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Most community driven locations in the UK are revealed – with Neath Port Talbot and Swansea both ranked in top 5!

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Neath Port Talbot ranked top with over 50% wanting to make a difference to their neighbourhood. Swansea ranked close behind at 4th in the UK.

Over the last couple of years we’ve all understood how being a part of a community can help us, from picking up something for our neighbours to chatting more over the fence, the people we live around are the ones we share the ups and downs with and research revealed today has shown this is true now more than ever.  

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The report by community-based retailer SPAR UK drilled down to find the key elements that make a great neighbourhood in Wales. Locals wanted to look for good neighbours (35%) feel a sense of belonging (25%) and free green spaces (8%). All key elements that helped us through Covid-19 restrictions. 

The stats went on to show that a huge 68% of people would describe themselves as happy living in their community, the highest in the UK, with 45% of those from Wales adding that their community gave them a sense of belonging. Nurturing a neighbourhood and making a positive difference was something that a huge 57% said was important to them, going on to say it was good to make others feel like they matter. 

An impressive 28% also said they were involved in activities for local causes with charity of coffee mornings (51%) coming at as the top activity of people saying they attend, followed jumble sales with 44%  and community fun runs or walks (29%). When asked about improving the community environment a huge 50% are involved litter pick-ups and 56% are also helping to renovate and improve local facilities, the highest in the UK.

And it seems the joy of being involved in our neighbourhoods has grown in 2022, as the research found that 41% of people in Wales have helped each other a lot more and 36% also added that they felt they had got to know people in their neighbourhood more, including people working in local shops.

SPAR UK, who has over 2,600 stores across the country, commissioned the poll of 3,000 UK adults and also revealed the most community driven locations in the country, including: 

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  1. Neath Port Talbot
  2. Norwich
  3. Dunfermline
  4. Swansea
  5. Barnsley
  6. Hackney
  7. Derry/8Londonderry
  8. Plymouth
  9. Chelmsford
  10. Preston

It seems we are a nation of bargain hunters as jumble sales and boot sales came out top as the most popular activity across Wales (28%), but the community get together we all love the most is a local pub quiz, with 65% saying they attend. 

Sports is also a key community event for those in Wales, with 64% taking part in walking, 41% joining classes run by the community and 38% running. A quarter (25%) of people also attended swimming groups! 

John Drury, a social psychologist specialising in the study of collective behaviour at the University of Sussex commented: “These important findings underline the role that local community plays in people’s lives find a strong association between the number of groups that people were involved in and their increased happiness in living more locally.”

“It’s no coincidence that the activities that were found to drive happiness most – local get- togethers, pub quizzes and dog walking – are all activities that allow people to extend their social circle and form new friendships. It’s also worth noting that some of the most popular activities locally — litter picking and community gardening – serve to improve the community environment. They produce a virtuous circle of happiness in the local community.”

“It’s clear that people have discovered, or rediscovered, their local community through the pandemic. Like others, I got to know people in my local shops and cafes through working from home, and realised what a great community I live in.”

SPAR stores say they are at the heart of the communities they serve, and to give shoppers across the UK the chance to make their community better, SPAR are offering grants to help fund programmes, social clubs and charities that give back to the community.

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Their £100k Community Cashback scheme gives grants to local voluntary or community organisations and charities who need it most. Successful organisations include Bags Full Of Love, an organisation based in West Dunbartonshire that aims to give every child entering foster care a new backpack filled with new comfort and personal care items, and Northumbria Blood Bikes, a charity run by local volunteers who deliver life saving blood platelets and plasma to hospitals across the region. 

Suzanne Dover, SPAR UK Brand and Marketing Director, added “Our SPAR stores around the UK believe in nurturing their neighbourhoods and supporting the communities they serve, and we are delighted to be able to supplement their local efforts with this national campaign. This report shows exactly what makes a community and how important things like links with local shops are to help build this connection. 

