Roundtable Report – Swansea High Street Property

Roundtable Report – Swansea High Street Property

SWANSEA HIGH STREET PROPERTY ROUNDTABLE
MONDAY 11TH NOVEMBER 2019
COASTAL HOUSING, URBAN VILLAGE, SWANSEA

On Monday 11th November 2019 4theRegion convened a meeting of key property sector professionals with interests in high street and city centre property.  Our goal was to explore some of the challenges and opportunities relating to vacant space in the city, and share updates on what’s happening to property throughout the city.

Meeting Roundup

Exciting Times for Swansea City Centre

Phil Holmes, head of Regeneration at Swansea Council, described the exciting time that Swansea is currently experiencing, with the biggest investments in the city centre since the second world war, happening now.  The regeneration of the Kingsway, the new arena and public park, the new bridge over Oystermouth Road, and the St Davids scheme, are all being led by Swansea Council but are levering in private sector investment, with upgrades to old buildings and new projects being developed throughout the city in response.

Swansea Council has been working with Natural Resources Wales on a new green infrastructure strategy for the city, and it’s encouraging to hear that this is now a key priority for the Council, and for major partners including Coastal Housing and Pobl Group.  Swansea Council also have a range of property improvement grants available to landlords, and this has been effective in a number of examples. Regeneration Swansea is also providing support in encouraging employers into the city centre.

A number of commercial letting agents also attended the meeting, from RJ Chartered Surveys, BP2 Properties, and Threshold, and talked about the importance of landlords being prepared to invest in older properties to create spaces that the market wants.  With a bit of investment, and the creation of high quality smaller spaces (1000 – 2000 sq ft), experts felt that space in the city centre is highly lettable and very much in demand. Conversely, it was felt that the dilapidated state of some of what is available, and the earning potential of Swansea property, means some landlords are unwilling to invest and happy to sit on empty properties rather than get them up to standard.

The Needs of Small and Micro Businesses

An interesting discussion centred around the needs of small and micro businesses in the city, for whom the challenge is finding access to space on easy terms, at low cost, in attractive and vibrant locations where they feel part of a supportive cluster.  That doesn’t necessarily mean refurbished spaces – it was pointed out that new businesses need old buildings, and can make effective use of them without much investment. Stacey Adamiec of 10C Consultancy noted that some of the properties considered “unlettable” by agents and landlords, might not actually be unlettable, but that it could be a matter of connecting small creative businesses with the right amenable landlords, for mutual benefit.  Stacey perceives that there’s a gap in understanding about the needs and opportunities of letting space to creative industry businesses, and that it can be made financially attractive for landlords with the right mix of tenants.

The meeting agreed that helping small businesses to be successful involves not just access to the right spaces in the city, but also access to an ecosystem of support – from other businesses nearby, and from “connectors”.  That’s why clustering can work, and why more needs to be done to encourage networking and relationships among businesses in the city centre. Sharing skills and expertise is a low cost way for businesses to upskill and develop.  Initiatives like the Pop-up Business School are popular, but what happens to these budding entrepreneurs at the end of the course? How can we capture these opportunities to keep creative entrepreneurs in the city centre?

Major Employers

Another discussion centred on the decision by larger employers about whether to locate in the city centre, or in one of the peripheral business parks.  Swansea Council is working on attracting major employers into the city to increase footfall (“Watch this space!”) and everyone agreed that this is the right strategy – as long as it doesn’t negatively impact the economy of secondary districts.  Many employers are keen to be within the city centre, if they can find the right space. Members of the meeting expressed their dismay at the decision by Pobl Housing Group to move out of the city centre to Swansea Enterprise Park, taking with them 200 jobs and vacating a prime building on the newly redeveloped Kingsway.  And contributors noted the many benefits to staff of being located in the city – including the ability to meet colleagues and friends in town, to run errands and use local businesses. “We need to promote the benefits of working in the centre of Swansea vs the business parks around the city.”

Why Some Spaces Won’t Let?

In response to claims that there is plenty of demand for space from small and large businesses in the city, some contributors disagreed.  Examples were provided of ostensibly highly lettable spaces that were proving hard to let in the city centre, for example on Princess Way, where it was pointed out that there are already a range of recently refurbished, modern and attractive smaller spaces available, at £8 or £9 per square foot.  

We wondered whether this is proof positive that it’s the “vibe” of a business district that determines its desirability.  Companies want to be in places like TechHub because its a community, a cluster of likeminded people with an ecosystem of support.  Businesses want to be in Bristol because it’s a creative, vibrant city that people want to work in. At 4theRegion our goal is to make Swansea City Centre (starting with the High Street) somewhere that more people want to be, and feel they belong, specifically by developing an ecosystem of creativity, culture, inclusion, opportunity and the right mindset about the city centre.  Successfully achieving a vibrant and creative city centre will attract large and small businesses back in; landlords need to be able to provide the right spaces, and increasing demand will make further investment financially attractive.

Nurturing the Creative Economy

Colleagues from Coastal Housing noted that while their primary role is providing housing, they have worked hard to nurture Swansea’s creative quarter on the High Street, and have long supported organisations like Volcano and Elysium with favourable lease agreements.  The challenge is for organisations to use these agreements as a stepping stone and not rely on them indefinitely. They have paved the way and created a strong foundation for the High Street with the success of the Urban Village (phase 1), and the hope is that we can collectively build on this progress.  Coastal are continuing to redevelop a number of city centre sites, and colleagues reflected on the importance of early engagement with the community to help shape their proposals for specific buildings.

Next Actions

  • Share more knowledge about different types of tenancies, like Meanwhile Leases and Tenancies at Will, which can offer mutually beneficial solutions to both landlords and occupiers.  Get legal and tax advice on the pros and cons of different scenarios to understand why landlords may not consider such short term / flexible / low rent tenancies.
  • Showcase examples where these flexible tenancies have worked well.
  • Engage more disengaged landlords who are sitting on vacant properties.  Why? How can we help?
  • Develop a shared sense of purpose among landlords and agents about getting spaces filled, in creative ways if need be, to help create vibrancy and life in the city centre.
  • Can 4theRegion use vacant shop windows as space to promote the creative sector and create a sense of identity in the City Centre?

Ideas

  • Establish a business club or more opportunities for networking among businesses, create a cluster, bring people together, develop the eco-system.
  • Involve private sector landlords in the conversation about green infrastructure in the city centre.
  • Explore ideas for bridging the gap between potential occupiers and commercial letting agents / landlords.
  • Make Swansea somewhere people want to be, and commercial success for property owners will follow.

