South East Wales

Michael Sheen's Passion boosts Port Talbot trade

Michel Sheen on Aberavon sea front
Image caption Thousands of people descended on Port Talbot over three days to watch and take part in Passion

Local businesses have praised the success of Michael Sheen's Passion for "putting Port Talbot on the map."

The 72-hour performance, inspired by the biblical passion play, took place around the town on Easter weekend.

Local traders saw a "phenomenal" boost in trade, as thousands flocked to watch the Hollywood actor perform.

Calls have been made to give the actor, brought up in Baglan, recognition for raising the town's profile.

During the marathon event, Sheen performed sequences on Port Talbot's beaches, hills and streets, including "The Trial" at Civic Square, "The Procession" at Station Road and "The Cross" on Aberavon Seafront.

Neath Port Talbot Council's head of economic development Gordon Andrews called it a "three day non-stop celebration."

"This event was a tremendous boost to the local economy. The whole area benefited," he said.

Many hotels in the area were fully booked during the weekend, with visitors arriving from all over the world to watch the open-air performance.

Gill Hedges, a sales manager at the Aberavon Beach Western Hotel said: "The Passion has had a great impact on the hotel and businesses in the area. It was a great event for the whole area".

Phil and Barbra Brown, who run Margam B&B The Barn, hosted Twilight actress Toni Trucks and close family relatives of Sheen, who flew in from Canada.

Image caption Michael Sheen performs The Passion

"We are so pleased that these guests chose to stay with us and grateful to Michael Sheen for helping to raise the profile of Neath Port Talbot and attract all these additional visitors to the area," said Mr Brown.

'Fantastic experience'

Port Talbot's shops also recorded booming sales over Easter, thanks to the massive influx of visitors.

Aberafan Shopping Centre manager Steve Redmore said: "It was phenomenal, absolutely fantastic for the town.

"We've got a footfall counting system in the centre and we average around 26,000 visitors on a Saturday. But on the Saturday of The Passion, we had over 40,000 visitors in just one day.

"It has definitely put Port Talbot on the map and many tenants had an increase in trade. A lot of people took note of the event and had a fantastic experience when they came here. I would hope that they would revisit Port Talbot."

Sheen's version of The Passion has not only brought extra revenue to Port Talbot, it has also appealed to the town's spiritual side.

Canon Nigel Cahill, Rector of Aberavon, said: "I heard one lady in her 80s say she's never heard so many people talking about Easter at Easter.

"People in the town are talking about the story of Jesus at a time when the story of Easter tends to be about how they passed the bank holiday. So the story of Jesus has been raised in its awareness.

"This teacher figure portrayed by Michael Sheen gave the churches a tremendous opportunity and given people a lot of hope."

An online petition, which has 125 signatures so far, is calling for Sheen to be knighted for his efforts in performing in and directing The Passion, which was a National Theatre Wales project.

And Port Talbot traders also say he "should be commended."

Council leader Ali Thomas said: "The Passion was an overwhelming success which will be remembered in the community for years to come.

"The spectacular performance captured community spirit in Port Talbot at its very best and has showcased Port Talbot on the world stage."

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