Swansea is on the shortlist to be crowned ‘City of Culture 2021’. There’s a buzz of excitement about this – it’s the second time we have made it this far (last time we lost out to worthy winner Hull).
There’s an ‘in-your-face’ social media campaign running at the moment, drumming up support and encouraging us to think about what culture means to each and every one of us who reside in Swansea. I was delighted to be invited to an event on Monday at Volcano Theatre Company in Swansea High Street to meet the judges of the X-Factor style culture battle. It was a mish-mash gathering of individuals who make up Swansea’s cultural scene – all chosen to mingle with the judges and talk about their own experiences of Swansea’s rich arty scene.
I was hyperactively excited to meet one of the judges Phil Redmond (of Grange Hill and Brookside fame). I concluded that maybe this wasn’t the time or place to discuss Zammo McGuire’s heroin addiction and the subsequent ‘Just Say No’ campaign – let’s not forget the cast even made it to the White House – and that it may be more fitting to discuss Swansea’s bid to culture stardom. So that’s what I did (to the relief of the PR agency hovering close by).
But it did make me think about what ‘culture’ means to me and how it translates into something different to all of us. In fact, I’m not sure I even like the word culture. It conjures up images of orchestras, ballets and intelligent poets spurting out big words. But that’s not what it means to me and probably most of Swansea. It’s the blockbusting film that whizzed us away from life for 90 minutes, our favourite band who make us cry after a break-up, the busker in the street, a book that we can’t put down at 1am, the football match that incites passionate screaming, the street dancers who are cooler than we can ever fantasise about becoming. It represents our passions, our loves and the pulse of what moves us. It can be pretentious and it can be grubbily basic. And it’s personal to us all.
I truly hope that Swansea wins its crown. Since I moved back from London in 2006, it’s cultural scene has been a patchwork of delight, surprise and discovery. Never boring and always evolving.
Fingers crossed. And for those who used to watch Grange Hill, remember to Just Say No.