Would you like to be involved in this conversation?

4theRegion would like to thank everyone who attended this initial meeting for their insights and contributions, which were incredibly useful in helping us understand the challenges and opportunities in the city centre.  We invite others to get in touch if you would like to be included in future meetings on this topic, and we would also like to encourage readers to register for our upcoming City Centre Conference on 31st March 2020.

Keep in Touch with this Conversation

Email zoe@4theRegion.com with the subject line “City Centre Property” if you would like to be notified of future events and projects.  Also please make you are subscribed to the 4theRegion newsletter!

Conference Report – Race Equality & Social Justice 2019

Conference Report – Race Equality & Social Justice 2019

RACE EQUALITY & SOCIAL JUSTICE CONFERENCE
WEDNESDAY 9TH OCTOBER 2019
GRAND THEATRE, SWANSEA

The Wales Race Equality & Social Justice Conference, #EveryoneMatters, was organised in partnership with the Race Council, and brought together people and organisations from across the region who share a commitment to equality and diversity. 

We want to ensure South West Wales is a welcoming and safe region where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and progress fulfilling careers.  We also want to help white people talk about and tackle issues of racial discrimination in the region’s businesses and organisations.

This Year’s Speakers

What Employers Must Do!

  • Diversify organisations boards / recruitment panels
  • Examine organisational culture
  • End zero hours contracts
  • Actively value “lived experience” – add it to your person specs
  • Address and offer training for unconscious bias
  • Give people a chance
  • Offer quality mentoring schemes and reverse mentoring
  • Make full use of Positive Discrimination – you are allowed!
  • Value diversity as a resource, not an obligation
  • Develop BAME employee networks
  • Pay the Real living wage
  • Use targeted recruitment strategies – eg YBP

Community Jobs Compact

4theRegion will be encouraging our members and partners to sign up to the Community Jobs Compact developed by Citizens Cymru.  For all employers who sign the Compact, Citizens Cymru will promote job opportunities to BAME communities and encourage local people to apply; provide support to local people to complete applications and prepare for interview, and signpost employers to organisations who can support them to implement the Compact commitments.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Community Jobs Compact please email Ali.Abdi@citizenswales.org.uk

Action Ideas

  • A working group has formed specifically to address the under representation of BAME school governors in Swansea and South West Wales.  Contact dawn@4theRegion.com if you would like to join this working group.
  • We would like to organise an event for regional employers to introduce the Community Jobs Compact and encourage more of our members to sign up to it.
  • 4theRegion will keep BAME entrepreneurs and businesses involved at the heart of all our events and business engagement activity across the region and ensure we have BAME speakers at our events and conferences.
  • 4theRegion is keen to hear from others who want to take forward projects, initiatives and working groups on any issues relating to Race Equality and Social Justice arising out of this year’s conference. Please contact us!

Why This Event?

Thank you to our Exhibitors

Keep in Touch with this Conversation

Email zoe@4theRegion.com with the subject line “Everyone Matters” if you would like to be notified of future events and projects.  Also please make you are subscribed to the 4theRegion newsletter!

Roundtable Report – Swansea Creative Quarter 2019

Roundtable Report – Swansea Creative Quarter 2019

SWANSEA CREATIVE QUARTER ROUNDTABLE
MONDAY 23RD SEPTEMBER 2019
BASEKAMP COFFEE SHOP, KINGS LANE

The creative quarter round table meeting arises out of the Swansea City Centre Conference run by 4theRegion in April. The intention is to look at what else can be done to keep the momentum up on Swansea High Street. What can we, as business owners, organisations and passionate individuals do to improve the area, visually and socially, increase footfall and make it a destination for Swansea residents and visitors to the City.

Emerging Themes

Unique Selling Points

  • Swansea has huge potential 
  • A vibrant community proud of the City they have created
  • A place that people aspire to be part of 
  • Size of Swansea is a strength
  • Swansea has a vibe 
  • When there’s something to celebrate Swansea is good at coming together (Jubilee parties, Stereophonics, proms in the park…)
  • We’ve got amazing heritage
  • People really care

Connect with…

Emerging Actions – What Next?

Action Ideas

Practical things and how to raise awareness: 

  • Workshops 
  • Saturday clubs 
  • Bigger tech sector buildings more creative hubs 
  • Networking: low cost, decent creative community 
  • I want to implement ideas of my own 
  • Additional indoor market – take over the warehouse
  • Steering group 
  • Get noticed, high street page, podcast, what indies are doing 
  • High Street Newsletter (already in the process of being done) 
  • Community Calendar for all events, accessible, current 
  • Wellbeing publication & arts & eco
  • Storytelling event, regular awards – acknowledge thank, celebrate showcase – broadcast get it out,  the arts (Dylan T)
  • Promote remote working 
  • Youtube channel / ebook / tell swansea story  – Competition 
  • Include Creative groups/artists in town planning (sustainable cities are built around arts/music/culture) 
  • Use Swansea Bay TV more 
  • Invite more creatives to development meetings 
  • Buildings – compulsory purchase 
  • Link with schools for competitions 
  • Link with the retired sector 
  • Organise an event for Landlords/letting agents, HAs

What next – ACTIONS

  • Paul and Neil to update on the High Street newsletter and what can this group do to help make it happen (Lucy offered venue) 
  • 4theRegion with Stacey Adamiec to organise a property owners meeting – landlords, letting agents, housing associations 
  • Paul Munn has a hub that can be used for workshops (how can we make that happen?) 
  • Story telling – Carl Gough is keen to push on the Swansea Showcase through storytelling 
  • 4theRegion has found a building that can be used for a creative hub and it will give us an opportunity to get creative and put a stamp on our gateway to high street. 
  • 4theRegion has a newsletter and fantastic social media following that can be used for updates and promotion 
  • The Swansea City Centre Conference can be used as an annual Celebration of businesses & individuals who’ve made positive changes in the City Centre 
  • David Jones – is keen to create a youtube channel, regular podcast or ebook (how can this group make that happen)

Group Participants

  • Dawn Lyle  – 4theRegion / iCreate 
  • Zoe Antrobus – 4theRegion
  • Alix Charles – Alix Digital
  • Eve Oliver – Alix Digital
  • Noel Isherwood – Architects
  • Alex Williams – ATD
  • Andy Elliot- Coastal Housing
  • David Jones – Conversis
  • Paul Munn – Elysium Gallery
  • Daniel Staveley – Elysium Gallery
  • Lucy Heavens- Juicy Lucy Designs / Swansea Wellbeing Centre
  • Pearl Bevan – Oxford University Press
  • Carl GoughSocial Business Wales
  • Helen Necrews -Swansea iTec
  • Paul Harwood – TechHub
  • Richard Harris – Welsh Government
  • Stacey Adamiec
  • Lydia Evans
  • Gareth Pope
  • Dustin Rubrio
  • Ben Reynolds – Urban Foundry
  • Gareth Evans – Design Swansea
  • Kathryn Clarke – International Workspace Group
  • Mike Klein
  • Karen MacKinnon – Glynn Vivian Gallery
  • Huw Williams – Coastal Housing
  • Professor Ian Walsh – UWTSD
  • Alice Jones – Illustrator

Keep in Touch with this Conversation

Email zoe@4theRegion.com with the subject line “Creative Quarter” if you would like to be notified of future events and projects.  Also please make you are subscribed to the 4theRegion newsletter!

