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New quirky store set to help struggling households in Swansea

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A unique shop has opened in Swansea’s Quadrant Shopping Centre, which is set to revolutionise shopping habits, at a time when it’s needed most.

The Swansea Library of Things is packed with large, high-value household items which shoppers can borrow at a very small cost. This new-concept store is set to significantly help households as the cost of living continues to soar.

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Shoppers can expect everything from carpet cleaners, power washers and large gardening power tools to buggies, tents and camping equipment.

The shop is an idea of Swansea’s first B-Corp and Creative Regeneration Agency, Urban Foundry Urban Foundry; best known for Uplands, Mumbles and Marina Market. As a business that’s passionate about sustainability and creating a circular economy, this shop marks an important chapter within the organisation.

It’s being run with support from Swansea Council and a range of other organisations, and is receiving funding through the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns programme.

A new ‘Library of Things’ has opened in Swansea’s Quadrant Shopping Centre

Founder of Urban Foundry, Ben Reynolds, said: “This is a truly different shopping experience. With the cost of living increasing so significantly, we wanted to be able to give something back to the community, in a practical way which will help with key household tasks.

“When there are bills to pay and mouths to feed, maintaining the home or garden is often overlooked, because the upfront cost of purchasing maintenance tools is so high. This shop gives people the chance to borrow those tools and items for as little as £3 a week. It’s important that these high-value items are accessible to all, now more than ever.  

Items available at the ‘Library of Things’

The Head Librarian, Nathan Brenton, said: “It’s fantastic seeing how many customers are using the shop. The carpet cleaner has been the most popular item and we even had a family loan a buggy when a day’s shopping was too tiring for their toddler.

“I feel like we’re offering a really important service and we’re making expensive, practical products accessible. Our customers range from students, right through to pensioners. There is a clear market for these items and I’m proud to be playing my part in helping people budget during these challenging times.”

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Head Librarian, Ben looking at a selection of items at the quirky new store

Commenting on the surge in customers to the store is Lindy Emms, Operations Manager at The Quadrant: “The Library of Things has been a truly brilliant addition to the centre and our offer. Shoppers are looking for new experiences and new ways of saving when the cost of living has increased so significantly.

“This shop meets those needs perfectly. The other great thing is that it’s reducing the amount of waste or need for storage in households. It’s really tapping into the need to be greener and to make more sustainable choices. It’s almost like borrowing from your neighbour.”

The Swansea Library of Things is located at the New Look entrance to The Quadrant. It is one of several popups across Swansea that Urban Foundry has established through the Pop-Up Wales initiative, with the support of key partners The Quadrant Shopping Centre, Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns and Swansea Council. The initiative is aimed at bringing new and different ideas into city-centre retail units following the pandemic.

The Swansea Library of Things is open until June 30 and the full list of available products can be viewed here: www.swansealibraryofthings.co.uk.

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Education

Council to review Swansea Valley ‘Super School’ decision made by previous administration

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A reprieve could be on the cards for Alltwen, Godre’rgraig and Llangiwg Primary schools as Neath Port Talbot’s new coalition administration say they want to review the decision made to create a new ‘super school’ in Pontardawe.

The new administration says it wants to establish if an alternative way to bring 21st Century School standards to the Swansea Valley can be achieved, which would be more acceptable to the community.

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The decision to establish a new £22.7m English-medium 3-11 school and specialist Learning Support Centre for pupils with a statement of Autistic Spectrum Disorder in Pontardawe to replace Alltwen, Godre’rgraig and Llangiwg Primary schools was taken by Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet on October 20th, 2021.

The controversial decision triggered a process of communicating with local schools around the next steps and general planning for the construction of the new school and swimming pool.

A successful tender exercise took place to secure a contractor to begin stage one of a two stage process.

Neath Port Talbot Council say that under its own procurement rules, it says it has been necessary to approve the appointment of the contractor to undertake Stage 1 contract works only, with no obligation on the council to proceed to the second stage. Stage 1 includes developing the design information; carrying out assessments of traffic and site conditions; ground investigations; and obtaining planning approval.

