One of the things I love about this town is that it has a healthy disregard for how special it really it. I’m sure that can be terribly frustrating if you are trying to sell Swansea to the world but it’s part of our culture and something that makes living here special. But lately there have been a number of things I have experienced that if they had happened to me in some strange exotic place I would have come home and told all my friends about this incredible place I had visited.
The first is the bay itself. I refuse to let myself get blasé about our bay. Yesterday was the autumn equinox, the day when the length of day light is the same as the night. From here on in we get longer darkness everyday right down to the 21st December when it all starts going the other way again. For a number of weeks in the mid-summer I drive into the BBC to do my radio show in daylight. Those times are long past but I’m now at the stage where I leave the studio just as the sun is rising over the bay. A couple of times this week I have had to stop the car on the way home and just stare at the view. I usually take a picture but it never does justice to the real thing. And this week we have had some absolutely perfectly still mornings with the sea looking as still as a looking glass.
The second is the food. I love going to Italy for the pasta and pizza. France has its sauces and fine wines, Australia has its BBQs. We have Swansea market for cockles and muscles, Gower Marsh lamb and Welsh cakes. but I want to champion Fish and Chips. Earlier this month the current Mrs Pope walked 22 miles along the Gower Coastline to help raise money for MacMillan Cancer Support. Not surprisingly she returned with quite an appetite. As we left the pick up point at The Mumbles Cricket Club she looked at me and said, ‘Fish and Chips?’.
There is only place for me to get chips, ‘Dick Barton’s’. I ordered a large piece of Cod and a large portion of chips with a side order of curry sauce. The fish was cooked from fresh in heavenly batter. Whilst we waited with our mouths watering the chips were laid out on crisp white paper, piping hot, and then the young lady behind the counter sprinkled them with salt and old fashioned ‘vinegar’ condiment. I must say it was the best meal we have had in a very long time. I had a quick chat with the owner. He told me that he often gets some of the old ‘foreign’ Swansea players pop in when they come back to visit friends in the area because they miss our speciality food. They know that its special and deep down maybe we do too.
Then there’s music. I’m not sure exactly how popular the ‘Iveys’ were when they used to play in Swansea in the late 1960s. Last week hearing the latest incarnation of Badfinger play those world class songs really made me value my town’s musical heritage.
The audience was made up of many people who really would have been there 40 odd years ago as teenagers and it was great seeing them relive their youth. As one lady left last week she said we should do this every year. We should have a Badfinger festival so that we show the kids that we have a great musical tradition here and that they too can dream those big dreams. I think she is right and maybe now is the time to plan next year’s Badfinger Festival?
But of all the things that has made me think about how special this town is was an event last Wednesday evening at The Hyst. For some people the Badfinger music of the 70’s can seem like ancient history but mention a male voice choir and they will think we are going back to the dark ages. I am convinced that our Male Voice tradition is something we should cherish nurture be proud of and take to the rest of the world with pride. I’ve been talking to the boys form the Morriston Orpheus for several weeks about putting on a special event at The Hyst, but for us to try to find a way to show the world that it’s still going strong. The Hyst isn’t the Brangwyn Hall, it’s a small intimate venue which just happens to have a built in TV studio. What could we do to work together.
In talking to the choir members themselves something that the public don’t get a chance to enjoy very often but which is a regular part of the choir experience is the ‘Afterglow’, the impromptu concerts held in puns or hotel bars after the ‘proper’ concert is over. What if we could find a way to capture that and let the world eavesdrop. Last Wednesday we re-arranged the whole of the Hyst to accommodate 70 members in a semi-circle around a new Grand Piano delivered the day before from Coach House Pianos in Fforestfach. Then we tried our best to move cameras and lights to get the best angles and views.
It wasn’t easy to try to keep the intimacy whilst still get the shots we need to make it work for a ‘TV’ audience. We learnt a lot of lessons and next Wednesday we will go live to the world with the first ‘Afterglow’ with the Morriston Orpheus. For the last 10 m minutes we just let the cameras roll and stood back and took it all in. I must say when they sang ‘Gwahoddiad’ the Goosebumps on arm had their own Goosebumps. We finished with the Welsh Nation Anthem. Of course, they couldn’t sing that sitting down. By standing up they ruined every shot we had carefully planned but it really didn’t matter because that was what they do when they sing ‘Hen Wlad Fy’n Hadau’ and that’s what I want the world to see.
It will be a small select band who join us at the Hyst on Wednesday because with 70 in the choir there isn’t really that much room left for an audience but of course you can join us live from the Hyst’s Facebook page from 8pm. I think what we have is really quite special and I think it’s time to start letting the rets of the world know…as long as we don’t get too big for our boots along the way of course, that’s not the Swansea Way. And that’s why this town is special.