Full Meeting Minutes

Dawn Lyle spoke of the importance of creative, cultural and vibrant places. If we have places that are diverse and vibrant people will want to live and work here. Starting with inward investment is the wrong approach, instead we need to work from the ground up. There’s been a lot of investment in the creative and digital sectors, but more needs to be done.

She asked the people attending what we would like to see in ten years time if all our hopes and dreams were realised.  Various things suggested included full employment, digital connectivity, and diversity of opportunities.  Dawn Lyle asked what was was important to people both in terms of the event and the Creative Quarter.

One attendee said he didn’t like the idea that the high street was dead. He pointed out that e-commerce businesses are now buying physical premises because they gave a better experience. He said, if the retail sector worked alongside e-commerce, more people would shop in the city centre.

Another person praised Swansea’s nice community vibe and way people come together to get things done.

“Property Alchemist” Stacey Adamiec said it was important to share synergy. She’s seen places change and evolve and believes it is important for Swansea to become a destination place.

Another participant said it was important to invest in older people, because younger people aren’t everyone.

Several people expressed concerns about gentrification. One participant said there needed to be buildings where people in the creative sector could collaborate. He comes from Hackney, which has been completely regenerated, but now he’s priced out of the market. Regeneration improves standards of living, but something else will suffer because of that. He said it was important to discuss these issues in relation to Swansea High Street, and the artists who will be inhabiting the building should form the core group in that process. He wants to look at how artists and retail sites can synchronise what they’re doing. It’s possible to get people together to prosper, but there are others that are important and go deeper.

Another participant else said his dream was that the people who started reviving an area wouldn’t behind behind, as they have in places like Hackney, Shoreditch and Bristol. He said he lived in Bristol in the nineties and that he house he lived in “couldn’t give away” was now worth £300,000.

Fears were expressed that exactly the same thing would happen in Swansea if artists don’t take control. The advantage is that there are a lot more opportunities to take control in a small place like Swansea than there are in London.

Dawn Lyle said neo-liberalism places value on individuals in terms of what they earn in jobs, but people can generate so much value that isn’t always commercial value.

She asked what our strengths were, as a city and as groups and individuals in the city.

Lucy Heavens from Swansea Wellbeing Centre said she got a sense that in Swansea artistry was being looked after and art belonged to everyone. She liked the idea of having a tool to explore wellbeing and what it is to belong, because it would lovely to have a real sense to identity and defining art so that Swansea is synonymous with art and talent. She said Coastal Housing had already transformed buildings and made statement pieces. She said we didn’t need to rely on big business, we can rely on ourselves and community projects can fill in the gaps. She pointed out the contribution to art that already exists. People need to create art and get a sense of belonging. This wouldn’t have to involve expensive buildings, it could be about individuals. She suggested a space on the side of Swansea Wellbeing Centre, assuming Pobl Group agreed, could be used for public art.

Another participant talked about how he remembered all the street parties from the Queen’s Jubilee in 1977. He feels there isn’t the same sense of community today, so street parties would be a good way of reviving community spirit.

Another participant said there were a lot of people involved in their communities. He we need to find a way to reach out and support the people around us. Street parties would be free, although the police need to sanction road closures.

Several people liked the idea of a YouTube channel to promote the creative community in Swansea, which could be viewed anywhere in the world.

One participant said artists sometimes find themselves having to fill spaces originally intended for retail, but if they’d been involved in the town planning process from the outset they could have purpose built places. At the moment artists are treated as an afterthought. They don’t know what will be built and whether it’ll be something they can afford. He said Swansea’s current creative quarter won’t be here in five years time, so artists will have to find somewhere else to live. This means they need a sustainable solution, where they’re be involved in development. He said Swansea had everything, so it should be a city inclusive of everything.

He said people at the top were saying how important creative communities were in bringing in revenue, but won’t creating an environment for them to do it.

Mike Klein acknowledged gentrification was a problem, but felt some degree of gentrification and wealth creation was needed. He said Swansea had a really unique vibe and that being “the graveyard of ambition” was actually a massive advantage. He said the issue was how we recruit talent, access money, and get people with talent and ideas to come here.

He wants Swansea to have the ambition to be a city with global ambition. He wants to build networks here and make a film here. He said there is huge growth in the creative sector. The demand for content is exploding. The creative industries attract international capital and “the arts” make a place cool. He wants to walk down High Street in ten years time and see the kind of businesses he sees in Soho.

He said, while Swansea was choc full of creative talent, there was a distinct lack of ambition   from the council and investors, who weren’t providing what creative people needed because they didn’t understand them.

Paul Harwood, founder of TechHub Swansea, said he wanted to ban the words “them” and “they”. He feels there is a lot of externality, with a lot of emphasis on the idea that “they” are doing things. “They” can mean the council or government. He thinks we shouldn’t worry about “them”, but should organise about what we’re doing. We have the internet and access to a global market. Paul knows content creators living on farms who are making unbelievable amounts of money.

He said money should be a goal, but it destroys value and prices artists out. Swansea faces genuine problems. He said there are going to 1.3 billion climate change refugees, so we will need to build more infrastructure and think about the people who are not benefitting at the moment. He believes the Creative Quarter should be about building a variety of sectors. If people don’t see something as valuable, people get priced out.

Another participant said a lot of people didn’t identify with what artists do. He said artists work on a different timescale to other people, but, like them, are still committed to a particular purpose. He feels there is common ground where artists can exist with people making money in the retail sector. He met with a developer and was amazed how much he had in common with him. He felt he should be able to sit in with him as part of the whole development process. Nurturing arts and culture requires financial commitment, which means for example landlords shouldn’t put rents up too much.

