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Swansea city culture project wins top UK award

Eric Ngalle Charles, centre, in the days before social distancing with some of the participants in Swansea’s award-winning Literature and Trauma initiative.

A project run by Swansea Council’s Dylan Thomas Service has won a UK national award.

The service’s Literature and Trauma initiative won a prize in the Museums Association’s Museums Change Lives awards.

A big hit with its target audience – refugees and asylum seekers living in Swansea – the creative writing scheme was named the best small museum project that delivers social impact.

Robert Francis-Davies, the council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: “Our arts and culture team develop projects on a number of themes for visitors and residents throughout the year.

“They’re enjoyed inside and outside of our venues and I welcome this latest much deserved recognition of the work’s community benefits.

“Outreach projects help reduce perceived barriers to participating in our artistic and cultural offer. They help residents become more familiar with the work that takes place across the city.

“With this particular project I was pleased that we could work with newcomers to our city, people who may have faced great difficulties and continue to need support.

“The project helps them to link in with one another, share a cultural understanding and establish themselves as part of a wider community. We’re delighted that this work has earned the service a national UK award.”

Literature and Trauma is based around a series of creative writing workshops for refugees and asylum seekers.

It’s led by Cameroonian writer Eric Ngalle Charles, who lives in Wales.

Eric’s personal experience of displacement and asylum is crucial in providing a safe space for project participants to express themselves.

During his sessions, people tell their unique stories through poetry and prose.

There are play facilities for children, and free bus tickets to remove the barrier of travel costs.

The resulting work has featured in cultural events, local media and has been read on BBC radio.

Eric Ngalle Charles said: “It feels amazing to have won this award. Our work on literature and trauma and how the former can be used to overcome the latter is about giving a voice.

“It’s helping people to get to a position where they can own their stories and speak for themselves. I’m immensely grateful and long may our work continue.”

The annual Museums Change Lives Awards celebrate the achievements of museums and individuals that have made an impact on the lives of their audiences and communities. The 2020 winners were announced yesterday (Nov 5).

The Museums Association is the organisation responsible for administering the Dylan Thomas Service’s Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund (EFCF) grant. This is funding a three-year intercultural family learning project based around objects in Swansea’s Dylan Thomas Collection.

Both Literature and Trauma and the EFCF work are part of a long-standing Dylan Thomas Service commitment to working with displaced people.

Literature and Trauma will continue next year.