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Former Swansea music shop turned into creative hub to support digital art innovators

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A former Swansea city centre music shop has been transformed into a new creative hub to help local artists and creative industries come together to learn skills that make best use of digital platforms.

Funded by Swansea Council and Creative Wales – a Welsh Government initiative to promote the Creative Industries – the Swansea hub is one of three such cultural hubs in Wales.

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Acting as a creative network that will assist the professional development of those who get involved, the creative hub will support South West Wales as a whole.

Based on a pop-up idea to make the most of empty buildings, the first phase of the project, called Arts Arkade, is now based at the former Cranes music shop in the city centre.

This space has been transformed and fitted out with new tools to help artists collaborate and develop their work for digital and public platforms.

As well as the potential development of new content for facilities like the digital wraparound skin at Swansea Arena, work at the hub could also lead to temporary artworks at new public spaces and events.

Content could also be created for a number of new screens and light features forming part of units being developed on Cupid Way – a new link between the city centre and the Copr Bay district including the new bridge over Oystermouth Road, Swansea Arena and the city’s new coastal park.

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Other creative hub project phases and locations will follow in the coming years, to provide artists and young people with the opportunity to come together, network and learn new skills that can provide creative and cultural activities in the surrounding area.

The concept was devised by the Council’s Cultural Services team and Tunde Olatunji, a PhD student from Swansea University’s Computational Foundry. Mr Olatunji will provide the creative direction as part of a three-year research programme for how digital spaces affect or support our cultural offer in the public realm.

Dawn Bowden (Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Arts & Skills), Cllr Robert Francis-Davies (Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism), Tunde Olatunji (PhD student at Swansea University’s computational foundry), and members of Swansea Council’s cultural services team. (Image: Swansea Council)

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, said: “With so many digital platforms now being developed in the city centre, this makes for a fantastic digital tapestry for local artists, the Welsh creative industries and our young people.

“Arts Arkade won’t just give this talented community a high-quality, agile space where they can collaborate, network, improve their digital skills and create, but it will also enable data collation and research on how audiences respond to our new spaces, and digital artworks in the post-Covid world.

“Online masterclasses from digital art experts will be among the activities there, as part of a project which will eventually lead to a digital art experience from the station to the sea that best celebrates Swansea’s rich cultural heritage.

“Arts Arkade will complement and link-in with an already thriving programme of cultural activities and events at the council’s other cultural venues, giving local people the opportunity to place Swansea at the very forefront of digital art innovation.”

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Dawn Bowden, the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, said: “I am really pleased to be able to launch the new creative hub. This facility will help drive creativity within Swansea and its closeness to the new arena can only help with that ambition.

“This project was one of Creative Wales’ three pilot projects that look at how the creative industries can support our town centre regeneration. There are many examples of how the creative industries can drive town centre regeneration and I am very keen to see how this project delivers change for Swansea, so we can share lessons with other town centres across Wales.

“This facility will provide opportunities for local artists and creatives to engage the community and reimagine the space. It is also great to hear that this facility will support young people with a range of abilities and experiences to engage in creative learning.”

Linking in with cultural programmes at Swansea Council’s cultural venues like the Dylan Thomas Centre and the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Arts Arkade will also draw on traditional and contemporary art forms, like fine art, literature and dance – mixed with hip-hop, street arts and breakdancing – to produce digital artworks and develop a stronger profile for ‘Creative Swansea’ through using apps, screens, events and traditional exhibition space.

Arts Arkade is part of a larger temporary plan for the former St David’s Shopping Centre site to create more vibrancy there, pending its longer-term regeneration. The temporary plan also includes a pop-up park, plenty of green spaces and pop-up units for local food and drink businesses.

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Lead image: (from left to right): Tunde Olatunji (PhD student at Swansea University’s computational foundry), Dawn Bowden (Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Arts & Skills), Tracey McNulty (Head of cultural services at Swansea Council), Cllr Robert Francis-Davies (Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism). (Image: Swansea Council)

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Film & TV

Documentary project unites University and community to put spotlight on Gower

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A unique film project which brought together Swansea University students, staff and the community to showcase the beauty of Gower will be officially launched next month.

