Gala night to celebrate 125 years of Swansea Grand Theatre
A host of well-known names and familiar faces will come together on Swansea’s best-loved stage to celebrate 125 years of Swansea Grand Theatre on Saturday 23rd July.
Creative collective Grand Ambition is producing a night of music, dance, drama, song and entertainment with a star-studded line up, including Ria Jones, Mike Doyle, Kev Johns, Mose1time, Ify Iwobi, Valley Rock Voices, Karl Morgan & Who’s Molly?, Mal Pope, Crossing Borders, Hayley Gallivan, Bronwen Lewis, Steve Balsamo and Lee David Bowen.
As well as established artists, a debut performance from The Rising Stars Theatre Co and the Fluellen Theatre Company, the Gala will also showcase young talent from the city, including resident companies Harry’s Youth Theatre, Mellin Theatre Arts and others.
The programme will combine West-End showstoppers with Dylan Thomas, rap and powerful choral numbers, the Grand Gala and organisers say it promises to be a joyous celebration of Swansea.
Grand Ambition is a collaboration between Swansea City Council and Swansea based professional artists Richard Mylan, Steve Balsamo, Michelle McTernan and Christian Patterson.
Michelle explained “We all started our careers here at the Grand. It has a very special place in all our hearts. The fact that we have the opportunity to create ‘in house’ engagements and work in this beautiful building is an absolute honour.”
Actor and director Richard Mylan said: “We must honour its past and it’s incredibly bright future. The talent that we have on stage for this one-off event will reflect just that”
Musician Steve Balsamo is the third director of Grand Ambition and will perform on the night.
He said “The Grand has always loomed large in my life and it’s always been a thrill to perform here. Personally, to be able to sing my own song on this special night and to leave a thumb print on the legacy of The Grand will be an absolute honour”.
The event is directed by writer, director and actor Christian Patterson, who said: “It is an honour to be directing this Gala in the theatre that inspired me to be an actor. It will be a joy to commemorate its glorious past and look toward its glittering future.”
In 1897 Mouillot and Morell, two entrepreneur actor/managers, seized an opportunity to build a theatre in Swansea and they purchased the former Drill Hall in Singleton Street.
They demolished it and employed William Hope, an experienced Theatre architect to design The Grand with a capacity of 2,500, and the theatre is now the only surviving example of his work.
It was subsequently opened by the opera star Adelina Patti who arrived at Swansea train station and boarded an open top horse and cart rode through the streets which were lined with all her fans.
By 1930 the theatre was a full time repertory theatre but in January 1933 was closed for six months because of the flu epidemic. The audiences seem to miss the regularity of attending and after this break, there was a noticeable decline.
After a short re-opening as a “Cine Variety Theatre” it closed in 1934 and stayed dark apart from occasional performances until the mid-50s when it once more became a repertory venue under the management of actor/director, John Chilvers.
In 1978 the local council bought the Grand, making it Swansea’s civic theatre and from 1982-1986, £5million worth of renovation and building was carried out. The new look Grand re-opened in December that year with the pantomime Aladdin.
In 1999 a new arts wing was added housing a new box office, studio theatre, exhibition area, rehearsal rooms and café.
In 2020 the stage became a testing centre for Covid19 during the pandemic until Aug 2021 with the public entering through the scene dock doors where sets along with their builders and technicians would normally have entered.
Most recently The Multicultural Hub was built and became home to (RCC) Race Council Cymru, Chinese in Wales and The African Community Centre.
The Theatre has a new manager Mr Grant McFarlane who will undertake management of the Swansea Grand Theatre and the Brangwyn Hall, in conjunction with Cultural Services’ management team.
All line up announcements and updates will be available on Grand Ambition’s social media channels.
Tickets for the Grand Gala are available now for Swansea Grand Theatre box office, online, by phone and in person. Full details can be found here
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