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Swansea’s Grand Theatre to be the stage for a Welsh cultural first

Swansea’s Grand Theatre

Swansea’s historic Grand Theatre is to be home to a pioneering culture and digital hub – the first operation of its kind in Wales.

The venue’s Arts Wing is to become a focus for more than 20 grassroots communities who will help develop a diverse arts programme.

The hub will host new opportunities for the arts, cultural events, community activities and skills programmes. It will develop an ethnic street food café and offer a catering support service.

Part of the Swansea Grand Theatre Arts Wing

Race Council Cymru, with the support of Welsh Government funding, will improve and upgrade the Arts Wing to provide new spaces for arts development, community offices, digital support and teaching space.

Work on structural changes is due to start this month (note: January) and a diverse arts programme will be delivered from next year.

Welsh Government Deputy Minister and Chief Whip Jane Hutt AM is due to launch the work today. She will meet members of Swansea’s diverse ethnic communities and will welcome the hub as a beacon for cohesion in Wales. She is set to meet the council’s cultural services team who are working on the scheme with Race Council Cymru and community members.

Robert Francis-Davies, the council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: “This exciting new chapter for the Grand Theatre will, over an initial five years see the culture and digital hub build new collective expertise in a vibrant creative environment.

“It will support understanding between grassroots communities and those who provide services; it will develop community cohesion and shared cultural understanding.

“This ground-breaking joint venture agreement will diversify Swansea’s cultural audiences and will achieve more than £150,000 in new annual income for the Grand.

“The hub will be a Welsh first and it’s right that, with an evolving society and changing cultural needs, the Grand – at more than 120 years old – is at the forefront of change. The theatre will, of course, continue to offer its celebrated wide range of top class entertainment in its beautiful main auditorium.

“I look forward to attending Saturday’s event.”

The council’s cultural services department already has diversity pledge, ensuring its venues attract more diverse audiences. The Grand already has a partnership with Race Council Cymru, the country’s lead umbrella body for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) grassroots communities.

More than 20 grassroots communities who have been leading with Race Council Cymru in the hub consultation include the African Community Centre, the Chinese in Wales Association, the Swansea Women’s Asylum Seeker & Refugee Support Group and the Jewish Community. The hub is supported by many service providers including the Swansea Council for Voluntary Service (SCVS) and South Wales Police.

Judge Ray Singh CBE, chair of Race Council Cymru, said: “The hub will offer a city centre space for ethnic minority community day-to-day needs and long-term provision of space to support the communities to develop a new and diverse programme of arts and cultural activities and the opportunity to share in the culture of others.

“Our research shows that – although Swansea is a welcoming and tolerant city – members of these communities have reported feeling marginalised, isolated, invisible and undervalued here.

“There’s a need for a welcoming environment, where they can work with each other, with local residents, with the council and others – and the hub will provide that.

“The communities want to work in partnership to build community cohesion and understanding between all Swansea communities.”