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Pontardawe Arts Centre

Tel : 01792  863722

In the early 1900s Pontardawe was a vibrant, prosperous town and the natural centre of the mining and industrial area of the Swansea Valley. Entertainment and participation in the performing arts were closely entwined with the concept of self-improvement and education and any self-respecting community in industrialised South Wales needed to provide itself with the accommodation necessary to house these activities.  Thus the idea of the Pontardawe Public Hall and Institute was born.  A group of local worthies established a representative committee to plan the construction of a venue to

“Provide an opening for the introduction of best literary and musical talent which will have an inspiring and elevating influence on the life of the place”.The Institute and Public Halls were constructed in 1908 using subscription funds raised in the town.  It is the building’s place in the social history of the area which gives it it’s special status, in addition to the architectural qualities of it’s simple but attractive principal spaces. Designed by W Beddoe Rees of Cardiff the building was constructed between July 1908 and May 1909 by Radford and Greaves of Derby and opened on 6 May 1909 with much celebration by Madame Adeline Patti, the Baroness Rolf Cederstrom.The Public Halls and Institute consists of three main architectural elements constructed of brickwork and roughcast render with slate roofs.   The three storey Institute housed meeting rooms, offices, a library and reading rooms.  The single storey Billiard Hall sandwiched between the Institute and the Public Hall with an attractive timber trussed roof with central roof light.  Finally the Public Hall consisting of a grand auditorium with balcony originally seating 1500 for concerts, musical performances and recitations. The Public hall and Institute remained the focal point of Pontardawe’s Cultural and Social activities well beyond the end of the Second World War.  As the heavy industries of the area began to decline however and economically the area started to alter, so too did the resolve of the town to sustain the building.  The ever popular Pontardawe Snooker Club ensured that the Billiard Room  continued to thrive.  The fabric of the building however  deteriorated to the point where it became unsafe and the building was eventually closed.  A once thriving community building had fallen into dereliction in a similar fashion to ones all over the South Wales Valleys. The former Lliw Valley Borough Council had showed it’s long term intention to support the arts in Pontardawe by the opening of Theatr Cwmtawe, the second phase of Pontardawe Leisure Centre in September 1986.  It was a flexible performance space accommodating up to 400 seats.  The policy was to promote amateur participation a nd professional performing arts and entertainment that otherwise would not visit the area. In conjunction with the Arts Council of Wales the venue was successful in attracting top name acts and loyal audiences.  Demand on the space was often high and capacity limiting.  Therefore in 1993 Lliw Valley Borough Council sought to improve the arts provision in Pontardawe to meet this demand.  Consequently plans were set in motion to convert the Public Hall and Institute to a multi purpose arts centre, once again restoring it to the focal point of Pontardawe’s Cultural and Social activities. Firstly the building lease was purchased from the existing trustees, then with money secured from the European Regional Development fund and Welsh Development Agency the project commences.  The architectural design contract was won by Niall Phillips Architects of Bristol and the construction tender won by Sharpe and Ayers of Swansea. Pontardawe Arts Centre re-opened to the public in October 1996 with a remit to provide opportunities to enjoy a broad range of professional work of the highest calibre and opportunities for participation in the arts. The main auditorium has been restored to it’s former glory with fixed stalls in the balcony whilst retaining flexible seating downstairs although with a much reduced capacity (450).  In addition to the support of Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council funding from Arts Council of Wales enables an exciting and vibrant live programme to be maintained.  From classical music to drama and dance, literature and comedy, blues and world music, something for everyone to enjoy.  The regular cinema screening provide the opportunity to witness the latest blockbusters as well as the less mainstream programme of movies provided by the resident film club. Boasting some of the finest facilities for Snooker in the area the snooker hall remains an integral part of the building. The superb attic gallery, Oriel Lliw, hosts exhibitions from local, national and international artists.  A varied programme is presented of two and three dimensional work, photography and craft. The dance studio provides opportunities to participate and perform with regular classes in drama, dance and music.

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