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Last Updated: Friday, 26 November, 2004, 11:25 GMT
Swansea: Lovely or ugly town?
By Nick Parry
BBC Wales News website

Swansea Bay
Swansea is the setting for the new television series Mine All Mine
Dylan Thomas famously wrote it was an "ugly, lovely, town", the Lonely Planet Guide described it as "an ashtray of a place" while locals refer to it as the "graveyard of a man's ambition."

Swansea, as a place to live, work or visit, it would seem, has its fair share of both devotees and detractors.

With a new prime-time TV series set in the city now being aired, many local people will no doubt be tuning in to see how Swansea is portrayed.

Mine All Mine - starring Griff Rhys Jones and penned by the new Dr Who writer Russell T Davies, who grew up there - tells the story of Max Vivaldi who inherits the city after a will is authenticated.

It is not the first large production to be filmed in Swansea - the 1997 movie Twin Town was shot there.

The film followed the exploits of two young brothers as they stole cars, smoked drugs, and battled corrupt police and a rugby club owner.

As the ITV series promises to paint Swansea in a more flattering light, BBC Wales News website decided to seek some of the differing takes on Swansea.


The most famous of all its sons, Dylan Thomas was born in Swansea in 1914 and lived at Cwmdonkin Drive in Uplands until he was 20. During this time, he wrote around half of all his poetry in his Collected Works as well as many short stories and numerous letters.

Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas loved Swansea, according to expert Jeff Towns

Swansea inspired some of his most famous work, such as the poem The Hunchback in the Park and the broadcast Return Journey, which movingly describes his walk through a Swansea destroyed by the three-night blitz of 1941.

Dylan Thomas expert Jeff Towns said Thomas was often perceived as not being a great admirer of his place of birth but that is far from the truth.

"He wrote a lot of letters when he left Swansea to a friend on the Evening Post saying how much he missed Swansea and how much he wanted to come back to it," explained Mr Towns.

"He had a deep love of Swansea and he was very much at home in Swansea."


The latest edition of the Lonely Planet Guide to Wales failed to go down well with Swansea residents earlier this year when it described the city as "an ashtray of a place".

Sail Bridge
The Lonely Planet Guide described Swansea as an 'ashtray'

It said Wales' second city and home town to Hollywood actress Catherine Zeta Jones was a "place with grids of grey streets and morose neighbourhood pubs" and insisted it was best avoided.

"The city," it added, "has a charm that, if not able to out-dazzle more handsome places, at least can stare them out."

But Swansea resident and writer Jack Harris hit back stating: "If that's what they think they are on a different planet to the rest of us.

"We live at the edge of Gower which has some of the best beaches and countryside in the world.

We are surrounded by outstanding natural beauty and on our way to being a terrific city."


When Twin Town hit the cinemas in 1997 it divided opinion in Swansea. Written by Swansea native Paul Durden some found the language and the storyline extreme.

Rhys Ifans
Rhys Ifans was an up and coming actor when he made Twin Town

But Jeff Towns said the film, which starred a then up-and-coming Rhys Ifans, has its merits.

"Twin Town, I think, is a magnificent film," he said.

"Like many cities Swansea has a strong east/west divide and Paul Durden depicted one side. There is no shortage of humour in the town and that comes through in the film."


Davies, the writer behind such television dramas as Bob and Rose, Queer as Folk, and Second Coming, had said he had wanted to set a production in Swansea for many years.

Griff Rhys Jones
Griff Rhys Jones' character inherits Swansea in Mine All Mine

The first episode of Mine All Mine is being shown on ITV1 on Thursdays. Kathy Griffiths, TV critic for the South Wales Evening Post was treated to a sneak preview.

"It's obvious that Russell T Davies is still very fond of his home town and wants other people to see the great locations," she said.

"It shows what people living in Swansea already know - it looks so beautiful and perhaps will redress the balance with Twin Town.

"It is a little distracting as I found I was looking at the locations and areas and streets that I recognised.

"Mumbles is used a lot as that is where Griff Rhys Jones and his family live and there is one scene where he is walking passed the shops in the back lanes."

Mrs Griffiths said there was also a sweeping view of Swansea Bay filmed from the top of Town Hill, which is one of her favourites.

"The geography of Swansea really lends itself to this. I think people in Swansea will be very pleased."


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