination.

“Copr Bay is a catalyst for further transforming the city centre. Its key features – including the arena, coastal park, new bridge and car park beneath the coastal park – have been delivered for the people of Swansea during the pandemic. This is a significant achievement.

“The opening of all other features will follow in the coming months, including local businesses taking up units on Cupid Way.

“Copr Bay has already created hundreds of jobs and opportunities for local people, with many more to come in the months and years ahead.

“The destination is a key part of an on-going £1bn regeneration programme in Swansea that’s transforming our city into the one of the UK’s very best to live, work, study and visit.”

The arena, leased by the council to venue operators Ambassador Theatre Group, is being part-funded by the £1.3bn Swansea Bay City Deal. The new bridge over Oystermouth Road is part-funded by the Active Travel initiative through the Welsh Government.

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(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Dance

Doctors prescribe dance classes to keep patients on their feet

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Over 65s in Swansea Bay are being encouraged to attend dance classes in a bid to keep them on their feet.

Five of the health board’s clusters – groups of GP surgeries working together within a geographical area – are backing the scheme as the exercise to music is proven to aid falls prevention.

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Each class is led by a trained dance teacher with participants encouraged to follow a range of routines, designed to develop their strength and balance, with the option of using a chair for support if their mobility is limited.

The Dance for Health programme is a collaboration between the health board, clusters, local authorities, and Aesop, an arts focused charity.

Alyson Pugh, Programme Manager at Aesop, said: “We are delighted to be working with our partners in the health sector to improve the health and wellbeing of people aged over 65 through the medium of dance.

“During each class participants will move to a variety of music from all around the world. The classes are fun and vibrant, increasing fitness, mobility and strength.

“Afterwards, participants will have a good chance to get to know one another over a cup of tea or coffee. No previous experience is needed, everybody is welcome.”

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So far classes are held in Pontardawe, Morriston, Seven Sisters, Cwmavon and Briton Ferry, Upper Killay, Reynoldston, Mumbles and the Waterfront Museum.

Alyson said: “The health board asked for 12 classes across Swansea Bay and funded the management side while the GP clusters are funding the delivery of the classes. They wanted it to be grass roots up.

“Anyone can walk in but they wanted the main referrals to come from the virtual wards and local area coordinators and social prescribers, a whole community approach.”

Lizzie MacMillan (Image: Swansea Bay HNS)

Dance artist Lizzie MacMillan (left), a development officer for Dance for Health, said: “It’s for older people and people who are struggling a little bit with perhaps balance issues, mobility issues as well, so we are not expecting them to foxtrot along the floor on the first class or anything like that. It builds up over the weeks.

“We start off quite gently, just seeing where everyone is in the class – I like to gauge the class first of all to see if people are having problems with balance or perhaps giddiness or joint problems. I like to get to know each person in the class so that I can look after them and know their capacity for movement.

“We use the chairs quite a lot if someone is unsteady on their feet. They can still do a variation using the chair for support. We also do a standing variation if people are a little fitter or a little bit more able to push themselves further in the class.”

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Over 65s in Swansea Bay are being encouraged to attend dance classes in a bid to keep them on their feet. (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Mike Garner, Cwmtawe Cluster lead, said: “We are delighted to be participating in this programme as it fits in perfectly with our goal of improving well-being and helping people remain fit and healthy.”

One participant, Pauline Anderson, said: “I’ve been to four or five classes. I thought I would try it to see what it’s like and it’s been very good.

“As you get older you become more immobile. I’ve been struggling with my knees and joints, so I have found it helpful.

“I would advise anyone thinking about it to just come along.”

Another participant, Betty Didcock, said: “I try to keep active as much as I can. I used to enjoy dancing when I was younger. I’ve made friends here. If you’re a bit shy, it’s a wonderful place to come to get used to talking to people. I’m a quiet one. I don’t always do it right but I have a go.”

While Amber Davies said: “I thought I’d come along to see what it was like. It’s important to keep busy and remain active. It’s also a good way of meeting new people.”

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(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Books & Literature

Author uncovers the lost tale of Swansea fairground legend

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From Swansea Bliz survivor to fairground strongman – an author discovers his grandfather’s fascinating story as The Welsh Hercules.

In the early half of the 20th Century, Jack Lemm was a household name in Wales. As the Strongman star of fairgrounds and Music Hall, he was famed for his feats of strength, wrestling and his dangerous headlining act, The Whirl of Death.

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Times and entertainment trends change, however, and now the once-famous showman is almost forgotten.

For one man, however, the story of the strongman had special meaning. Glaswegian Steven Blockley had always thought that his Great Grandfather deserved to be better known.

“I never actually met Jack,” he says. “I grew up listening to my uncles and aunts telling fascinating stories about all his incredible achievements around the Swansea area and I always knew I wanted to write a book to bring them to a wider audience. As I dug further into his past, however, even I was surprised by what I found.”

