At 4theRegion we want to ensure South West Wales is a welcoming and safe region where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and progress fulfilling careers. Building cohesive communities is about developing neighbourhoods, social spaces and workplaces where difference is welcomed and celebrated. This involves moving beyond narratives of ‘us’ and ‘them’ towards a greater sense of trust and a shared sense of belonging.
How can businesses play a role in supporting cohesive communities? (Pic: fauxels)
Building a more cohesive society is everybody’s business. We are all part of the social fabric, the strength of which can be an important influence on our wellbeing as communities and individuals. We all have a responsibility to build and maintain the relationships, connections and understandings which make up that social fabric. Cohesion is a shared objective, in which every person, community and organisation has a role to play.
So how can we support social cohesion?
A new report from Belong looks at just that! Everybody’s Business, produced in conjunction with the Intercultural Cities Network, sets out how businesses can play a role in supporting cohesive communities, and how local authorities can support them in doing this. The report draws its findings from a series of roundtable conversations with local authorities and businesses in a number of towns and cities across the UK, including Swansea.
Belong use the term ‘social cohesion’ to describe how well people from different backgrounds mix, interact and get along with each other. Those differences can be ethnicity, faith, social class, age, gender, sexuality, or a range of other differences that might potentially divide us.
There’s lots of potential to support community cohesion within a business! Research shows that workplaces can provide the opportunity for people from different backgrounds to connect in a way that leads to more positive attitudes towards diversity and higher levels of social cohesion. If you work in a diverse workplace you’re more likely to have friends from different backgrounds, although your interactions will need to be more than passing for the effects to extend beyond the workplace.
By their very nature, some businesses represent vital social infrastructure providing opportunities for people to meet and mix across different boundaries. And the experience of the pandemic has made clear the vital importance of these shared spaces! As ‘third places’, other than home and work, they provide a venue where members of the community can interact with one another informally, and where collective space can be provided for community initiatives such as charitable fundraising.
So how can you as a business help maximise the positive impact you have?
First and foremost, recruiting a workforce which fully reflects the diversity of local communities, across all functions and levels of seniority, is necessary for any business that wants to support social cohesion.
As a business, you can promote an inclusive culture through cohesion aware management. This means creating a climate of openness and trust, ensuring demographic attributes (ethnicity, gender, sexuality etc) do not overlap with functional roles and supporting meaningful interactions between people of all backgrounds across the workforce, are key elements of workplaces that support cohesion.
You can enable minorities and diverse groups to lead innovation. Ensuring that innovation is led by diverse teams and people from under represented groups enables better understanding of the needs of communities and increases awareness of market and product opportunities that might otherwise be missed.
You can invest in social infrastructure in the local community. What can you do to support welcoming, inclusive community spaces? This could be in the course of your everyday operations or, for example, through the innovative use of your commercial property.
Businesses can also deliver added social value by supporting community organisations and initiatives which build cohesive communities.
You can do this by partnering with a local community group or charity. Imagine if more businesses were regularly twinned with a local community group or charity as part of an ongoing relationship? This could involve sponsorship or support in kind, and would help deepen the connections between a business and the community around it.
You can provide direct support through employee volunteering. You can enable more employee volunteering which aids charities, community groups and hubs supporting community life and bringing people together. This helps to connect employees to the community and to people from different backgrounds.
You can localise your supply chain. By applying the ‘think local’ principle to as much of their supply chain as possible, businesses can extend more opportunities to the local community, and help to strengthen the networks of social and economic ties that can support cohesive communities.
And, wherever possible, you should evaluate the impact of work that you’re doing to support social cohesion.
It’s great to see the report citing our members Gower Gas and Oil as example of what businesses in the region are already doing! The heating services company has led a variety of initiatives to address social isolation. The #DontDanceAlone social media campaign, in partnership with The Wave and Swansea Sound, has raised awareness of isolation amongst older people and helped raise money for older people’s charities. Gower Gas and Oil also help coordinate the Gower Isolation Support Group, which helps ensure that isolated older people are visited regularly, with a view to ensuring positive social and health outcomes, which was particularly important during lockdown.
