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Monday, November 15, 1999 Published at 07:55 GMT

UK: Wales

Welsh, sexy and in New York

A-list star Catherine Zeta Jones hosted the opening night of "Sws"

The New York branch of a society for the glitterati among Welsh ex-pats has held its first star-studded meeting.

"Sws" the Welsh word for kiss, also stands for Social Welsh and Sexy.

Sws was founded by actor-director Stifyn Parri, who said that when he first moved to London, his Welsh friends began to play down their identity as a social group who liked having fun.

"When I first came here I noticed that all my friends had sort of disappeared and faded into the background," he said.

[ image: Sws member Ioan Gruffudd is a regular party-goer]
Sws member Ioan Gruffudd is a regular party-goer
"The Irish used to meet up at clubs or pubs and have a damn good 'craic'."

"And we have this word 'hwyl' which is the same meaning as craic, but I didn't see anybody having it."

The club began in London four years ago in the fashionable Groucho Club in Soho, as a small party of 70 trendy pals.

Now it boasts a membership of 1,200 Welsh glitterati - mainly high-flyers from the world of arts, media and politics - who meet in London for monthly parties.

Many of the renowned A-list of celebrities can also boast membership of Sws - Catherine Zeta Jones, Ioan Gruffudd, Sian Phillips, Catatonia and the Manic Street Preachers.

Even "Notting Hill" star Rhys Ifans puts in an appearance at the parties every now and then.

With this wave of Welsh talent now heading across the Atlantic, it was merely a matter of time before an American branch of the club opened.

And Hollywood's hottest star - Swansea-born Catherine Zeta Jones - agreed to be the club's "ambassador" and hosted the first meeting at the fashionable "Lot 61" venue on West 21st Street.

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