Looking into the background of Jack, Steven and co-author David J Thacker uncovered a rich life story and the perfect antidote to our troubled times.

Steven continues, “Jack lived through some harsh years – he was on HMS Lion at the Battle of Jutland in World War 1 and was a survivor of the Swansea Blitz in the Second World War – but his focus was always to put family first and to provide for everyone at home, even if doing so took him away from them.”

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David takes up the story. “Jack came from a Greek family and his given surname was actually Lamnea, but his exploits on stage and at fairs all over the UK, including at Neath, were not always popular, especially with his authoritarian father.

“A lot of the tension in our book comes from that relationship, of a son trying to live up to the ideals of his father.”

The resulting book, The Welsh Hercules, took over a year to research and write but in doing it Steven found a kind of resolution.

“While we were writing the book, I turned 60. At that age, Jack was still doing 40 shows a day at the fairgrounds and even after he retired, he was helping roadworkers outside his house to fix the roads!

“Age really was just a number for him and I think that’s a great attitude to have.”

The Welsh Hercules tells the story of Jack, from his humble beginnings on Swansea Docks through to becoming a renowned boxing coach and fairground star. It takes him through two World Wars, as a survivor of the Battle of Jutland and the Swansea Blitz, and introduces a whole new world of showmen, acrobats and colourful characters.

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But at its heart, Jack’s story is one of family – of the challenges met, the hearts won and the enduring romance of a Showman and his wife.

The Welsh Hercules is available in paperback on Amazon priced at £11.99

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Swansea

New Welsh musical ‘Milky Peaks’ heads to Swansea next week

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North Wales’ Theatr Clwyd are touring the world premiere production of Seiriol Davies’ brand new Welsh musical Milky Peaks, which heads to Swansea’s Taliesin Arts Centre on 21st May 2022.

Set in a fictional village in Snowdonia that is nominated for the ‘Britain’s Best Town’ award, this hilarious comedy follows three lost souls and a shabby drag queen as they try to save their community’s heart all while the dark side of the award threatens to blow the community apart.

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The show welcomes back many original cast members including: Seiriol Davies (How To Win Against History (UK Tour) and Mission Control (National Theatre Wales)), Dylan Townley (How To Win Against History (UK Tour), Austentatious (Piccadilly Theatre)), Matthew Blake (How To Win Against History (UK Tour), The Third Day: Autumn (HBO/Sky Studios in partnership with Punchdrunk)), Sophie Winter (Jude Starbeam and the Shadow Planet (The Albany), Don’t Panic! It’s Challenge Anneka (UK Tour)), and Lisa Jên Brown (Praxis Makes Perfect (National Theatre Wales), Sleeping Beauties (Sherman Theatre)).

New to the company for 2022 is Tanya Bridgeman (Shoes To Fill (Fair Play & Iris Theatre)) and Miriam O’Brien who performed in Curtain Up! at Theatr Clwyd. 

Milky Peaks is a production by Theatr Clwyd, Áine Flanagan Productions and Seiriol Davies. The show reunites collaborators Matthew Blake, Alex Swift and Dylan Townley who alongside Seiriol Davies and Áine Flanagan Productions co-created the acclaimed, award-winning musical How to Win Against History. Milky Peaks has been recognised by The Stage as one of the best musicals to watch in 2022. 

For some, the title Milky Peaks may sound familiar. Back in 2020 the show was in its final rehearsals when the pandemic hit, and the venue was forced to close. It’s a day that Tamara Harvey, Theatr Clwyd’s Artistic Director, remembers well: 

“I walked into the Theatre with a sinking heart. Our Milky Peaks company were just finishing their sound check – we had to tell them that the Prime Minister had advised everyone in the UK not to go to theatres and so we were sending our team home.

“They asked to perform the first and last numbers from the show. I sat in the darkened auditorium, laughing and weeping in equal measure at this brilliant show that was suddenly in limbo.

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“It means more than we can say to be bringing it back to life now – the wildly funny and bitingly satirical world that Seiriol Davies and the company created all those months ago feels more vital than ever to share with our audiences here and across Wales.”

When asked about returning to the project, writer and performer Seiriol said: “It is surreal and brilliant to be coming back to Theatr Clwyd and to finally be opening Milky Peaks.

“It feels gorgeous and right to be telling this dark, sparkly, stupid-ferocious fable about our crazy world, which has not in any way de-crazied in the last two years.

“The creative team is on fire (not literally), the cast is also on fire (literally: it’s a rehearsal technique): EVERYTHING is in place. Come on, Milky Peaks!”

This brand new musical has been supported by Theatr Clwyd, the National Theatre New Work Department, Arts Council England, Arts Council Wales, Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru, Battersea Arts Centre and Ovalhouse.

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(All images: Ffotonata)

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