And what can local authorities do to support businesses to do all this? The report says they can provide leadership by being clear about how businesses can support local cohesion objectives and playing a coordinating role in helping them do so. They can incentivise businesses to act through highlighting cohesion outcomes in their approach to procurement and social value, and by recognising businesses that do this well. And they create an evaluation framework based on local needs, providing a robust and rigorous framework for evaluating cohesion oriented activity that businesses carry out, including shared measures and reporting.
Everyone has a role to play in building and maintaining cohesive communities. And it is particularly good to see a report which focusses on the often under appreciated role businesses can play in supporting social cohesion. If you’d like to find out more about how businesses can be a force for good, join us at the Introbiz Expo on April 7th!
4theRegion is an alliance of people, businesses and organisations across South West Wales, who love where we live and want our region to flourish. We connect people, share good news and enable collaboration, through our forums, events, projects and comms, for a future that promotes the wellbeing of people and planet. Support our movement and be part of the solution!
A graduate and a staff member from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David have been successful at the Swansea Open 2021 art exhibition at the Glynn Vivian Gallery in Swansea.
Swansea Open is an annual art exhibition held at the Glynn Vivian gallery. The exhibition is open to people living and working in the SA1-SA9 region and can be from any background. Each year the selection is made by a different panel of invited selectors which encourages diverse viewpoints annually. This year, Caroline Thraves, UWTSD Swansea College of Art’s Academic Director for Art and Media, and Professor Uzo Iwobi OBE, and an Honorary Fellow of the University were the invited selectors.
Caroline Thraves said,
“It’s been an absolute pleasure to select the work at the Glynn Vivian. I know Swansea’s full of artistic talent, and many of that talent comes from the Swansea College of Art. It’s fantastic to see the diverse range of art that’s here from 3D art to painting and drawings, and it was hard to select a winner amongst these entries.”
The first prize was awarded to Suzanne Callen, a member of UWTSD’s Student Services department (specifically working in Art and Design) for her oil on canvas painting named ‘Sabina’. The work really stood out for the judges, and Caroline Thraves added that there was something in the way that the portrait looked at them, through the eyes that told a story, and they were really drawn to that.
Suzanne Callen said,
“I entered the competition with the hope that my painting would be selected to be hung. It was a total surprise when my name was announced for the first prize, it was very emotional. I feel this award has given me the confidence boost needed to continue on my creative journey and validates the skills and abilities we have in Students Services.”
Suzanne is a true advocate of lifelong learning, and before lockdown she had attended an introductory oil painting course at UWTSD. During lockdown, Suzanne re-found her love of drawing portraits, and managed to create over 120 charcoal portraits and started using different materials such as ink, watercolour, pastels and finally oil painting as her artistic development continued.
The winning work ‘Sabina’ 2020 was inspired by traditional artists techniques which are used in a contemporary way.
She adds: “There is a lot of reflectivity at the time in this painting and my need to have that connection with the face to look at them in detail rather than the virtual. Sabina looks out from the canvas as we were looking out of our windows at what was happening in the world. The grey background almost oppressively hangs heavy around the individual. The plain background with hint of light source has now become a signature of my work. The floating frame creates the impression that there is more than the surface to survey and draws the focus to the ‘boxed-in’. The painting captures a moment in time when senses and emotions were heightened, and my own creativity was re-unleashed. The situation of working from home gave me the opportunity to release this, it has allowed me to use my time productively not just for work but for my own creative self-development. I’m on a journey which many people have followed and am loving the process as it unfolds.”
Sabina – 1st prize winner in the Swansea Open 2021 Art Exhibition
In addition to this competition, Kate Bell and Anne Price- Owen, from the Friends of the Glynn Vivian were invited to select a winner for the ‘Friends Award for Swansea Open 2021’. The prize was awarded this year to UWTSD Fine Art graduate Owain Sparnon for his work ‘Trwodd draw yr wyf yn edrych/ I’m looking through you.’
