Hwb y Gors, our beautiful new eco-centre in the Upper Amman Valley is nearing completion. Hwb y Gors is a refurbishment and revisioning of the former Cwmgors Primary School which was a much-loved local building, serving generations of local children and families. The Hwb will include a café; pottery workshop, artists’ studios, community garden, hall and rehearsal space; education rooms, and an electric community transport scheme.
Emily Hinshelwood, Awel Aman Tawe’s Creative Director who is leading the project said “We are aiming to open the building in January 2023. It’s been a huge undertaking due to the high level of dry rot which meant we had to completely strip out the building. We’ve tried to replace some of the features of the building, but it has also enabled us to re-imagine the space going forwards. We were delighted to welcome Mrs Blank, the former headteacher, and a group of ex-teachers and staff, to see the work. They shared stories with us of their schooldays and we were very relieved that they like what we have done, our vision for the centre and most importantly that the building is going to remain at the heart of the community, albeit in a different form”.
Emily continued “We’ve worked with local filmmaker, Mike Harrison, to document the refurbishment as it’s fascinating to see how a school built in 1912 can be retro-fitted with sustainable building materials like cork external wall insulation, solar panels and a ground source heat pump to reduce its carbon footprint. Mike has won two Bafta Cymru’s for his work so it’s a beautiful film and voiced by Sarah Bowkett who was a pupil at the school and still lives close by.”
The refurbishment is also being shaped by local people who are taking part in creating textiles, stained glass and ceramics which will all be installed within the building prior to the opening. Louise Griffiths, who helped run the school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA), and is now Awel Aman Tawe’s Community Engagement Officer, said “We’ve just completed a wonderful textile piece which will be hung on the ceiling in the café. The work was led by textile artist, Menna Buss and over 20 community workshops were run by the Tawe Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers who will be moving into Hwb y Gors. More than 150 people were involved in the workshops – we were overwhelmed by the skill, energy and dedication of the local people who took part”.
Matthew Collier, a sound artist, also attended the workshops and has created a beautiful piece called ‘Yma’ which complements the textiles We had a celebration event to mark the completion of the textile and sound piece, as well as commemorating the 110th anniversary of the opening of the school in 1912. With the textile piece on display, a spread of refreshments, a chance to have a go at weaving and music from the Waun Silver Band, Eiddwen Caradog, a local award-winnning harpist, and the Swn y Nant Tune Group, everyone enjoyed. We were delighted that so many people were able to come. The event was also captured by Mike Harrison.
Louise added “We’ve now started our stained glass workshops. We are making 62 stained glass panels for windows that we uncovered during the refurbishment. The design for the stained glass has been created by artist, Simon Howard, who is leading the workshops, working with local people to make the windows. These will fitted into the Hwb, shining a light into nearly every room in the building.
Emily said “We want to thank everyone involved so far and particularly to the donors who’ve made all this possible. We’ve raised over £1.5m for the capital cost of the building and the community arts projects from the following funders.
- Community Facilities Programme / Rhaglen Cyfleusterau Cymunedol – Welsh Government/Llywodraeth Cymru
- People and Places / Pawb a’i Le – The National Lottery Community Fund / Cronfa Gymunedol y Loteri Genedlaethol
- Garfield Weston Foundation
- Members Fund, Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council (NPTCBC)
- Margaret Davies Charitable Trust
- Morel Trust
- Awards for All / Arian i Bawb – The National Lottery Community Fund / Cronfa Gymunedol Loteri Genedlaethol
- Transforming Towns, NPTCBC
- Moondance Foundation
- Welsh Government’s Landfill Disposal Tax Communities Scheme – Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA)
- Ashley Family Foundation – Community Foundation Wales / Sefydliad Cymunedol Cymru
- Welsh Government Energy Service / Gwasanaeth Ynni Llywodraeth Cymru
- Clothworkers Foundation
- Arts Council of Wales / Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru
- UK Community Renewal Fund – Neath Port Talbot Council for Voluntary Services (NPTCVS)
- Bus Services Support Grant – NPTCBC
- Western Valleys Community Transport Scheme – Community Transport Association / Cymdeithas Cludiant Cymunedol – Welsh Government / Llywodraeth Cymru
- Awel Co-op and Egni Co-op
- Communities Investment Fund – Social Investment Cymru (WCVA) / Buddsodddiad Cymdeithasol Cymru (CGGC)
- Virgin Media O2 Together Fund – Climate Cymru, Big Green Week
- West Glamorgan Regional Integrated Fund
- Sustainable Communities Wales /Cymunedau Cynaliadwy Cymru – Welsh Government / Llywodraeth Cymru
Notes for Editor:
Awel Aman Tawe (AAT) is a community energy charity which has been operating for 21 years. It was created by local people in the Upper Amman and Swansea Valleys, a former coal mining area 20 miles north of Swansea. Our prime drivers are tackling climate change, job creation, retaining wealth in the Welsh economy and engaging people in energy. We have a strong reputation for delivery of education, arts and engagement. We have set up two co-ops:
- Awel Co-op, is a 4.7MW community wind farm which was commissioned in Jan 2017. It was funded by a £5.25m loan from Triodos Bank and a £3m community share offer. The annual turnover is £1.2m. www.awel.coop
- Egni Co-op develops rooftop solar on schools, businesses and community buildings. It has installed over 4.5MWp on 90 sites in Wales. It’s now the largest rooftop solar co-op in the UK. Egni has raised £5m from a community share offer and £2.12m from the Development Bank of Wales to fund the installs which are ongoing. We save our sites more than £100k in electricity costs/year and 1,000 tonnes in carbon emissions. All surplus goes into energy education projects in schools working in partnership with EnergySparks www.egni.coop
Over 80 local community organisations and schools are members of Awel and Egni Coops, owning more than £100k of shares, gaining a sustainable income stream from the projects. This includes a range of groups such as Merched y Wawr, schools, sports clubs and community centres.
We have over 1,500 members of our two renewable energy co-ops. In 2019, Awel Aman Tawe was recognised as Environmental Organisation of the Year in the Social Enterprise UK Awards.