The council say that this first stage contract does not commit them to the construction of the school and pool, with a further contract being entered into at Stage 2, which is the actual construction phase. 

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It adds that allowing stage 1 works to progress will ensure that the opportunities to meet the timescales of the October 2021 decision could still be realised if a review does not highlight any changes are needed to the project.

This will avoid further anxiety for the school staff and families due to unnecessary delays, particularly important for those pupils in Godre’rgraig Primary School who are currently educated in temporary accommodation awaiting the new school.

Neath Port Talbot Council say they will now start discussions with Welsh Government Ministers to establish what information they might require from the council. This will inform the consultation process which the council will undertake with stakeholders.

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Books & Literature

Carmarthenshire author’s Carmarthen Crime series hits the bookshelves

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Ferryside author John Nicholl is celebrating the re-release of his Carmarthenshire-based detective books as the Carmarthen Crime Series.

His new publisher, Boldwood Books – winner of Publisher of the Year in the 2022 Independent Publishing Awards – has repackaged the four books with a strong emphasis on the Carmarthenshire setting and covers depicting local locations including Carmarthen, Dryslwyn Castle and the Tywi Estuary.

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The first two books, The Carmarthen Murders and The Tywi Estuary Killings, are on sale now, with the other two – The Castle Beach Murders and The Dryslwyn Castle Killings to follow soon.

The books focus on DI Gareth Gravel, an accomplished, old-school policeman affectionately known as Grav, who feels out of step with the modern world as he approaches retirement.

“Grav is something of a legend within the West Wales Police Force, liked and respected by the rank and file but not so much by the top brass due to his sharp tongue and a willingness to bend the rules to get results,” says Nicholl, who lives in Ferryside.

“Grav is overweight, loves rugby, drinks too much, particularly since the loss of his wife, and is struggling with chronic health issues. The job matters to him, victims matter to him, and he often goes the extra mile to protect the vulnerable victims of crime, particularly women and children, who he has a strong inclination to protect.”

The books draw on Nicholl’s own experience as a police officer and then as a child protection officer in Carmarthenshire. He started writing fiction after his psychologist recommended it as a way to process traumas he had witnessed during his career, which left him with PTSD.

He self-published his first book and it became an online bestseller; he went on to get signed by a publisher and now has 11 bestsellers behind him. His focus is on crime and the darker side of human nature, with a strong empathy for victims of abuse.

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“The four-book Carmarthen Crime Series, while fictional, draws on my real-life experiences as a police officer and child protection social worker,” he says. “I hope this gives the stories a gritty realism readers will enjoy.”

He adds that he is delighted to see the books republished as the Carmarthen Crime series.

“I grew up, live and write in west Wales, and so I’m delighted my publisher has given the books a strong Welsh identity, with stunning covers featuring some of the beautiful locations I know so very well,” he says.

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Port Talbot

Port Talbot RNLI shop open again for business

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Following refurbishment, visitors to Port Talbot will once again be able to visit the shop located at the lifeboat station at Aberavon seafront.

The shop refit marks the start of a new era. The shop was opened in loving memory of the previous shop manager, Phil Jones, who sadly passed away in early 2021.

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Phil had kept the shop open single-handedly for over twelve years with much success. Phil’s wife and daughter kindly agreed to officially open the new shop on Sunday 12 June when many memories were shared and there were plenty of best wishes for the future.

RNLI shops started out as simple cake stalls run by volunteers to raise money for their local station. Around 1920 commemorative RNLI products were added and shops were selling souvenirs and Christmas cards, all profits helping to save lives at sea.

The RNLI now has over 170 shops around the coast and inland all of which are run by dedicated volunteers: Port Talbot is no exception.

The shop volunteer team has grown since April 2021 from a team of one to thirteen and is also involved with fundraising.

New Shop Manager Kirstee David says: “It has been amazing watching the shop team develop over the last twelve months and to see how passionate the team is about developing what we offer – and about the RNLI!”

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(Lead image: Port Talbot RNLI)

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