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SHW Microhistories

The Swansea History Web Microhistories are small features of interest either brought up by users or content we have which we think is curious or interesting. You'll find them scattered throughout the site. Number 10 is below, you'll come across the rest as you surf around... We're still developing this idea and have no idea where its going! [CG]

SHW Microhistories:

    1. SHT 1858
    2. Blitz Bomb Damage
    3. The No.10 Lantern, Union Street
    4. The Washing Lake, Town Hill
    5. 1940s Pillbox, Swansea Beach
    6. The royal visit, 1941
    7. Swansea's Viking origins
    8. The Round School on Mayhill
    9. The Black Point Burrows
    10. Twin Town

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SHW Microhistory: 10. Twin town

Love it or hate it and there's plenty that do one or the other, the 1997 film Twin Town painted a picture of Swansea that has become an historic milestone.

In the future, when someone asks the question what was Swansea like in the closing years of the twentieth century? The answer will be go and watch Twin Town. The film was slated by large portions of the movie press both here and in the United States but absolutely loved by the residents of Swansea.

The film is one of the high tide marks of the glorious but all too brief period of 'Cool Cymru' in the 1990s when modern Welsh culture emerged from the dreadful overburden of rugby, coal mining and love spoons and spoke for a generation of urban Welsh people who live in a modern Europe and care little for harps or poetry. The writers Kevin Allen and Paul Durden had a Swansea background and used this to tremendous advantage to paint pin-sharp pictures of life and times in 1990s Swansea.

Allen and Durden deliberately set out to debunk the traditional Welsh stereotypes that hang like albatrosses around the neck of both people and country. The scenes filmed outside High Street Station where they talk about Dylan Thomas and introduce Durden's now infamous line 'pretty shitty city' are hilarious and get better with age. I have seen people incapable with laughter at the scene which ends with the (sadly) often standard foul mouthed rebuke from a Swansea cab driver who doesn't want to take anyone on a short cheap journey. Stories still circulate around the town of how Swansea councillors invited to a special showing of the film emerged speechless and horrified at the image portrayed and wondered what on earth they had let themselves in for.

Although there were unkind comparisons to Trainspotting and various Tarantino efforts, the strong points of the film for many were the honesty in showing Swansea as it is. Allen and Durden tapped into the veins of urban Swansea and displayed the rich but unclassy elite of Mayals, and the bleakness of Penlan life for the masses. The car theft, drug abuse and indifferent policing that are much of modern Swansea are all there in uncomfortable detail. The night club scenes are uncanny in their accuracy, and many Swansea residents will attest to seeing press ups in the middle of the road on a Friday night.

The first time I saw the film I remember being struck by the sheer beauty of the urban backdrops mostly filmed around the streets of Town Hill and Mount Pleasant. We live in such a photogenic city, I don't understand why more films aren't made here. I know many people expected a film from Swansea to be full of leeks, harps and Dylan Thomas nonsense and complained bitterly when they didn't get that. But for a large portion of the population of Swansea the film remains 95 minutes of pure pleasure whilst we laugh at ourselves and see people we recognise - a mirror for Swansea. (NR)

More SHW Microhistory


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