Swansea Bay offers a diverse range of art & culture with a plethora of Theatres, Galleries, Events and Festivals. Whether you want to see a BBC Orchestra or the sky at night, visit a contemporary or traditional museum, be entertained by a Male Voice Choir or world class performers, gaze upon art, immerse yourself in Dylan Thomas and the world of literature, Swansea Bay really does have it all!
Swansea Bay buzzes with a diverse range of cultural activity. Reminders of one of Swansea Bay’s most famous sons, Dylan Thomas, abound and extracts from his poems and some of his quirky quotes feature on many public artworks throughout the region. A permanent exhibition to the great poet can be found at the Dylan Thomas Centre, located in the heart of Swansea’s Waterfront area.
To really feel close to the great man, head down to Laugharne, where Dylan Thomas’ Boathouse and separate writing shed, with sublime views across the Taf estuary, serve as places of pilgrimage for Dylan Thomas fans from around the world. Some of his best work, including Under Milk Wood, was written here. Today, the boathouse houses photographs, recorded poetry readings and even Dylan’s death mask. Dylan Thomas aside, Laugharne itself has considerable charm, with old bookshops, real ale pubs, plenty of attractive Georgian architecture and its own 13th century castle.
Making Dylan relevant to modern literature, the annual Dylan Thomas Prize, based in Swansea, is one of the world’s largest international literary awards, with a £30,000 reward for the winning author. The prize, sponsored by the University of Wales, was established to honour the internationally esteemed works of Dylan Thomas, and is open to English language published writers under the age of thirty.
Moving away from the written word, an all-encompassing range of entertainment can be found across Swansea Bay, from opera and ballet to drama, plays, dance, rep, musicals as well as film and comedy nights. Choose from Swansea’s Grand Theatre, Dylan Thomas Theatre or Taliesin Arts Centre, Ffwrnes, Lyric and Ammanford Miners Theatre, The Princess Royal Theatre in Port Talbot, newly opened after extensive renovation work is Gwyn Hall, the Neath Little Theatre or Pontardawe Arts Centre! In fact Swansea is also home to its own touring opera company, Swansea City Opera.
For the visual arts the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea is a real gem, containing traditional and modern art, sculpture and installations, work by Old Masters as well as modern artists. The gallery also boasts an international collection of porcelain and Swansea china. The Glynn Vivian is currently closed to the public, in preparation for a multimillion pound redevelopment project that began in 2012 and completion is due in 2016. This major project will create a new and exciting visitor experience and bring the attraction into the 21st century, whilst conserving the original character of the 1911 building and improving access for all.
Festival and Events
For sixty years, Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts has been responsible for a celebration of world class arts and entertainment in the city, centring mainly around classical, opera and jazz. It celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2008 and featured amongst others, Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Choir of King’s College Cambridge.
Margam Park hosts all kinds of performances and workshops to the area.
A wide variety of music can be enjoyed at Swansea’s Guildhall, home to the Brangwyn Hall and its famous wall panels, produced by Sir Frank Brangwyn. Originally intended for the House of Lords – the panels were considered too risqué for the peers in London – Westminster’s loss was Swansea’s gain, even though bringing them to Swansea in the 1930s meant altering the plans for the hall (raising the ceiling by 12 inches, and making recesses in the walls to house them!). The Hall is internationally renowned as a classical music venue with superb acoustics, attracting orchestras and singers from all over the world. It is also a popular centre of social and cultural life in Swansea and as well as more formal concerts plays host to events such as the annual Mumbles and Swansea Beer Festival!
As you would expect with such abundant natural assets, there are many outdoor events, such as Shakespeare in the Park performed in historic gardens and castle grounds. Swansea city centre has a big screen which frequently shows sporting and cultural events such as ballet and opera. Many of the outdoor venues focus on the more contemporary music scene; live bands playing in town centres; dance music festivals such as the famous Escape into the Park and living legends such as The Who and Elton John rocking crowds of 20,000 plus fans at the Liberty Stadium.
Opportunities exist to get involved with hundreds of choirs (including of course the traditional male voice choirs for which Wales is so well known), theatre groups, workshops, ensembles, bands and all kinds of art and literary groups.
With Wales’ oldest, Swansea Museum and Wales’ newest, the National Waterfont Museum, plus many others in between, Swansea Bay boasts a variety of museums to satisfy all curiosities. Some are heritage orientated capturing the highlights of the area’s varied agricultural and industrial past; the cave dwellers of 40,000 years ago; Roman times when the market town of Neath was called ‘Nidum’; Swansea’s 1800’s status as the Copper Kingdom of the world, the important mining communities of the region and the 20th Century triumphs of the world land speed record in Pembrey.
For a more exotic feel, The Egypt Centre, located at Swansea University, has an exciting display of Egyptian artefacts including weapons, jewellery, coffins and much more. Moving to the more contemporary side of things, Locws International works with international artists to create temporary visual arts projects for public and accessible spaces across the city of Swansea. Whatever your tastes, the plethora of public and independent galleries, (some with internationally renowned reputations) cooperatives, studios, workshops and exhibitions that can be found throughout Swansea Bay mean that there’s something for everyone.
Visit our Events page for listings of events and activities throughout the region.