Owain’s work was described by Kate Bell as being: “very ambitious which is abstract in its nature, but shows huge depth and gravitas, a lot of colours, a lot of mixed media. The way that he has created the composition, the marks on the canvas really caught our eye.”
The winning piece, ‘I’m looking through you’, was a painting created as part of a series of works for Owain’s degree show. It’s one of five paintings of that scale and it was made in response to things Owain comes across daily – things such as photographs, landscapes, reflective lighting, and sounds. Layering, unravelling, intertwining and decontextualising an image were crucial to the process. The work is a combination of paint, collage, and sculpture as Owain is intrigued by the boundary between painting and sculpture. The painting reveals recollections, thoughts, secrets, and experiences of his subconscious through colour, remnants, texture and the unknown.
“Winning this award is a great privilege and I am delighted to be exhibiting my work at the Glynn Vivian Gallery alongside talented artists from the Swansea area. I have been very fortunate to have several opportunities since graduating which have really helped me to continue to develop my artwork – I won the Josef Herman Foundation Award in memory of Carolyn Davies a few months ago, my work was recently exhibited at Mission Gallery as part of the Artist in the World exhibition and since October, I have worked as an artist at Swansea College of Art after being successful in the Artists Benevolent Fund’s Step Change Fellowship Programme. To be able to continue working at Swansea College of Art, and to have a studio for myself where I can experiment and develop my artwork, is an invaluable experience.”
Swansea College of Art Lecturer, Gwenllian Beynon said,
“I am delighted to see Owain succeed and get credit for his work by winning an award at the Glynn Vivian open exhibition so soon after graduating in the Summer from the Fine Art course. Owain works his practice with a focus on working by focusing on printing and mixed media. When he was a student Owain studied a little through the medium of Welsh, and it is clear from seeing his career develop that that is important to him. It’s great to see our graduates succeed and be known for their art outside the College of Art and the University.”
Professor Sue Williams, Programme Manager of Fine Art: Studio Site & Context said,
“It is excellent news that Owain has won this award and we, the fine Art staff in Swansea, would like to congratulate him. Owain deserves this acknowledgement as his work is authentic and original. Owain’s work reveals a great passion and commitment to the language of material and surface, and I am in no doubt we will see more of Owain’s exciting and provocative work in the future.”
‘Everyone Deserves A Christmas’ has gone live with a video of their Christmas single ‘O Little Town Of Bethlehem’.
This reimagining of the classic Christmas Carol features a duet between, Mal Pope and Steve Balsamo, with support from Harry’s Youth Theatre Choir Swansea and the Morriston Salvation Army Band.
The video starts with a spine chilling opening monologue from BAFTA winner Michael Sheen and ends with a special message from OSCAR Winner Catherine Zeta Jones. The video also features appearances from Davina McCall, Max Boyce, Elis James, Penny Lancaster and Bonnie Tyler.
The video was Art Directed by BAFTA Award winning Production Designer Edward Thomas, recently returned to Swansea following a year in Malta designing a new Steven Spielberg Film.
The single is taken from the album ‘Christmas with the Pope’ and is available to stream and download from all streaming sites including Spotify, iTunes and Amazon Music. The physical CD will be available from select shops or via mail order. Details www.malpope.com
As well as inviting everyone to download and stream the single we are making the video available free of charge to groups to use over the festive period and asking for donations to be made to…
An Honorary Fellow of The University of Wales Trinity Saint David from America has held her official UK book launch on the Lampeter campus.
Pamela Petro decided to return to Lampeter to launch her new book ‘The Long Field – A Memoir, Wales, and the Presence of Absence’. Pam is a Lampeter campus graduate, having come to Wales over 30 years ago to study Word and Image theory on an MA programme at St David’s University College—now the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Pam is also an honorary fellow of the University and also brings a group of US students annually to Wales, whilst co-directing the Dylan Thomas Summer School.