One participant said property is an important thing. We need to decide where the Creative Quarter is and put a price on buildings. He felt some older buildings should be left in position should be left in position  to provide lost cost spaces as part of a long-term vision. Compulsory purchase could be used to bring old buildings back into use.

Another participant said Swansea reminded him of a mid league football team that wanted to get better players. He works with young people on a film and photography course. They have an “aspire” curriculum. Students produce spoken word videos that are shot right outside BaseKamp Coffee, the building we were in. A £5,000 lottery grant, which was more than they needed, has enabled them to buy expensive cameras, so it’s easy to do what they’re doing. They’ve produced professional looking videos for various companies, a football academy, and a conference for women.

One participant said young people see Swansea as the “graveyard of ambition”. Since he’s moved back here from London he finds himself that he’s not fulfilled because of the lack of opportunities and culture. He feels this is a huge issue in South Wales, although doesn’t know whether it’s due to lack of infrastructure, property, or something else.

Dawn Lyle said she wanted Swansea to be an innovative city that people wanted to live and stay in. She wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, but a lot of young people want to leave.

Storyteller Carl Gough talked about how he often hears people “regurgitate Dylan Thomas and Twin Town”. As a storyteller he’s gained an appreciation for Swansea, but people buy into the idea that it’s  a “pretty shitty city “ and “the graveyard of ambition”. He feels this is dangerous because it’s created a lack of inspiration and a self-limiting ceiling. Any storyteller will tell you that we are the stories we tell to ourselves about ourselves. He has created Swansea Story as way for Swansea to develop a new identity that isn’t defined by the depressive words of Dylan Thomas and Twin Town.

Another participant said he didn’t even know where the centre of Swansea is. He feels it would be great to have an obvious centre.  Dawn Lyle said this was a weakness, caused by bad city planning over many years. She said we needed to define the Creative Quarter, even if something comes along to displace it geographically.

Zoe Antrobus said she didn’t feel that was a distinct Creative Quarter at the moment, but it is possible to define the actual Creative Quarter as being in and around High Street, which includes Volcano Theatre, the Elysium Gallery and various music hubs. However, not everyone knows it’s here. She said we need to think about what we do to show people this is the Creative Quarter when they step out of the station, for example by having street art and street performers. It also needs restaurants with a diverse range of food.

Paul Harwood said there needed to a strategy. People will find it far easier to raise finance if there is a defined creative quarter, because that will add legitimacy.

Stacey Adamiec said we needed to get landlords into the room. She said they were behind the times in terms of leases and co-working spaces. She said landlords weren’t afraid to say they won’t take a chance with creative industries, although they’ll jump on an opportunity when things are going well. She said it will be important to get landlords to understand that the creative sector is a hybrid of small communities. A landlord could provide a building that everyone in the room would be able to use for creative purposes.

One participant asked about raising awareness of the spaces available for creative young people. She said she found it difficult to find out what was going on in Swansea.

Stacey Adamiec said until now not a lot had been going on. She said 4theRegion have noticed people are doing things and are helping to bring them together to have a discussion about what needs to be done.

Mike Klein said he is actively having conversations about why Swansea is where what he’s doing what he’s doing. He talked about the convergence between creativity and the response to climate change. He said Swansea was somewhere where people actually cared, but didn’t have a shared story or centre of gravity. He feels if we think Twin Town is all we are we’re missing a trick. He pointed to the fact we have the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and a lot of social businesses working to tackle climate change. He sees Swansea as an emerging “birth city” where we can create a really vibrant quality of life that will attract people to come here. He said he found Welsh people’s lack of self-confidence in our country extraordinary. He said this whole region should be seen as the best place to live in the UK.

He is thinking about opening a funk bar in Swansea, so that he can say his screenplay about a funk bar in Swansea is a true story. He said if we don’t figure out how to pull our finger out no one else will. He said we need to bottle what we have and think how to describe it.

Richard Harris said he was keen to tell the story of the city he was born and bred in. For example, not everyone knows the man who invented the hydrogen fuel cell was from Swansea. He praised what had been achieved in High Street, considering what it was like six or seven years ago, although he acknowledged a lot of work still needs to be done. He said the City Deal doesn’t mean much to most people and most people still see High Street in a very negative light. People don’t know what’s going on and we tend to hide our light under a bushel. He agreed there wasn’t a centre of Swansea, and this is a problem. But he said people need to understand the opportunities artists bring. There needs to longevity in order to benefit society.

He said the Welsh Government wanted to regenerate High Street because they wanted young people from other parts of Swansea to have pride in their city. He said Swansea had the best beaches in the world.

The Financial Times has said capitalism is broken. Paul Harwood said this is because capitalism doesn’t value social capital. He said something needs to be valued otherwise it’ll be lost. He gave the examples of what has been achieved in the last ten years by Austin, Texas and Bilbao, for example in the growth of tech firms.

Andy Elliott from Coastal Housing said he was surprised by how much of High Street has picked up. There has been some market penetration for the creative sector and independent businesses. He said Coastal Housing were opening up a lot sites that were not subject to the pressures of the open market.

Another participant suggested having a word or hashtag that could be used to promote Swansea.

Dawn Lyle suggested having a 4theRegion Film Festival.

The attendees were split into three groups to discuss property, art, community and wellbeing, and communication and storytelling.

In the property group, Paul Harwood explained how TechHub’s first premises was one floor of a building in Wind Street rented from Coastal Housing. It was desk space with no commitment, supported by a £20,000 Welsh Government grant. From this they went on to get government sponsorship and a deal with the DVLA. Because they had far more money they were able to take on the whole building. TechHub weren’t thinking about making loads of money, they did it so that start ups didn’t have a lease over their head and could fail quickly. The detrimental effect was that they priced themselves out of the market. TechHub have done more deals with Coastal Housing. Paul Harwood said they wouldn’t have been able to do anything if wasn’t for Coastal Housing, who have people who can work on bids, and can provide capital for leverage.

He said there was a lot of capital investment in infrastructure but not the equivalent investment in social capital. Buildings don’t solve the problem. Human capital will lead to more infrastructure. He said for every £1 spent on building infrastructure there should be 50p spent on human capital.

Daniel Staveley from the Elysium Gallery said they have rented a number of properties from Coastal Housing, which have allowed them to expand, but only within a confined space. Their pub Champers will be knocked down next year and they will lose £80,000. They will lose another building in five years time. He said Coastal Housing needed to invest to keep them in High Street. He said the plans for shops and flats would turn High Street back into a corridor. Elysium Galley have found £50,000 to spend on their building to keep it going, but would like a long-term sustained business instead of something short-term.