“Times are tough for charity and support groups who are looking to fundraise at the moment, and it is great that the £100k Community Cashback scheme can provide deserving local organisations with some extra financial help at this time.”

(Lead image: Adobe Stock)

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Arts and Entertainment

Cult brand ‘Bingo Lingo’ announces Swansea Arena show

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Cult bingo brand Bingo Lingo has announced it will be bringing its popular mad-cap style of bingo to Swansea Arena this October.

The unconventional bingo night, which has previously sold over a million tickets to revellers across cities including Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool and Luton, has announced a huge one-off show at Swansea’s newest multipurpose entertainment venue – Swansea Arena.

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Past winners have walked away with prizes ranging from the incredible to the ridiculous; from a new car, electric scooters, to festival tickets, giant inflatables and holidays.

The team behind Bingo Lingo announced the event explaining that: “We operate in over 30 cities in the UK, but the shows in Cardiff and Swansea are some of our favourites. Every event we’ve held in Swansea has sold out and the summer series we did with The Swansea Bay Pop Up was so fun. We want to give the city a huge show and Swansea Arena was the obvious choice.”

Tickets go on sale Wednesday 10 August at 12pm.

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Film & TV

Paralympian Ellie Simmonds OBE confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

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Paralympian and former Olchfa Comprehensive School pupil, Ellie Simmonds OBE has been named as a contestant on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing.

The five-time Paralympic champion and broadcaster joins previously announced contestants Will Mellor, Kym Marsh, Richie Anderson, Kaye Adams, Jayde Adams and Tyler West.

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Ellie Simmonds OBE said: “Oh my gosh!! I’m literally bursting with excitement!! It’s been soooo hard keeping this secret as I’ve wanted to tell everyone. I’m going on Strictly Come Dancing!! I’m a tad nervous too, well more than a tad… I’m absolutely petrified!

“To be asked to be part of the Strictly family is just so exciting and I cannot wait, it’s going to be so much fun. I’m counting down the minutes until it starts; learning to dance, meeting my partner and everyone else involved in the show. Plus wearing the sequins and all that, it’s going to be a blast.

“I’ve been watching Strictly from as far back as I can remember; it’s a traditional lead up to Christmas with my family and it’s a genuine privilege to be part of it.”

Ellie is best known as a gold medal-winning Paralympic swimmer. At the age of thirteen, while a pupil at Olchfa Comprehensive School in Swansea, she was the youngest British athlete at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, and won gold medals in the 100m and 400m freestyle events.

In 2012 she achieved gold in the 400m freestyle and the 200m Individual Medley at the Summer Paralympics in London and won a further gold in the 200m Individual Medley at Rio 2016. In addition she has won ten gold World Championship titles.

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At the age of 13 she won BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year and a year later, at just 14 years old, she became the youngest person ever receive an MBE. She was elevated to OBE in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to Paralympic sport.

After retiring from competitive swimming in 2020, Ellie has gone on to present for BBC Sport, most recently for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, as well as making documentaries such as Ellie Simmonds: A World Without Dwarfism? for BBC One and BBC iPlayer. She is set to explore disability and adoption in a recently announced ITV film.

(Lead image: BBC)

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Sport

Alastair Brownlee wins inaugural Swansea IRONMAN as thousands of spectators line streets to watch

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Olympian, Alastair Brownlee has won the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea, with thousands of spectators lining the Swansea to Gower course to watch the event.

Pro-athlete Kat Matthews won the women’s race.

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Alistair Brownlee said: “It’s been a tough year with some ups and downs, I think I decided to race Swansea about three weeks ago. It’s actually a place I know pretty well as I’ve done some training here throughout the years, so it’s nice to be back. It’s great to take on my first 70.3 in the UK.”

On the podium, Brownlee said: “I had a couple of occasions where I was going up a hill, looking at the view over the coast to my left or right, which was really beautiful. There were some great crowds in random spots throughout the Gower, with people popping up on farm tracks and all sorts. It was lovely. I think the crowd and the weather are what made it today.”

