Alun Davies AM, Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, officially opened Tŷr Gwrhyd, Swansea Valley’s new Welsh Language Centre on Thursday 7 July.
Last year, Swansea University’s Academi Hywel Teifi received a grant worth £300,000 through the Bwrw Mlaen Capital Investment Grant in order to establish a new Welsh Centre in the Swansea Valley that will that will allow the people in the area to live, learn and enjoy their Welsh, making the language a visible part of everyday life.
Working with Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council (NPTCBC ) and the Menter Iaith Castell-nedd Port Talbot (the local Welsh Language Initiative), Tŷ’r Gwrhyd, which is located in the heart of Pontardawe, will operate as a hub for education and learning, social activities and programmes for children and young people, community events, a book shop, and office space. The Centre is also home to Menter Iaith Castell-nedd Posrt Talbot, the Urdd and Welsh for Adults – Swansea Bay Region.
Dr Gwenno Ffrancon, Director of Academi Hywel Teifi, said: “We were delighted to welcome Alun Davies to officially open Tŷ’r Gwrhyd. The centre has been open for a few weeks now, and it has already gained considerable support from the local community. The Welsh Government grant has allowed us to create a centre that puts a number of Welsh language organisations under one roof, thus facilitating easy collaboration for the benefit of the language.
It is the obvious place for those who want to live their lives through Welsh or learn more about the language, and there are activities for all ages and linguistic abilities. In just a few months, we have already seen how this resource has highlighted the Welsh language in the area, and has restored its use with a number of families.”
Some 21,000 (15.3%) of people living in the county borough speak Welsh. However, the 2011 Census showed however that the language in the Swansea Valley in particular is losing ground as a community language.
Alun Davies, Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, said: “Tŷ’r Gwrhyd will be an important part of the community, and a modern and inviting space for people of all ages to enjoy and learn through the medium of Welsh. It is in an area of strategic importance for the Welsh language and the Centre will contribute greatly to encouraging more people there to learn Welsh and have the confidence to practice and use it in a social setting.”
The model for Welsh Centres is one of the main recommendations of the research carried out by Heini Gruffudd and Steve Morris of Academi Hywel Teifi, commissioned by the Welsh Government. The research considered the most successful method in reversing a language shift in communities where the Welsh language is no longer in the majority. The recommendation was to create and build bespoke Welsh Centres and create social networks for Welsh speakers and learners. As a result, the Welsh Government decided to fund a scheme that would encourage and support local authorities and higher education institutions to establish Welsh community centres across Wales through the Capital Investment Fund: Welsh language centres and learning spaces.
Ali Thomas OBE, Leader of NPTCBC, said: “I am delighted to see the results of our close work alongside Swansea University to develop a centre which will foster and sustain the Welsh language within Neath Port Talbot. We are committed to working with partners to deliver a vibrant and strategic programme that will contribute to the promotion of the language beyond the classroom and other formal settings. This fantastic resource will support and promote Welsh language activities not only in the Swansea Valley but in the wider local area.”