Paul Harwood said the Elysium Gallery would be replaced with another business, but the gallery generates social capital that can’t be valued financially.

Daniel Staveley pointed out artists were sustaining the shops along High Street “because we live off Polish beer and noodles”.

Paul Harwood suggested having a property steering group of local stakeholders which would meet monthly or quarterly. Coastal would report to the steering group and the steering group would report to Coastal.

Richard Harris said there needs to be communication between artists and landlords. He said plans had been put in place to develop various quarters in Swansea, but nothing really happened. He said Coastal Housing weren’t the only landlords in Swansea and money was getting tight for the Elysium Gallery. They need a ten year lease for a building, but Coastal will give them a five year lease which could ultimately be followed by another five year lease on a different building. He said Champers could be put back into use, but would need work done to it.

He said the local business community had no impact on the closure of the Ford factory in Bridgend, and that if artists wanted a creative quarter they would need to have an influence on landlords. They would need a forum to bring together different landlords.

Paul Harwood said we didn’t need to go to the government for everything, pointing out the regeneration of Bilbao mostly wasn’t achieved with government funding. He said the property steering group would look at strategy.

Another suggestion was for housing associations to be involved in providing spaces for the creative industries.

Stacey Adamiec suggested creating a High Street web page, rather than waiting for the council to promote it. The council are already making podcasts to show what independent businesses are doing. She would like an additional indoor market to show how retailers work together and to show demand. She said there needed to be a couple of doers who were interested in taking over spaces to get more interest for the creative industries.

The art, community and wellbeing group identified a need to get the youngest children to engage with technology more creatively. One of the people in this group is touch with Swansea Community Workshop, who are looking how to get more people engaged with the arts. They already have stained glass and pottery workshops, so she feels bringing in an IT workshop might be a way of bridging different interests. She said children would be encouraged to take part if there was an outcome they can see, such as a video on YouTube on an e-book on the Swansea story that they created. 

Another idea was promote remote working, so that people who work for global businesses can stay here.

The communication and storytelling group said their focus was on communicating outwards about Swansea, upgrading and listening to the story Swansea tells about itself.

Carl Gough suggested having a regular storytelling event where people share individual stories. This could possibly serve almost as an award ceremony celebrating the people who contribute to Swansea. This event could be broadcast, although we’ll need to work out how best to do this. For example, it could be broadcast on Swansea Bay TV or on the radio.

The group also discussed having a publication similar to Swansea Life, but with more of a focus on wellbeing. This could be combined with the arts with a cultural, beautiful, accessible editorial. The down side would be the cost of the publication infrastructure, so it was suggested the publication could be a community interest company and get funding.

Paul Harwood said the High Street already had a newspaper, produced by a very low cost by a service that lets people publish newspapers. The newspaper is funded by Coastal Housing. He said High Street was the centre of Swansea once. It was once the busiest part of the city. It has a fantastic story.

Another participant suggested a community calendar. The calendar would mean we knew exactly what was going on, and would be combined with an editorial. She said the calendar needs to vibrant, exciting, televised and up to date or it will fail. It will need money behind it, possibly from the council.

Dawn Lyle said the Creative Quarter is a physical space, but it’s also an idea and includes people who are not geographically on High Street.  She said the next meeting about the Creative Quarter would take place before the April 2020 City Centre Conference.

Keep in Touch with this Conversation

Email zoe@4theRegion.com with the subject line “Creative Quarter” if you would like to be notified of future events and projects.  Also please make you are subscribed to the 4theRegion newsletter!

Roundtable Report – Renewable Energy Region

Roundtable Report – Renewable Energy Region

RENEWABLE ENERGY REGION ROUNDTABLE
THURSDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER 2019
ST PAULS CENTRE, PORT TALBOT

This event was organised in partnership with Low Carbon Swansea Bay and sponsored by FLEXIS.  The intention was to celebrate the growing Renewable Energy Sector of South West Wales, showcase the fantastic, diverse projects and initiatives going on across the region, and bring together business, academia and individuals to learn from each other and explore what else can be done to strengthen our renewable energy sector.

All 4theRegion events are intended to be co-creative, and to help participants emerge shared priorities and a shared sense of purpose.  We deliberately create space for wisdom to emerge from the room, and aim to encourage as many different voices as possible.

A key theme that arose throughout the discussions at this event was the need for better collaboration and sharing of knowledge across the sector; better coordination; and the benefit of knowing who is doing what.  “We need more events like this!” was a recurring refrain, which reflects the appetite that exists for open-access, co-productive, knowledge-sharing regional events.  We cannot under estimate the value of simply getting people in a room together, who share an interest (or passion) for the sector.  Of course we all want to emerge actions and make change happen following events like this, but the events themselves – the CONVERSATIONS and CONNECTIONS are seen to be of great value irrespective of what happens next.

What did we learn?

  • That South West Wales IS ALREADY  “A Centre of Excellence for Renewable Energy” and we should be shouting about it
  • Wind power generated in Wales equates to around half of our electricity needs
  • Hydrogen is a massive new clean resource which we’re using in a very small amount but it’s being researched 
  • Change must be convenient to create an environment where people want to change 
  • Repairing products instead of sending them to landfill will create new jobs, skills and reduce waste
  • Port Talbot has solar power, wind turbines, hydrogen power, the active homes project, district heating from the steelworks. 
  • FLEXIS research findings included: 
    • Resistance to living in smaller homes to reduce energy 
    • Support for making products and packaging more sustainable was high 
    • People were broadly supportive of extended life cycles of products but weren’t  always behind some of the strategies 
    • Concerns over renting products – worries included contracts, higher costs, insurance, less choice 
    • Language is key – people think that recycled, repurposed products are poorer quality, and that renting products mean you can’t afford to buy, 
    • Changing behaviours is a huge challenge – and different for different age groups

Barriers & Challenges

  • Policy changing with government changes 
  • Procurement red tape is an obstacle to change and flexibility 
  • Money goes out of our region
  • Government leadership on issues isn’t clear or concise
  • Not enough tangible outcome – to many talkers
  • Red tape in adopting technology
  • Lack of political will to make significant changes to the system
  • Grid upgrades are slow – 12 years, current grid is not fit for net zero ambitions
  • The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act has limited impact beyond public sector at the moment

What’s Already Happening

  • Renew Wales – offers support to community groups on climate change through mentoring, training & visit bursaries (holding and event on 13th November – support churches address climate change) 
  • Egin and Gower Power leading the way with co-operatives – encouraging a change in energy supply with benefits to local communities 
  • Innovation in our region is high with businesses like Marine Power Systems collaborating wave and wind for a new energy source 
  • Carmarthen Energy looking at links between energy usage and electric car charging times. With proven results of reduced energy costs.
  • SPECIFIC and the Active Buildings Centre at Swansea University.

