Why Swansea should be proud of great cultural tradition
Swansea Bay is in the final four to be named UK City of Culture 2017 — and the Evening Post has asked some famous faces to tell the world why this is such a special place. Today historian and writer PETER STEAD, who was a judge on the panel that chose Liverpool as the European Capital of Culture 2008, explains why Swansea Bay has got what it takes to win.
I've visited more than 100 countries, and when I retired from Swansea University 16 years ago my wife and I thought 'we could go and live anywhere'. The pull of Swansea has remained too strong, however. People often make unfavourable comparisons between Swansea and Cardiff. But to my mind Cardiff is flat, and you don't have the landscapes or the exhilarating sense of place that you do in Swansea. I love looking across the bay and seeing the hills every day.
In terms of culture, the great strengths of Swansea are firstly a wonderful amateur tradition of singers, writers and musicians, and secondly a lot of financial support from the council.
Swansea Council deserves recognition for the fact that it has spent an enormous amount of money on the arts, a greater proportion of its budget than many other cities. You could fault the vision, but not the amount of money that has been spent.
We need clear leadership at the top — someone who can see what needs to be done. I am sure that with a little bit more vision, Swansea could do so much more.
Even if we don't win, this bid is focusing our attention on how we could do better.
"In the past the rich industrialists paid for Swansea's chapels, sports grounds and theatres to be built. I'd like to see that kind of patronage again, whereby the wealthy people in this city support the arts and help break down the class divide between east and west. I went to Glasgow after it was European Capital of Culture in 1990 and I saw what having that recognition did for the city. Then I was asked to be a judge on the 2008 panel. I think the winner we chose, Liverpool, has a lot in common with Swansea.
Like Liverpool, Swansea has got what you might call its crown jewels — the Brangwyn, the Grand Theatre, the Glynn Vivian and so on — but it's also got culture rooted in the community. There are very few cities in the UK that have as many choirs, for example.
We should take all that energy from the communities and feed it into something bigger. Let's all come together and see what we can do.