Magical way to welcome Llanelli's new Y Ffwrnes theatre
THE dust sheets have been lifted, the contractors' vans have left the car park and Llanelli's £16 million new theatre, Y Ffwrnes, has opened in a blaze of glory.
Familiar faces on the town's amateur dramatic scene, The Friendship Theatre, have been the first to tread the newly fitted boards at the site, in the Eastern Gateway, with their production of Aladdin.
But it has taken more than three carefully chosen wishes to get the impressive site up and running.
Money from the EU's European Regional Development Fund, the Assembly Government, Carmarthenshire Council and others has been pumped into the venue, which sits alongside a shiny new Odeon Cinema and a new shopping complex — all shots in the arm for the town.
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Sarah Foster, who saw the panto with her two girls at the weekend, said the theatre does Llanelli proud.
"We always come to see the Friendship Theatre panto and, while I have a soft spot for the old Llanelli theatre, I have been won over by this one. It is a good looking, comfortable space and the sound is excellent.
"It is just good to see it finished now, having driven past the site in various stages of work every day for so long.
"I hope people support it as much as they can, so it thrives."
Panto choreographer and Raie Copp School of Dance principal Melanie Sullivan added: "The children are having an amazing experience in the new theatre. It's a brilliant venue to perform in and all the Raie Copp babes are grateful to be part of this new era in Llanelli."
As well as a handsome main theatre, the complex features a smaller studio theatre, so Llanelli's healthy amateur dramatic scene can be catered to.
And the grade two listed Zion Baptist Chapel and Baptist School has been kept, housing smaller performance spaces in a handsome exterior.
In opening with Aladdin, which runs until Sunday, January 20, strikes a populist note then the theatre has started as it means to go on. Productions on their way include Calendar Girls and Educating Rita and Rhydian.
Theatre manager Carwyn Matera-Rogers said: "Llanelli has been a thriving community and is becoming so once again.
"Culture is at the heart of Welsh life and we are confident that the performing arts are going to play an even more important role in the lives of people over the next 10 or 25 years."