What needs to happen

  • An immediate action step, and one which 4theRegion would like to take forward with partners, is the idea of MAPPING the renewable energy sector in our region.  Some way of visualising who is doing what, where, across South West Wales, would be a great resource for everyone.  This is very similar to something that was discussed at the Biobased Economy roundtable we held in Carmarthenshire – the need to join the dots and map activity (by sector and across sectors) across the region.
  • We need to upgrade the grid – investment in infrastructure
  • Inventive ideas or investment in energy storage solutions 
  • Public money invested in University research needs to be commercialised 
  • Raise awareness of skills needed – engineers, retrofitting existing homes
  • Collaborative thinking to reflect the future generations act 
  • Research needs to be turned into commercial assets – creating jobs and helping to reduce our carbon footprint. 
  • Technology & renewable energy sector needs to work hand in hand.

Actions

  • One clear energy strategy (one waste process for the whole of Wales) 
  • Positive use of procurement processes 
  • What can the region so to support a Tidal Lagoon in Swansea
  • Become a member of Low Carbon Swansea Bay get involved with and help develop a co-ordinated, integrated and sustainable approach to reducing carbon emissions across all sectors in Swansea and south-west Wales. https://lowcarbonswanseabay.weebly.com/joining-lcsb.html
  • Become an Ambassador of 4theRegion – be part of a network of passionate businesses, organisations and individuals who understand that collaboration and working together instills pride and passion in place and projects –https://www.4theregion.org.uk/join/
  • Buy shares Gower Power
  • Help FLEXIS with project research and to shout about the outcomes (don’t keep research behind closed doors for academics)
  • Connect FLEXIS with Circular Economy businesses in the region
  • Promote car sharing 
  • Continue to innovate and celebrate the Circular Economy – be part of our regional Circular Economy Club and take part in an annual globally connected events.

Keep in Touch with this Conversation

Email zoe@4theRegion.com with the subject line “Renewable Energy” if you would like to be notified of future events and projects.  Also please make you are subscribed to the 4theRegion newsletter!

Roundtable Report – Food, Farming, Waste & Biobased

Roundtable Report – Food, Farming, Waste & Biobased

BIOBASED SECTOR ROUNDTABLE
THURSDAY 19TH SEPTEMBER 2019
NATIONAL BOTANIC GARDEN OF WALES

A well attended roundtable meeting was held in Carmarthenshire to explore the food, farming, waste and biobased sector in South West Wales. The goal of the event was to share knowledge about what’s already happening, identify what’s missing and co-create priorities for the sector from a regional perspective.  A diverse range of organisations came together for some lively, insightful discussion.

Emerging Themes

Collaboration / sharing

The importance of better collaboration and sharing of knowledge and resources – this was THE key message from participants throughout the day.

  • Collaborating and sharing has an enormous number of benefits:
    • By understanding what each other’s businesses and needs are we see opportunities in:
      • each others waste, valuing materials and respecting their worth  
      • increasing ideas for Circular Economy principles
      • Open up research and areas for new innovative technologies
      • Understanding what works and what doesn’t work for others and learning from it 
    • This will also help us understand the skill sets that are needed for future jobs and courses in universities and colleges 
      • Ensuring a sustainable economy means recognising the high value jobs in this sector – engineers, biosciences
      • We also need to reinvest in traditional skills such as food growing and land management for regenerative agriculture
    • It will also help us to inform future policy and practice 
      • ONE VOICE – the importance of having a coherent and common message for the sector when talking to policy makers
    • There are benefits in sharing skills and workforce, such as apprentices, especially the value of shared apprenticeships 
      • Financial commitment for smaller organisations is shared
      • The apprentice gets experience, expertise from across the sector 
      • We can train more people

Sector Promotion

It came across from the feedback that although our region is hugely successful, innovative and a leader in the food, farming, waste and biobased economy, we’re quite shy about it too. All agreed we need to be better at promoting and celebrating what we have and what we do here, better at telling stories about our successes.

Key themes were:

  • Shouting,  publicising, showcasing, storytelling about our successes. To: 
    • improve perceptions of farmers and farming 
    • Improve awareness and confidence in what the region has to offer in this sector 
    • Showcase and celebrate that this region has all we need 
    • Be ambassadors for the wider sector –
    • not just promoting our own product, but doing so as part of a bigger story about the regional offer
    • A strong brand for regional produce, international recognition for the quality of the food produced in this region, differentiation.
  • Use social media, networks

Climate Emergency

Climate Emergency was a key theme.  All four local authorities in our region have declared a climate emergency.  Discussion ranged from whether agriculture is the problem or the solution, there is a defensiveness in farming communities who are perceived as the problem, but this reflects a division between urban and rural communities which was seen to be the root of some of the problems.  Farming, food production, land management – these are vital to the sustainability of our society and ecology.

This was a key theme – sustainability is not enough, we need to develop a circular, regenerative biobased economy

  • More people are now interested in the food and farming sector because of environmental concern
  • Food growing and land management is all about the Resilience of the region in the broadest sense
  • Reducing the distance that food travels, reducing its carbon footprint
  • Also ensuring we can feed our region if national and international supply chains are disrupted
  • Regenerative agriculture and the health of the soil
  • What are farms and farmers already doing, is there a need for more education
  • New forms of biofertilisers and other methods to reduce the use of chemical fertilisers
  • Reduce the use of plastics on farms
  • Could we link up farms with innovators to implement regenerative solutions, lead the way
  • Storytelling and marketing.  Connecting urban areas with rural food growing region, eg farm shops and markets in Swansea City Centre
    • Connect people to where their food comes from, people need to understand all the benefits and reasons to buy local/regional
    • Opportunity for people from urban areas to grown food and get involved, eg through community supported agriculture projects
  • Be wary of not romanticising the idea of food growing etc, this is also a key economic driver for our region, big business and jobs
  • Sustainability of farming has two meanings – a sustainable economy and a sustainable ecology
  • Circular economy practices are essential and must be at the heart of every conversation in this sector.

Joined Up Working

There was a sense that there are lots of positive things happening already across the region, how can we join them up and break down silos.

