20th November 2013: the results are in. The decision has been made to name Hull the City of Culture 2017 status, fighting off competition from Dundee, Leicester and our own lovely, ugly town.
Of course the decision was met with disappointment from Swansea citizens after a triumphant year with cultural events across the city including another successful annual Dylan Thomas Festival, a fantastic weekend in Uplands for the Do Not Go Gentle Festival, the ongoing Art Across the City events and a massive push to promote culture in the city with Cwtch the Bid.
But let us not be disheartened as Hull takes the crown.
The aim of Cwtch the Bid was “to start a creative revolution from the place that once led the world in the industrial revolution”. For us, they say, culture is part of the ordinary—“it is our way of life, it defines us and we define it.” The Welsh have always had a reputation for having music and poetry in the blood. With the spirit that shines through with the Swans at the Liberty Stadium, the growing art scene, the Dylan 100 Project for the centenary year and a whole array of different clubs and societies across the city from choirs to art groups to astronomical societies, Swansea has it all when it comes to culture.
And if there’s one thing that Cwtch the Bid has done, it’s brought together a whole community to promote and share this culture that is so innate to our society.
Where else could you go to a little traditional market and find locals bringing their own crafts and cooking whilst poetry is being read outside a mobile bookstore in the background? How many other cities offer such a rich, vibrant and welcoming literary scene with at least one literary event on every week? (In fact, one problem I find is that there are so many poetry open mic events with the Brunswick, the Howl at Mozart’s, the Uplands Tavern, the Dylan Thomas Centre and Poems and Pints at Neath is making the decision of which one to go to!)
Walk into any pub in Swansea and you’re bound to find live music – from old local favourites who have played the Swansea circuit for years, to up-and-coming new acts fresh out of forming a band at school or college.
Sin City has hosted some incredible gigs in the past, one of the most recent being the widely-acclaimed Newton Faulkner. Previous acts have included Bowling For Soup, The Blanks (for those of you familiar with hit show Scrubs, this is Ted’s band), Ben Howard and Funeral for a Friend (remember these? If you were anything like me you could only see out of one eye during these years as a result of the “emo fringe”).
Open mic nights for music across the city mean that anyone is welcome to share their passion for music before they get the the gig-booking stage. And with the recent festivals, there are some pretty exciting up-and-coming new acts who have shown a remarkable amount of promise across a range of music genres.
And let’s not forget our university itself. If you braved the tent at Freshers’ Week way back in the misty past of late September, you’d have found the giant Cwtch the Bid heart mascot stopping at the stalls to chat to society committee members about the various clubs and events on offer at Swansea Uni. From cheese and wine nights with the French Society to the ever-popular Oktoberfest with the German Society; from hiking to creative writing to baking, films, fashion and yoga there is a sport or a hobby to suit everyone (for those of you whose first UCAS choice was Hogwarts and didn’t receive an offer, there is in fact a Hogwarts society too).
Despite Swansea Council’s admittance that yes, losing out to the bid for City of Culture 2017 was indeed “bitterly disappointing”, I for one do not see this as defeat. What Cwtch the Bid has done this past year has brought an entire city together through culture and the involvement, effort and sheer spirit of the city has never been more apparent. Our lovely, ugly town has always prided itself on being an embodiment of Welsh passion, but this has proved that we go even further than the music and poetry that flows in our veins. The hundreds of clubs, societies and events that have all done their bit in promoting the bid has only highlighted the fact that Swansea is a thriving cultural centre that we can be proud of. Where else are you going to be able to study so close to a beautiful coastline? Where else can you try out watersports after a lecture or listen to poetry in a little Welsh market or go strawberry-picking in the stunning area of Gower on a summer’s day? The Independent described Rhossili bay as “the supermodel of British beaches” and was voted ‘the best beach in Britain’ in 2010 in the Cadbury Flake 99 Great British Beach Awards & Daily Mail online poll.
Have I come out of the City of Culture bid feeling disheartened? No. I’ve come out of it ready to go to another local literary event tonight, with a ticket for a play this weekend on my desk, and an honest view that I am proud to be a Swansea girl.
by Natalie Ann Holborow