South West Wales

Artists' fears over Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea

The Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea
Image caption Swansea's Dylan Thomas Centre was opened by former US president Jimmy Carter

More than 200 writers, artists and supporters of Swansea's Dylan Thomas Centre have signed a letter expressing concerns about its future use.

Dr Who writer Russell T Davies, Cerys Matthews and Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy are among the names calling for it to be run by trust.

Swansea council is looking to lease the centre to the city's universities to open a "creative industries hub."

It said the centre would not close and the permanent exhibition would remain.

The letter states since the centre was opened 17 years ago by former US president Jimmy Carter it had delivered a programme of literary and artistic events "unparalleled for its variety and excellence by any other arts venue in the United Kingdom".

It adds: "The centre has celebrated the literary arts of Wales, in addition to music, drama and the visual arts, and has attracted to Swansea a panoply of internationally renowned writers who, returning home, have burnished the renown of Swansea and Wales in all parts of the world."

The signatories, who also include Hollywood actor Michael Sheen, theatre director Michael Bogdanov and Thomas's son Colm, say with the 100th anniversary of the poet's birth in 2014 a trust would be the best way to safeguard its future.

"Plans are currently being laid, locally and nationally, for celebrations of the 100th anniversary," they added.

"The city is surely going to look a little bizarre, to put it mildly, in the eyes of the wider world if it is seen to have abandoned the Dylan Thomas Centre on the eve of this major national and international celebration."

Image caption Writers, actors and musicians have signed the letter

Last year Swansea council and universities revealed plans to transform the centre into a "cultural and enterprise hub" for creative industries.

But in response to the letter the council said it was "making serious and significant preparations" for the anniversary with the Welsh Assembly Government and other partners.

"The Dylan Thomas Centre is not threatened with closure," said a spokesman.

"A joint venture alongside the University of Wales will allow us to secure its future during these difficult economic times when finance is limited.

"We are working very closely with our partners to make sure that the Dylan Thomas exhibition is refreshed and improved.

"The current proposal is that the exhibition will remain at the centre permanently although we are jointly working with the University of Wales on the fine detail.

The spokesman added that the centenary of Dylan Thomas' birth was a "fantastic opportunity for Swansea to celebrate his life and works".

"The enhanced exhibition is among a series of initiatives being planned to ensure we promote Dylan Thomas and Swansea to a world-wide audience in 2014.

"The intention at the Dylan Thomas Centre is to create a 21st Century hub of culture, academia and business while saving Swansea taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds in the long-term."

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