The Gŵyr documentary series is a collection of films which each capture elements of local history, culture, ecosystems and natural resources.

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They have been created by a not-for-profit community-driven project which saw residents sharing their experiences while working with students and filmmakers.

The project has been led by media and communication lecturer Georgios Dimitropoulos and the films will all be available for free on YouTube following a special premiere at Taliesin Arts Centre on June 10.

The event will mark the end of a five-year-collaboration between 25 students and more than 40 contributors ranging from Gower residents, farmers, environmentalists, and scientists to academics, historians, and research scholars.

Georgios said: “It has allowed us to not only offer innovative teaching and practical learning experiences to students but also gave us a chance to engage with the community and private sector, collaborate with the third sector and forge partnerships with creative industries.

“Our films aim to present the harmonious blend and integration of Welsh culture over time. Our mission is to capture and document Gower’s natural beauty and cultural, historical, and environmental characteristics.”

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For the project, the team collaborated with award-winning actor and producer Vincent De Paul who took part in the films and represented them at film festivals around the world as well as private screenings with Hollywood executives. So far, the Gŵyr series has picked up 17 awards for Best Documentary, Best Film, and Best Cinematography.

Now Georgios is eager the films receive as wide an audience as possible.  He said: “The series has been five years in the making, and it has been a long and wonderful journey. We want our work to be available for everyone to see. But this is just the start, we plan to carry the project on and produce another season of films.”

Filming the Gŵyr documentary (Image: Swansea University)

Associate Professor Richard Thomas, head of the Department of Media and Communication, said: “Georgios’s work is a great example of how our students are integrated into professional projects – the work experience they get is invaluable for them. A key element of our department’s success is that our teaching is always relevant for the sorts of jobs that our graduates might be moving into after their degrees.”

One of the students who took part said being involved had been very exciting: “It exposed us to professional standards.

Another said: “The University’s Film Hub has amazing facilities and the shoot was an opportunity for us to really get to know the business better,” while another described the experience as an adventure and a challenge. “I would definitely do it again,” she added.

Head of the School of Culture & Communication Professor Sian Rees added: “This is a great example of the way that staff and students within the School are connecting with our local environment and culture, positioning ourselves at the heart of our local and wider community in Wales.  It has also provided our students with an invaluable opportunity to understand and experience professional creative media production in practice.”

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Guests at the Taliesin premiere will include project collaborators, representatives of the Gower Society as well as Welsh Finance Minister Rebecca Evans, who represents Gower in the Senedd, and Swansea Lord Mayor Mike Day who will both take part in the panel discussion.

Proceeds from ticket sales will go to The DPJ Foundation, a mental health charity which supports the agricultural community across Wales and was chosen by the film-makers after they  spent time with Gower’s farming community.

Georgios added: “We often think farmers are tough due to their physically demanding jobs but because of those tough conditions, hard-working farmers need support and recognition for their efforts and contribution to society.

“I believe that documentary films offer different perspectives, share knowledge and experiences, promote specific themes, regions, history, and nature, and raise awareness of emerging problems and possible solutions. Farming is one of the areas that we document, and present in our documentary films as we explore how important it is for a sustainable future.”

Tickets are available in advance or at the venue at the premiere.

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(Lead image: Swansea University)

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Music

Blue plaques sing the praises of Calon Lan composers

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The composers of one of the greatest Welsh rugby anthems have had their contribution to the country’s culture immortalised with blue plaques in their home city of Swansea.

Calon Lan (Welsh for ‘A Pure Heart’) was published in 1892 written by Daniel James in the 1890s and set to the music of John Hughes, both of whom lived in Swansea.

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Now two local chapels associated with the pair have had blue plaques placed on them to commemorate a hymn that regularly rings out around at Wales rugby internationals as well as in churches, schools and other locations around the country.

More recently it’s been adopted as an anthem by supporters of the Wales football team, who are due to play for a place in the World Cup early next month.

