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How to make Swansea great?

We responded to a question recently about how to make our home town great – our response is below (they’re in no particular order). These were all offered as constructive ideas – we think there’s lots of people working hard to make our city better, and that a team approach is what makes things work, so this isn’t a critique – it’s a list of ideas for what’s next.

  • we need to establish what our brand is – Swansea has never really come to terms with it;
  • focus our messaging on what makes the place great and unique – creativity, culture, landscape, history, sport and the people. Be confident in our strengths and shout about them – there’s an internal as well as an external audience for that;
  • communicate that the city is one of firsts – world’s first globally integrated centre of heavy industry, the world’s first passenger railway, the forerunner of the modern battery was invented here, the landspeed record is held by a car designed in Swansea University, the first (and only!) Premier Football club in Wales etc. There’s more;
  • use our ‘alumni’ – our superstars of stage, screen and music but also those in big business around the world who love the city and are passionate about it – identify and engage our ambassadors on the world stage, highlight their ties and links to the city, constantly reinforce the fact that we produce (disproportionately for a city of our size) world class talent;
  • reconnect the city with its river – it’s a stunning natural asset that the city turns its back on. Start by making sure you can walk down either side of the river along the banks, which is almost possible now but not quite. Create a pedestrian link from the train station to the riverside to get football fans walking that way on match days. Have a rule that anything built along the river must front on to it to give it life;
  • put our full weight behind the Swansea University project at White Rock/Copperopolis and establish it as a world heritage site – make that a focus for our tourism and visitor offer linking with the Stadium;
  • get a cable car going from the White Rock site up to the top of Kilvey Hill with a visitor centre/viewing platform;
  • make more of the Bay – the Air Show is about the only activity that makes the most of that incredible asset. Part of that is about making Oystermouth Road easier to cross on foot;
  • do everything we can to get Swansea linked into the metro system being discussed for the Cardiff region and make a swift east-west and north-south light transit solution in the city;
  • get a rapid connection train service that doesn’t do every stop along the way on the train line between Swansea and London once or twice each day to cut down journey times;
  • create a direct train link from Swansea to Cardiff Airport in the long term;
  • make the city more cycle friendly – there’s a pretty good network of cycle paths, but it needs joining up and making it easier. Put cycle racks on the front of buses;
  • relink the Tenant Canal which runs down from Neath through the docks into the Tawe;
  • create more wet weather attractions, there’s more than enough to do when the sun shines, not so much when it’s pouring down;
  • get more people living in the city centre and a much broader mix – families as well as couples, singles and students – keep the city centre alive after 5pm, provide a captive market for small shops and stores, cafes, eateries etc.;
  • make better public realm – play facilities on street, more greenery in the city core, better balance between pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles (it doesn’t mean digging lots of things up, just rethinking them);
  • do everything we can to encourage (and remove things that actively discourage) life on the street – performances, busking, tables and chairs on pavements, displays of goods out the front of small units;
  • have on street ambassadors – easily identifiable people to help, guide you, do all the things that you might want in a city (like the London Olympics 2012 Games Makers);
  • encourage more ‘pop up’ activity in empty shop units by developing a clear planning and building control policy to make it easy to do it and with a small budget for basic renovations;
  • establish a key buildings fund to address the (very visible) decay of key listed buildings and bringing them back into use;
  • get more cultural uses and maybe civic/educational activity into the core of the city centre to sit alongside the retail – provide a broader mix of things to do than just shop and eat;
  • invest in cultural activities at small scale – musicians, artists, theatre practitioners, the people and activities that are unique to the place – and ensure infrastructure and regulation support it (e.g. supply of outdoor power sockets to make it easy to do outdoor events, removing charges for people trying to do things that make the street more lively etc.);
  • develop the visual cues both that the city has a very strong industrial past and also that we’re a coastal city – signage and visual cues using materials that reflect our industrial heritage or our cultural strengths – maybe a Dylan Thomas font (Glasgow have begun to use a Charles Rennie Mackintosh font on signage);
  • develop better ways of cross sector partnering (public sector, private sector and non-profit sectors) to foster more bottom up approaches and help make it happen.