With Swansea in the running for UK City of Culture 2021, Jude Rogers discovers five reasons why Wales’ second city is its hippest…
Fall out of the train station into Swansea High Street, and you’ll see instantly how art’s reawakened Wales’ second city. There’s the psychedelic Dylan Thomas mural straight opposite (by Pete Fowler, cover artist for brilliant Welsh band Super Furry Animals), paintings above shops thanks to the town’s groundbreaking Art Across The High Street project, and two cutting-edge galleries, Elysium and Galerie Simpson (legendary pop artist Peter Blake exhibited at the latter last year).
A stunning mural of Liz Taylor (once wife of Richard Burton, from down the road in Port Talbot) adorns the front of the independent theatre which kicked off the city’s cultural rebirth. Opened in 2007, Volcano Theatre’s currently running the From The Station To The Sea project, fitting artists together with local schools, residents and traders to transform other buildings in Swansea. Its recent four-day Troublemakers Festival also showcased fantastic talks, films and workshops. More uproar’s planned for autumn.
Swansea has its multiplexes like most square-eyed cities, but independent film house, Cinema and Co., has been a brilliant newcomer. The 56-seater venue hosts Wednesday art house nights, kids’ clubs, and even a monthly book and film night, where bookworms get to watch an adaptation of a classic novel they’ve all gobbled up together. You can also eat pizza and drink craft beers while getting goggle-eyed.
There’s plenty of cool music to be heard in this corner of the land of song. Recent additions to town include nights by experimental music collective Nawr at the town’s long-forgotten BBC Hall, jazz, folk and indie gigs in Noah’s Yard (which has a shop sign with interchangeable letters that punters can change for £15), while the Swansea International Festival features avant-garde music and more in October.
Swansea’s hippest writer lives on. Thomas’ legacy is kept bracingly alive in the city’s Dylan Thomas Centre, where its Love The Words exhibition tells different stories of the poet and playwright for all kinds of culture-lovers. Daily workshops for kids during August explore ideas behind Thomas’ 1946 short story Holiday Memory too, with comic books and experimental printmaking being added to the mix, helping new generations of creative souls to find their voices.