  • Silos exist across counties, we need to learn from each other
  • For example Pembrokeshire are leading in things that Swansea could learn from
  • Creating networks. For example do all the Community Supported Agriculture projects know each other?  
    • Community Land Trusts – could learn from each other and enable good ideas to spread by connecting subsectors
    • Industry – who is working in this space, eg engineering, controlled environment agriculture, biosciences, new bio fertilisers developed at Swansea Uni

One Voice

There was a unanimous feeling from the room that there needed to be One Voice/ one platform that could feed into Welsh Government to help steer policy and inform decision-making.  The biobased sector needs a coherent message for government, like a trade association that can present a shared set of priorities.

  • One voice also means a central/directory/map to encourage collaboration and make sure everyone knows who is doing what across the region;
  • one place where projects / opportunities were fed into and promoted to local supply chain, academia and encourage collaborative working
  • 4theRegion noted that we have an online regional supply chain Map that can visualise everything that is happening and show relationships between organisations, projects and individuals, it is ready to launch but would require sponsorship to ensure we can devote resources so that it would gain critical mass and industry take-up.  4theRegion are open to partners and support to develop this.

Other Ideas

  • More land management events to encourage cluster based thinking 
  • Improve food production practices – greener and healthier, healthier preservatives and greener packaging 
  • Not to duplicate the work that other organisations are already doing.  It was noted that PLANED have a number of very relevant projects which could be better supported and rolled out more widely.  Linking back to the message about knowing what support is out there and who is doing what.

Support

  • There was a lack of understanding and a need to understand what support was available: 
    • Financial, investment & funding 
    • Research
    • Start ups
    • Education support

Emerging Actions – What Next?

  • Each of us need to be Ambassadors for the wider sector – how can we achieve this?
  • Can 4theRegion be the body for this sector to use as One Voice: 
    • Bringing the sector together – networking, cluster groups, keeping in touch (even in an online portal)
    • Shouting and celebrating the successes and projects – through our newsletter (5000), social media – 10,000 twitter, 1600 LinkedIn, 4600 facebook 
    • Being the one voice to government
  • Identify the changemakers and start with them by inviting them to the next group session – people feed in names and ideas of key players to Zoe@4theRegion.com
  • Can 4theRegion, with partners such as BIC, PLANED etc, create a portal / index as a central regional source of information on who is doing what?  How can we fund the launch and management of this map / online portal.
  • What is the right platform to keep this conversation going?  A LinkedIn Group? A Facebook Group? Both?

Noted Organisations

  • ARCITEKBio Limited
  • Bee1
  • Beech Holidays
  • BIC Innovation
  • BioInnovation Wales
  • Business Wales
  • Castell Howell Foods Ltd
  • Digital Farming
  • EFT Consult
  • Food Centre Wales
  • KingShipp Sustainable Solutions
  • KN Consulting
  • PLANED
  • Regional Learning & Skills Partnership
  • Severn Wye
  • Swansea Council
  • Zero Waste Wales
  • The Waterside 
  • Fishguard Community Fridge
  • Building Resilience in Catchments (BRIC’s) – project PLANED
  • Pembrokeshire Sustainable Agriculture Network – PLANED 
  • Gower Meadow Beef – Conservation grade locally grazed beef
  • Narberth Community Fridge & council Orchard 
  • Dr. Beynon’s Bug Farm 
  • CIWM – Chartered Institute of Waste Managers 
  • Life seeker.wales – online newspaper & portal for sharing 
  • Youtree.uk
  • Cow Tan (Beef) – Conservation grazed co-operative run group on gower
  • Bio Innovation Wales – Distance learning courses geared around the circular economy) 
  • Future Foods – Under Nutri Wales, SiG’s – developing healthy farming 
  • Cae Tan C.S.A – Wales’s largest (?) CSA – soon to establish it’s second site on Gower 
  • Farm Co 
  • Terraffix – Gower Based land management/ land remediation  – Soil solutions 
  • Severn Wye – Sustainable communities/ fuel poverty 
  • Green Arising – biomass/sustainable agriculture projects enquiries@greenarisings.co.uk
  • Pembroke CIC – manage green hill farm – non-food production agriculture 
  • Welsh Valley Alpacas – prototyping new farming alpaca textiles (replacing polyester) 
  • Leader Supported projects – PLANED
After the Event: The Swansea City Centre Conference 2019 in Review

After the Event: The Swansea City Centre Conference 2019 in Review

On Tuesday 9th April we were honoured to open the doors of the Leisure Centre, Swansea, to almost 600 people and businesses, for the first major cross-sector conversation about the future of the city.

Our intention in organising this event was to champion all the people working hard to make positive things happen across our city, while creating space for everyone to have a voice and play a part in shaping what we want for the future.

Whether you believe you can, or you believe you can’t, you’re probably right.

Someone once said that “whether you believe you can, or you believe you can’t, you’re probably right” – and we think that applies to creating a flourishing city.  

Collectively, we need to change the way people think and talk about Swansea, towards a more empowered and optimistic narrative, that says, if we work together we CAN create the city we all want.  

Swansea is by no means the only place that’s struggling to adapt to changing times, but sometimes we’re our own worst enemy when we talk our city down. Our goal, in showcasing some of the brilliant businesses, projects and initiatives doing great things in Swansea, and in championing a positive vision for the future, is to shift the conversation from what’s wrong and what’s broken, to what’s working and what’s possible.

FULL CONFERENCE REPORT

If you missed the Swansea City Centre Conference, or would like a full report of what what discussed and what the next actions are, you can access the PDF at the following link.

FOUR CONFERENCE & EXHIBITION ZONES

The format of the day was a Conference with a series of interactive panel conversations, and an Exhibition featuring four Zones relating to Swansea city centre’s key areas of focus – Development & Investment, Destination, Creative & Digital, and Energy & Environment.

Two thirds of the leisure centre’s main sports hall was given over to the Exhibition, which was as diverse and inclusive as we could make it.  Alongside a healthy mix of large and small businesses, major city institutions and public organisations, there was also a good amount of free exhibition space donated to enable third sector organisations, community initiatives and individual “changemakers” to be part of the showcase of great stuff happening in the city.  This unusual level of cross-sector diversity was part of the reason for the incredible buzz in the room that everyone commented on afterwards, and meant that new connections were made between people, organisations and ideas that aren’t usually in the same place at the same time.

Swansea Central Phase 1

Swansea Central Phase 2

A City Centre Workforce

Student Living

Day Time Strategy

Night Time Strategy

Independent Retail

City Centre Highlights

Kingsway Digital District

Enabling Entrepreneurs

Creative Regeneration

Culture / Events Noticeboard

Green Spaces & Built Environment

Circular Economy

Community Initiatives

Inclusion & Diversity

ON THE CONFERENCE STAGE

The back third of the sports hall was devoted to more formal conference seating and the conference stage.  We made a deliberate choice to keep everyone in one space for both the exhibition and the conference, but in future we might seek to separate the two activities, as it resulted in a very noisy event that made it difficult for some participants to hear all the speakers.

