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  • Lawrence Bailey

City of Culture: a bid too far?

The saying goes that a camel is a horse designed by a committee – and in that respect, the collective decision behind the City of Culture result was always going to give someone the hump.

But let’s be clear on one point; nobody got snubbed. The judges knew pretty much what they were looking for from the outset and it was up to contestants to position themselves accordingly.

I found out few weeks ago that a research outfit I sometimes use is based in the outskirts of Coventry. They mentioned that the west Midlands city went into the contest with a cross-sector methodology that sounded very similar like the one used by Swansea to secure the City Deal.

In other words, they pushed an home-grown agenda of sustained economic betterment as much as portraying themselves as a deserving provincial case worthy of central support.

One criticism I’ve heard levelled at the Swansea campaign is that it overdid things by being seen as top-heavy in civic institutions and hand-picked luvies. But that’s like complaining your lungs get to do all the breathing.

People here traditionally look to the council to provide leadership and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

All that said, something I learned a long while ago about lobbying is that you don’t waste precious resources preaching to the choir. You focus on the decision-makers and the people who advise them.

A supporting chorus of cheerleaders may look cool yet you seldom win a game by making a lot of noise from the sidelines. I’d add that swamping social media is fine so long as your ‘digital presence’ avoids anything about possible theatre closures.

There was a Westminster Hall debate a few days before the announcement where Swansea-based MPs all but nailed down a response from ministers. I’m not saying it was a definitive moment but it could have benefited from being a bit more joined-up in approach.

We know from experience that showcasing Swansea on the national stage throws up subsequent opportunities. Let’s hope that history repeats itself in that respect with a few spin-offs. Even then though, I still think we can do better by campaigning with the mindset of a city seeking a hand-up and not a hand-out.

Otherwise I suspect City of Culture is always going to be a bid too far.

Partnerships working for the good of the planet

I was more than happy to accept a recent invitation from UWTSD to the launch of a new public-private partnership project to aid developing nations.

I’d assumed that we’d be hearing about some plans for the future. What I wasn’t expecting was that the PURO collaboration between the university and technology firm Power & Water is already up and running and undergoing field trials.

Basically, the approach is to use a patented combination of electrical and ultrasound treatments to decontaminate drinking water. The smart bit is that the system is solar-powered and ideal for remote localities where electrical supply is restricted.

Humanitarian charity Oxfam are very excited about the development and took us through examples of use in Bangladesh where conditions defy description.

I anticipate that the PURO partnership will flourish at its SA1 base. It’s great to know that Swansea Bay is helping to make a real difference where it’s needed.

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