Bright light, friendly city. Swansea tunnel turns up the light.
A Swansea subway off Swansea High Street has become more friendly, brighter and safer thanks to collective artistic effort and the ongoing addition of new lighting. The much-improved lighting being installed in the Pottery Street Subway (better known to locals as ‘The Tunnel’) will make the area feel a lot more pleasurable to use. The subway links The Strand to Swansea’s High Street. The lighting provided by Network Rail builds on work already carried out by the arts led, community engaged project called Tunnel Vision Jam.
‘The Tunnel’ forms a useful cut through and runs under the railway near the main railway station. Some excellent work done by the project Tunnel Vision Jam (a collaboration between Swansea based Fresh Murals Co. and the HigherStreet International) was highlighted by Swansea News Network back in March this year.
Light in the ‘tunnel of colour’
Tunnel Vision Jam is part of From the Station to the Sea, a partnership between Volcano Theatre Company and Coastal Housing Group, funded by the Arts Council of Wales under it’s Ideas: People: Places initiative. The project has been working with local people, businesses and organisations to make the pedestrian underpass a safer and more pleasant environment. Just after that report in Swansea News Network was published, it was quickly and successfully turned into a ‘tunnel of colour’ having become a ‘legal wall’ for artists from Swansea and further afield. The collaborative effort had transformed the subway into a unique and now constantly evolving space.
The project started with an initial clean up, followed by graffiti workshops and a Tunnel Vision Jam event when many artists transformed the space. The project has since progressed in leaps and bounds, building on the links made into the community and with the owners and interested parties. This has included work to help spruce up a neighbouring greenspace and a campaign to improve the lighting and maintenance of the subway. The new lighting represents a considerable investment by Network Rail to the ongoing project and is a substantial improvement by the property owners that will benefit users of the space.
Communities working together really can make a difference.
The success of the efforts to improve the Pottery Street Subway show just what can be achieved by individual volunteers, community effort and partnerships.
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From Victorian parks to ‘Guerilla gardening’
People living in Swansea are justifiably proud of their city and undoubtedly know they have the power to make it better still. In history, there have been concentrated periods when city dwellers have taken it upon themselves to improve the quality of life in their city. These often focussed periods, sometimes as a result of rapid changes in employment, industry or increasing population density have included the period in Victorian times when new parks and open spaces were given to the ‘people’ by monied philanthropists, of grand street tree planting and the painting of wall murals and erection of public modernist sculpture in the 1970s. Bringing us more up to date are the pedestrianisation of car clogged roads, beach cleans, pop up shops, guerilla gardening and other activities of more recent times. The recent Troublemakers’ Festival highlighted some of the possibilities and showcased so many good things happening around the city. Swansea city dwellers can celebrate the recent gains towards making Swansea a city of culture too!
The power to change our environment
Sometimes in a big city, it needs the community to highlight an issue and put pressure on authorities to get things done so our public environment is improved to benefit everyone. It is rarely enough to just complain, shout about it or point out the issue to those in power (though complainers get great stuff done too!). It usually needs many differing ingredients and good, often determined people for real success. Is that you?
Most projects need money (though a litter pick is cheap!). Often there will be a need for voluntary effort to kickstart the project. Someone will be needed to call a meeting, make those first phone calls or emails and others to help get things done practically on the ground. It’s not often clear who owns what or who is responsible for what and this is clearly important to clarify early on. So too, is asking the question, who is going to look after the finished project and how will it be sustainable in the long term?
People matter in all this
People matter in all this. Individuals will have differing strengths which can be capitalised on. People will have wide ranging views and varying degrees of investment or time availability in the cause. These differing views, differing levels of commitment and expectations will all need to be managed fairly and transparently in some way.
Doing things ground up often works best as it’s often more inclusive. It highlights issues early and brings people along together on their journey with issues brought out in the open. Effective leadership may be required but not at the expense of steam rolling over people’s concerns. Influencers are also needed (the people who talk things up) as are connectors (people who get people to work together). Success comes from high-quality dialogue and comprehensive and effective consultation to ensure as many communities and users are included in decision making. Careful financing and project management are an absolute necessity. Once completed projects will need to be evaluated and any necessary follow ups made.
Communities are powerful
Communities are powerful as they can often think outside of the box. They can come up with innovative solutions that sit well within the community. The downside is that all this takes time and money. Yet, the upside is usually that the community has the opportunity to truly ‘own’ the environment or place that it needs so enjoys a better well-being. Ultimately, it’s a great way to get that friendly city most of us want.
Know a spot that needs to see the light?
Can you think of a particular spot in your neighbourhood that lacks the love? Sometimes spaces need a certain loving touch, something personal that speaks to the community and brightens up our day or makes these spaces feel like our place. Do you think you have what it takes to make that difference?
Share your story about your neighbourhood or community with Swansea News Network at info@swansea newsnetwork.org
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