I am so proud to call Swansea my home. It is the city that gave birth to Mal Pope, Bonnie Tyler, Russell T Davies of Doctor Who fame, Harry Secombe, Mervyn Davies—known affectionately as “Merv the Swerve”—and Kev Johns, a senior local Swansea celebrity. As the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire mentioned, Dylan Thomas referred to Swansea as:
“An ugly, lovely town…crawling, sprawling…by the side of a long and splendid curving shore.”
I am afraid I have to disagree with Dylan on that small point. Swansea was recently named the most beautiful UK city. It is hard to think of a more beautiful destination. We can admire the glorious coastline at Rhossili bay, voted Wales’s best beach in 2017, get lost in Singleton Park or gaze down at all of Swansea in its splendour from Kilvey hill in the proposed Skyline cable cars.
It is estimated that approximately 5.7 million people will visit Swansea if it is awarded city of culture status, spending more than £431 million while they are there. That will be a welcome boost for small businesses of Swansea and the surrounding region—businesses we are all supporting. Thousands of paid and voluntary roles will be created, including as artists, performers and apprentices and in tourism and event management. City of culture status may come with a one-year timeframe, but this is not a one-off arts project; it is a driver and accelerator of significant investment and a means to create more resilient and connected communities.
There will also be a programme for young people who are not in employment, education or training, as well as the disabled, those on low incomes and other social groups who need greater support to achieve their potential, by gaining work and volunteering experience. That will include 40 programmes run for and by older people, to address isolation and loneliness, communication, dementia and intergenerational support, alongside engaging some 2,000 students to volunteer or take part in cultural events or programmes that help them feel supported.
Culture is not simply about the arts. This will reinforce the culture of community integration and the wellbeing of the 685,000 people living in the Swansea bay city region. The unifying theme of Swansea’s city of culture bid is “Turning Tides—A City Revealed”. Would it not be fantastic to finally see the Government commit to Swansea bay tidal lagoon before 2021?
I represent the east side of Swansea—a constituency that I love, and that no one could convince me to move out of at any cost. In that region of Swansea, families are more likely to have a lower income. The team behind our city of culture bid has recognised that and will implement measures to ensure that Swansea residents do not miss out based on geographical location. Residents of Swansea East will be supported through ticketing, transport and family learning activities in their communities and in the city overall.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is shining the spotlight on each shortlisted city this week, starting with Coventry last Friday and Sunderland today. I see it as fate that Swansea is being celebrated on Thursday, the day that the overall winner of city of culture 2021 is announced. I will be watching “The One Show” avidly with bated breath this Thursday—parliamentary business permitting—to hear the city of culture 2021 announced as Swansea. I have every faith in Swansea’s ability to deliver a winning bid, and I for one cannot wait to share my ugly, lovely town with you all.