The book burrows deep into the Welsh countryside to tell how this small country became a big part of an American writer’s life. This is what Pam wrote about her first encounter with the Welsh landscape:
The first time in Lampeter that I walked past the edge of town, where the double yellow “no parking” lines ended and sheep pastures began, I found myself nodding, as if I were in agreement with the landscape. Its lucidity cut like a scalpel through mental images of all the other places I’d lived: New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington DC, Cape Cod, France. It sliced through their forests and highways and towns and cities and clutter, peeling them away, down to the mental bedrock beneath—a primary place of understanding where memory and concept conjoined. And that place looked like Wales. Why, I can’t tell you. It just did.
I’ve never been the same since.
Coming back to Lampeter to launch her book means the world to Pam. She adds,
“This is the reading I’ve been waiting for! It means everything to me to have come to Lampeter as an American student in 1983, and to be coming back now after having written about those student days in The Long Field. Although I teach on campus at the Dylan Thomas Summer School every May, today’s launch is a personal milestone for me: Lampeter is my Welsh hometown.”
Kath Griffiths, International Regional Manager, North America and Outward Mobility said,
“We are delighted to welcome Pam back to Lampeter to launch “The Long Field”. During the welcome events to International students, I often say to students that they will forever have two homes, where they are from and Wales.
“Pam I’m pleased to say will always have Wales in her heart and each year we are delighted she come back to direct the Dylan Thomas Summer School.
“I met Pam at a book fair with Menna Elfyn in Boston, it was a cold March evening and as we shared a slice of cheesecake and Pam told me of her early days in Lampeter I knew there was a special connection with Wales.”
The book is available to purchase in book shops now, or you can purchase the book here
A unique exhibition featuring virtual reality artwork created by young people to express their feelings about their mental health is being held in Swansea this month
The event is the latest phase of a Swansea University project which explores how young people post, share and view images online to express their narratives and state of mind.
Researchers and artists worked with young people from the community as well as those typically considered harder to reach – refugees and asylum seekers, trans young people, those in care and those with mental health problems or who self-harm.
The exhibition is being held at the Volcano Theatre in High Street as part of a project called Be Seen which brought young people together with professionals from arts, mental health, data science and medicine.
Professor John said: “The way young people communicate has rapidly evolved. They are keen to share their stories and now do this predominantly through imagery – photography and video – with image-based platforms replacing things like forums.
“Simultaneous rapid linkage of information from a wide range of sources has resulted in hope for a new era of research into young people’s mental health.
“Our vision is for young people’s voices to ‘be seen’ and influence the use of their data and the public conversation on their use of images to express mental health.
“This exhibition is culmination of that vision, and we look forward to being able to share their work with a wider audience.”
During the project workshops were held with people aged from 16 to 24 in Plymouth and Swansea which focused on mental health and wellbeing, the use of ‘big data’ and storytelling through visual imagery such as photos, film and virtual reality.
The idea was to help young people better understand issues relating to the use of mental health and self-harm imagery and look at the risks and benefits of using imagery for self-expression in the modern world.
Professor John said feedback from the exhibition and accompanying video will be used to steer future research and potentially guide policy related to sharing of self-harm imagery online.
She added: “We also hope to create an online toolkit, co-produced with young people, to support individuals’ use of images to tell their stories based on project findings as well as sharing our work with stakeholders.”
The Be Seen project has been funded by the Medical Research Council, the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the Economic & Social Research Council.
The free exhibition will run from Tuesday, November 16 to Friday, November 19.
Proposals, worth £750m, that would further transform Swansea city centre and develop new homes and attractions along the coast and riverfront have taken a major step forward.
Swansea Council has announced it has appointed award winning regeneration company Urban Splash as its preferred development partner for a number of key sites, including the Civic Centre, Swansea Central North and a plot of land running alongside the River Tawe in the St Thomas area of the city.
