View from the West: The Eisteddfod's Small Beer for Swansea's Thirst; CULTURE: The City's Cultural Identity Depends Initially on Establishing a First-Class Venue and a Regular Event of Major Significance to Stage There

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Byline: Matthew Gunther-Bushell

CARDIFF has put in its bid to be the European Capital of Culture in 2008. Swansea, on the other hand, is bidding and seems to have won its way to hosting the 2006 Eisteddfod.

Not exactly a comparison of cultural ambition, I admit, but nevertheless, culture has its bankable advantages.

When Glasgow was City of Culture in 1990 it resulted in a worldwide image change for the city, which has stayed with it ever since and resulted in an economic renaissance for Glasgow.

I have no doubt that Cardiff's bid, should it be successful, would have a similar effect. But can an Eisteddfod do the same for Swansea? Of course not, but there will be the obvious, short-term economic impact of so many visitors coming to the area.

Carmarthenshire estimated that the National Eisteddfod, held in 2000 at the Millennium Coastal Park in Llanelli, generated pounds 6.4m for the local economy.

The National Eisteddfod might, however, give Swansea a chance totake cultural and economic stock. While Swansea is well on the way to establishing itself as a player in business and economic development terms, if we're honest, Swansea doesn't seem to register the slightest blip on the cultural radar.

The politically inspired downgrading of the Swansea-based Welsh Chamber Orchestra didn't help matters and apart from the Grand Theatre and the Orpheus and Morriston male voice choirs, what does Swansea have to offer visiting culture vultures?

However, if you scratch the surface you'll find that Swansea does have its fair share of culture. The city holds annual festivals from the Swansea Bay Summer Festival to the Swansea Festival for Summer Arts, the Dylan Thomas Festival to the Sea Shanty Festival. Swansea also has Wales's foremost classical ballet troupe - the Ballet Russe - based at its Grand Theatre.

Swansea has also done particularly well in terms of modern culture and music; the Radio 1 Roadshow, Party in the Park, Escape in the Park and The Stereophonics playing at Morfa. …