Culture and the arts - Swansea on the world stage
Tue 10th Feb
In his opening remarks Professor Stead eschewed the elitist definitions supplied by philosophers and social scientists and argued that culture was the emanation of a place and its people. He spoke with gratitude of his education at Barry and Gowerton Grammar Schools and Swansea University. What he learned there was the basis of his breadth of interests and delight in world-wide travel. The education he received in Swansea was reflective of a culture that had not been the exclusive possession of intellectuals and artists but was a spirit ("soul" was a tern he used more than once) that lived to comprehend the whole of a community's collective life.
He provided an account, both at length and at random, of Swansea people whose endeavours had reached beyond Swansea to the globe encompassing not only literature and the art but industry, science, theatre, music, film and sport. It was a culture that made good in the world and world took notice. Two among many examples that Professor Stead used to illustrate Swansea's international impact were the six Swansea footballer of the Welsh team that were finalists against Brazil in the 1958 World Cup and secondly the many academic luminaries, such as Heller and Rush Rhees, nurtured by Swansea University in the forties and fifties.
The flower of Swansea's culture has been greatest in the nineteenth century yet it continued to flourish despite the challenges and upheavals in the First and Second World Wars when Swansea's contribution to victory matched that of many larger towns and cities.
Economic and social developments can either quicken or atrophy a culture. A place and its people can cohere or fragment. De-industrialisation, typified by the closure of the Mumbles railway and the hollowing out of the city centre, undermined much of Swansea's traditional culture from 1945.
Professor Stead believes that the terms of exchange between Swansea and it's people has become more individualist and less collective in character. He argued that the robustness of Swansea's culture might be restored providing all its citizens, rather than its politicians, had confidence enough to exploit the liveliness of Swansea's Premier League team, the current performances of Swansea's sons and daughters on stage and screen and the scientific breakthrough made at CERN by Swansea men.