On the Conference stage, the goal was to spark positive and solution-focused conversations about what we all want for the future of the city.  Rather than lining up a series of keynote speeches, we designed the sessions as open discussions, with a number of short topic introductions from thought-leaders and those that are already DOING, followed by open-mic conversations with the goal of enabling as many people as possible to contribute their thoughts, questions and ideas.  This reflects our desire to move away from a system in which a few key decision-makers set policy and determine actions (and then tell us about it), towards a more collaborative and participatory approach to making change happen. And we’re keen to find a balance between the sharing of “insight” from the stage, and the “emergence” of wisdom from the room.  Both are of value, but the latter is much harder to deliver.

WHO WERE THE SPEAKERS?

We invited the following individuals to speak for 5 minutes each, to share their passion, vision, values, expertise and/or priorities for the future of Swansea, as a means of sparking debate and prompting discussion among attendees:

  • Paul Harwood, director of TechHub Swansea, who is already working hard to nurture the city’s digital and tech sector, and who knows a thing or two about what such entrepreneurs need in order to stay in Swansea and thrive.
  • Karen McKinnon, exhibitions curator at the Gylnn Vivian Art Gallery and former director of the Arte Mundi international art prize, who understands the importance of art in society, and the challenges facing Swansea’s creative and cultural sector.
  • David Bellis, co-founder of Refining Dining hospitality group, who is investing significantly in creating new, distinctive food & drink businesses in the city, and is one of those who is already capitalising on the potential spin-off opportunities of major Council investments (eg in the Arena).
  • Stacey Adamiec, serial entrepreneur and growth strategist, who is passionate about nurturing independent city centre start-ups, and emphasises the importance of “small” things we can do, as well as the need for “eco systems” and connectors that bridge the gaps between small and large players.
  • Gareth Davies, director of development at Coastal Housing Group, an organisation whose role in regenerating the high street has been transformative, and which remains committed to providing more housing in the city centre, while addressing social and economic inclusion.
  • Bruno Nunes, director of Creative Hospitality Group and BID board member, who has created several successful food & drink businesses in both Swansea and Cardiff city centres, and who has special interest in what’s needed to build our hospitality sector (food, drink, leisure, accommodation).
  • Ben Reynolds, creative regeneration specialist and director of Urban Foundry, who knows what makes places thrive, started the Uplands and Marina street markets, and takes on the challenges of vacant commercial space in the city through pop-up projects like Unit Nineteen.
  • Fran Rolfe, senior partnerships and influencing officer at Natural Resources Wales, who has been carrying out interviews with people across Swansea about Green Infrastructure, and who understands the benefits (economic, health, happiness etc) of creating more green space in the city.

Our speakers were almost exclusively local people with experience, insight and expertise related to the city centre.  The exceptions were the panel on the Swansea Central Phase 1 development – the Arena project – who were representatives of the companies the Council is working with to deliver that project.  We wanted to provide a platform for those professionals to tell people about their plans and intentions for the Arena, and also to ensure they were present to listen to the aspirations and priorities of local people in relation to it.

FULL CONFERENCE REPORT

If you missed the Swansea City Centre Conference, or would like a full report of what what discussed and what the next actions are, you can access the PDF at the following link.

EMERGING PROJECTS

On yellow Action Planning sheets, participants in the final session of the day were invited to rapidly outline potential projects and actions that could be taken forward following the Conference – particularly those that they were personally invested in and willing to help drive.  These are some of the ideas and initiatives that were put forward, and 4theRegion has contact details of those who want to move them forward. Our intention is to facilitate working groups that want to address specific ideas, and to keep this community involved and updated on progress.

  • Help and support for independents on the High Street – dedicated area / hub for start-ups and independents – Collaboration, coworking, start-up village
  • Community owned bus company
  • Management body for city centre green spaces
  • Implement a connection system between Council, visionaries, housing associations, planners and independent business owners, Eco-system to underpin a thriving city centre – Work with micro-experts that know how
  • Zero carbon homes – support for sustainable projects and retrofit of existing homes
  • Nature city – green infrastructure, protect / plant trees, vertical green space
  • In the arena: Basketball training / tournament – disabled sports, professional Swansea team
  • Big screen in castle square – put together a playlist for advertising local city centre businesses
  • Digital square – raising the profile of Swansea digital talent
  • Public transport interest or campaign group – Integrated public transport – leads to better connectivity, thriving economy, better health and well-being, less pollution
  • Swansea Market stained glass window – replace all the glass in the roof with stained glass panels
  • Create a Cultural Quarter – virtual and physical; cultural quarter newsletter, make the most of all the disparate yet brilliant activities that are going on in Swansea, joint promotion of events and facilities
  • One Planet Swansea – Swansea to lead the way in reducing environmental impact
  • Business mentor network – develop a network of successful business owners, opportunities to support each other

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

We were pleased that the Conference resulted in some very thought provoking conversations. It’s important to ensure the momentum from this event continues.  For our part, 4theRegion is collating all the notes from the Opportunity Areas and will shortly publish a full report of these. We have a raft of prospective projects and potential project teams to follow up with, and our intention is to support these individuals and groups in taking action on the projects that emerged from the event.  We can do this by facilitating further meetings, championing these initiatives, connecting project teams with key people and organisations that need to be involved, and helping to join the dots to ensure that the disparate mix of projects form part of a broader vision with a shared sense of purpose.

The idea of forming a collaboration to develop a Cultural Quarter has already been picked up by both Coastal Housing Group and University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and quite a number of people who attended the Conference have also expressed interest in being part of ongoing discussions around this idea.

In addition to the projects put forward on the day, almost 100 people have so far completed the event feedback form, which provided an opportunity to suggest “next actions” relating to any aspect of the Conference.  From these responses, a number of helpful suggestions have emerged.

One of these is the idea of developing a “People’s Regeneration Strategy” for Swansea, with the Council in a supportive role, to clarify the collective priorities emerging from the Conference and further meetings and events.  We are keen to talk to partners who might be interested in collaborating with us on such an undertaking.

Finally, there has been overwhelming interest in (and support for) the proposal that this Conference should become an annual event.  We will shortly be agreeing a date for the Swansea City Centre Conference 2020, by which time we hope to be able to report on significant positive outcomes from this year’s conversations.