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Temporary pop-up park for former St David’s Shopping Centre

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A new pop-up park is set to bring even more greenery to Swansea city centre.

The temporary new green space is in front of the Iceland supermarket at the former St David’s Shopping Centre and is part of redevelopment plans there.

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The new park is adjacent to the former Pobl retirement flats, Llys Dewi Sant which the council recently announced was to be demolished in the next phase of their Swansea Central regeneration scheme.

Council leader Rob Stewart said: “We plan a number of major city centre developments over the coming years – and we want them to reflect our aim for  a greener and more biodiverse city.

“This temporary pop-up is close to the site of future developments such as Swansea Central North, Castle Square and a new services hub at the former BHS building.

“It’ll influence them and other key projects as it’ll be used to trial a wide variety of pollinator-friendly plants and nature-based solutions.

“It will celebrate Swansea’s rich natural environment and will help us use nature to make our city more resilient to the impacts of climate change and more able to contribute to delivering nature recovery.”

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Swansea Council park ranger Rachel Alderman prepares some greenery for the city centre’s new temporary pop-up park (Image: Swansea Council)

The pop-up park, being installed now, is being delivered by the council in partnership with Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and the Welsh Government’s Local Places for Nature Challenge Fund.

It will feature more than 40 wooden planters with a variety of themes, including wild meadows, cliffs and dunes, and natural hedgerows.

They’ll look different as the seasons change and will provide year-round support for butterflies, bees and other insects, providing food and shelter from flowers to berries.

The planters will have integral seating for shoppers, city centre residents and visitors to relax and meet.

There will be trees and, in due course, green-roofed cycle shelters. Once Swansea Central North is developed, the pop-up’s greenery will be relocated elsewhere in Swansea.

The new pop-up park at the former St David’s Shopping Centre (Image: Swansea Council)

Fran Rolfe, senior green infrastructure officer with Natural Resources Wales, said: “With a nature emergency declared in Wales, it’s more important than ever to do everything we can to help protect our biodiversity, encouraging it to flourish, especially in urban areas such as Swansea city centre.

“I’m really excited with this city centre pop-up park and hope it’ll provide opportunities for people to learn more about biodiversity and will open up conversations about how we can bring more nature into our city and town centres.

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“Another critically important benefit of providing the pop-up park is the positive impact nature can have on our health and wellbeing. I hope people visiting the city centre enjoy the extra green space. After all, us humans deserve good habitats too.”

Climate Change Minister Julie James said: “The pandemic has given us all a greater appreciation of nature and its importance on our health and mental wellbeing. 

“This pop-up park is a fantastic, innovative way for people from all backgrounds and abilities to learn how these green spaces are important for their communities as well as nature. 

“It will show how nature can be integrated into town centre design and how people could get involved in further small local level actions, so important as part of the collective effort needed to tackle the nature emergency and support the variety of plants and animals we love to see in Wales.”

Council cabinet member Andrew Stevens said: “Swansea’s natural environment is already outstanding, making up over 80% of the county’s land area.

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“Its diversity of landscapes and habitats, including farmland, upland moorlands, coastal cliffs, sandy beaches, woodlands, wetlands, river valleys and estuaries, combine to make it one of the UK’s most attractive and ecologically rich counties.

“We want to make it even better as we regenerate the city centre, help improve people’s health and well-being, and help tackle climate change and the nature emergency.

“The temporary pop-up park is designed to inspire future developments to include more nature.”

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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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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