The first unveiling took place at the Caersalem Newydd Welsh Baptist Chapel, Treboeth, to commemorate its connection with John Hughes, who is buried in the graveyard there. The second blue plaque was placed on the former Mynyddbach Chapel, now the Calon Lan Centre, to commemorate Daniel James, who is buried in the nearby graveyard.

Following the second unveiling, children from nearby Gwyrosydd Primary School sang Calon Lan at the Calon Lan centre in hour of the event.

Swansea Councillor, Robert Francis Davies, carried out the unveilings and said it was a tremendous honour.

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He said: “Calon Lan is one of the great Welsh hymns and anthems, recognised around the world wherever you find Welsh people. Arguably, only the national anthem is better known.

“It’s a work of genius and when we sing it, it’s one of those anthems that binds us together as a nation. So it’s only right that the two Swansea people who created it should be commemorated with blue plaques close to their final resting places.”

John Hughes, born 150 years ago in 1872, worked his entire career for Dyffryn Steel Works in Morriston, starting as an office boy and rising through the ranks to become marketing manager. He travelled internationally in the course of his work, teaching himself six languages in addition to his native Welsh.

Hughes, who died of a brain haemorrhage in 1914, also served as an organist at Caersalem Newydd Welsh Baptist Chapel.

Daniel James, born in 1848, worked at both Morriston’s ironworks and Landore’s tinplate works.

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Swansea Council’s blue plaque scheme celebrates the political, sporting, cultural and scientific heritage of the City and County of Swansea by placing plaques on buildings associated with the lives of prominent deceased citizens.

Both men are now part of a select Swansea blue plaque club that already also includes anti-slavery campaigner Jessie Donaldson, painter Ceri Richards, rock singer Pete Ham, suffragette Emily Phipps, missionary Griffith John, gothic novelist Ann of Swansea, poet Vernon Watkins, radar pioneer Edward Bowen, and polar explorer Edgar Evans.

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Music

Biggest names in 90s pop are coming to Swansea Arena

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The best and biggest 90s pop names will be performing their greatest hits at Swansea Arena on Friday 30 September.

Acts including Atomic Kitten, boy bands Five and 911, Pop Idol Gareth Gates, Liberty X and S Club Allstars will all be playing Swansea’s newest venue.

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90s Baby Pop describes itself as a rare chance to see your childhood sweethearts and heartthrobs perform their nineties’ nostalgia anthems.

Tickets on sale 10am, FRIDAY MAY 27th, from www.swansea-arena.co.uk

ABOUT THE PERFORMERS

Atomic Kitten formed in 1997 with songs Whole Again and The Tide Is High which always get everyone waving in the air. Two original members, Liz and Natasha will be performing these classics and more.

Also formed in 1997, British Boy Band Five released Keep On Movin’, followed by Everyone Get Up. Their hip-hop and dance tunes are not to be missed.

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20 years ago, Liberty X came onto the scene, and in just a few years went on to become UK superstars. They released ten consecutive UK top 20 singles such as Just A Little and Got To Have Your Love.

Starting his career on Pop Idol, Gareth Gates went onto achieve immense success in the early 2000s and is best known for his songs What My Heart Wants and Go Your Own Way.

S Club Allstars include original band members Tina, Brad and Stacey who will be performing some of S Club’s most iconic tracks such as S Club 7’s You’re My Number One which reached number 2 in the UK charts.

British boy band Damage, had eleven hit singles in the 90s, including Forever – Lady of Soul, Wonderful Tonight and the legendary Ghetto Romance.

Also performing live will be 911, the iconic English 90s boy band who have had international success, selling 15 million singles and albums worldwide.

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Female British group The 411 captured an era with their song Dumb with its smooth R&B vocals and catchy lyrics.

London’s hip-hop group Big Brovaz known for Booty Luv, promise to deliver nostalgic 90s vibes.

British R&B girl group, Honeyz skyrocketed across the UK charts with their tunes Finally Found in 1998 and Won’t Take It Lying Down in 2000. They’re one not to miss.

Following their successful launch programme, Swansea Arena say they’re excited to be moving into a routine of bringing a varied and exciting programme of performers to their landmark new venue in the heart of Swansea’s £135m Copr Bay development.

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