We are really interested to hear that a development partner has been appointed and we look forward to understanding more about their vision for Swansea. At 4theRegion, we are focused on how people, communities and businesses can get more involved in shaping the future of our region, including the design and construction of major developments and strategic investments like this. We want to make sure that major regional projects are delivered in a way that provides economic, social and environmental benefit over the long term, and ensure that the well-being of people and planet is at the heart of decision-making.
Early ideas for each site have already been proposed, and these will now be worked up in more detail. We are pleased to hear there will be plenty of opportunities for local people to give their feedback and help shape the plans.
Early proposals, which will be delivered by the private sector, include:
The transformation of the 23 acre seafront Civic Centre site into a new city waterfront district for Swansea. A mixed use destination anchored by the beach is proposed, with new homes and a strong leisure and hospitality focus, generous civic spaces and plenty of greenery. Other proposals include a new walkway to the beach and a mix of permanent and seasonal uses and events to create an all season visitor destination
New office buildings, new apartments for residents and shared workspaces on the 5.5 acre Swansea Central North site located at the former St David’s Shopping Centre site. We are pleased to hear, capitalising on the major growth in demand for craft based goods, that space for small creative businesses to make and sell their products could also feature
A residential led regeneration of a 7.5 acre riverfront site in St Thomas, featuring family homes, apartments, new public spaces and a new terraced river walk providing direct access to the river for the first time in over 150 years.
The council said their appointment of Urban Splash followed an extensive search for a preferred development partner as part of the Shaping Swansea initiative.
Cllr Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council, said: “The appointment of Urban Splash is a significant private sector vote of confidence not just in Swansea’s enormous potential, but also in the huge amount of regeneration work led by the council that’s already happening in the city, including our £135m Copr Bay phase one district. This work has acted as a catalyst to attract a company of Urban Splash’s quality and experience, and is part of a £1bn regeneration story unfolding across Swansea that’s transforming the city into one of the UK’s best places to live, work, study and visit.
“The regeneration of these three key sites will help take Swansea to the next level by creating thousands more jobs for local people, hundreds more new homes for local families and a mixed-use, vibrant city centre destination with the footfall it needs to thrive.
“Although subject to consultation in future to ensure people’s views are taken on board, the early proposals will help realise these goals, while also giving the stunning Civic Centre site on our world-class bay back to Swansea people and visitors to the city.
“We look forward to working with Urban Splash on further developing these exciting proposals for the people of Swansea to consider, along with ideas on how best to regenerate other key sites forming part of our Shaping Swansea plans.”
Urban Splash have developed over 60 regeneration projects across the UK in the last 25 years. These include the Royal William Yard project in Plymouth where the company has transformed a collection of Grade I and Grade II Listed waterfront structures into apartments, workspaces, galleries, bars and restaurants. The company is also undertaking the redevelopment of the Grade II Listed Park Hill in Sheffield into a mixed use cultural quarter, featuring hundreds of homes and workspaces – many of which are complete and fully occupied.
Jonathan Falkingham MBE, Urban Splash co-founder, is an award-winning architect who helped establish the regeneration company in 1993. In a press release, he said: “We are absolutely delighted to be working alongside Swansea Council and all of the partners involved in this fascinating project.
“I have a longstanding affiliation with this brilliant city, attending school here in my younger days. I’m pleased to be back in Swansea to help deliver such an exciting new era for the city. We have plans for a world-class environment of great architectural quality, that recognises and enhances the existing historic fabric of the local area and its beautiful location. We hope to achieve this through multi-authorship and partnering with brilliant designers to evolve the most appealing and sustainable designs for each area of this new neighbourhood.”
Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash Chairman, said: “For almost three decades now, Urban Splash has worked hard to transform the fortunes of towns and cities, breathing new life into places through applying great design ideas, and working with the local community to create beautiful buildings and spaces that are sustainable for all.
“We have been really impressed with the ambition and vision of Swansea Council and look forward to working in partnership with this amazing city on the beach, using our experience, capital and resources to strengthen their vision and deliver exceptional living, working and leisure spaces to help more people live well by design.”
We understand future proposals will also cover opportunities to develop other key sites across Swansea.