At the pre-event press conference, Kat Matthews said: “I’m most looking forward to the change in dynamic of the course. You’ve got the first half which is really punchy rolling hills, trying not to get distracted by the sea and beach. Then you’ve got the slight technical aspect, and then you’ve got the TT element. I think it just adds the whole package to the race.

“We’ve been in and out of the cafes, actually experiencing the local area. It’s been amazing – all the locals have already been really nice. I think we’ve seen a mix of the normal Swansea, having arrived so early, and then the triathlon community wafting through. It’s been a really good mix.”

Kat Matthews celebrates winning the women’s race at IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea (Image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Swansea’s own Shane Williams also toed the start line at the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea, finishing the race 16th in his age group with a time of 05:17:46. His first IRONMAN 70.3 event ahead of his upcoming full-distance triathlon at IRONMAN Wales in Tenby on 11 September, Williams credited the spectator support as his key driver to participate in IRONMAN events.

Ahead of the race, Shane told organisers: “I’m most looking forward to the support. It’s the reason I did my first IRONMAN down in Pembrokeshire. The support at IRONMAN Wales is unbelievable, and I’m expecting the same in Swansea. If any of the other IRONMAN events are anything to go by, we’ll have a stack of people showing up to cheer us on.”

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A proud 63% of the athlete field raced for Wales, with over 700 athletes from the Swansea area taking to the middle-distance course. Topping the Tri Club podium were local clubs Celtic Tri, Swansea Vale Tri, and the Port Talbot Harriers, who collectively brought 160 of their affiliated athletes to compete in the event.

IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea sold out over 2,000 places in less than four days and brought an estimated economic boost upward of £2.5m to the region. Returning to Swansea until at least 2024, the event will look to continue growing its popularity and visibility over the coming years.

Swansea Council say that the event brought an estimated £2.5m to the economy, with many accommodation providers doing excellent business along with many other businesses in the hospitality sector.

Ahead of the event, Declan Byrne, VP of Operations, EMEA at The IRONMAN Group said: “It takes a while to get to this point in an event’s evolution. It was November 2019 when we came down here first, to get this event up and running on a windswept day. We met our good partners in Swansea Council and Welsh Government who wanted to support this event.”

“We wanted to put a 70.3 in Wales. That was the vision. We know how strong the Welsh triathlon community is, especially in South Wales, and we felt that Swansea was the perfect location when we met with the teams here. It was also the fact that it was a community and a host venue that really wanted us to be here.

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“We have a fantastic field of professional athletes as well, which delivers a brilliant image for this event that puts Swansea and the triathlon community on the global map.”

Athletes compete during the swim section of IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea (Image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Athletes entering the water (Image: Huw Fairclough for IRONMAN)
The cycle portion of the route headed along Mumbles Road and around the Gower (Image: Huw Fairclough for IRONMAN
Maurice Clavel of Germany competes in the bike section of IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea (Image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Kat Matthews of Britain celebrates winning the women’s race at IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea (Image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Antonio Lopez of Spain finishes second at IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea (Image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Council cabinet member Robert Francis-Davies said: “It was an amazing week, topped off brilliantly by the weekend’s two world-class events.

“I thank all those who took part, arranged and supported the events – and thank all residents and businesses across Swansea and Gower for their patience and understanding as they made changes to their day-to-day lives.

“We do appreciate that road closures cause some disruption to normal daily routines – but they’re important to make such events as safe as possible for all involved and local residents.

“Bringing top class sport and other events to any location has its challenges but we’re determined to give the people of this area their biggest ever programme of major events.

“They give local people great things to see and do – and they boost the local economy in a substantial way.

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“This truly was a big weekend of international sport and it shone a global spotlight on Swansea as a destination.”

(Lead image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

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