Vetch Veg An Urban Utopia

Vetch History

July 18, 2012 / by owen

Vetch Gate, Glamorgan Street, photograph by Warren Orchard

The Vetch field was the former home of the Swans football team and the stadium a major architectural and cultural icon in the city center. Since the last game in 2005 the stadium had been empty and the home of the club was relocated to Landore, just outside the city.

The Vetch is situated in the Sandfields, an area o the city which is so called because it is like an extension of the beach. A large community comprising of housing, community centers, schools, a mosque, churches, a crown court, a prison, territorial army base and a salvation army center.  Its also in the heart of the city.

Photograph by Warren Orchard

The Vetch – Photograph by Warren Orchard

After the last game fans stormed the pitch to rip up pieces of turf to become mementos and fragments of the clubs spiritual home. The Vetch was a sacred space for fans and was closely connected to the communities’ identity. Since the last game the stadium was allowed to deteriorate and crumble. It was a huge piece of land surrounded by walls, whose giant gates which rusted and remained locked. The Vetch site became a symbol of the financial crisirs and of poor management and communication and a place which still echoed with fans that once filled it’s stands.

Things are moving so fast people feel they are no longer part of the change that’s happening around them  –  Artist, Jeanne van Heeswijk

In Swansea it was the opposite case, things were moving so slowly people no longer felt part of the change that was happening around them.

During the development of Vetch Veg we found out that 2012 would have been the Vetch ground’s centennial year and as a result was also the centenary of the Swans. We also found out that the Vetch field got its name because it was used for growing Vetch and it was a place where people would keep animals as well as a social and community space, it had a velodrome at one point and was also somewhere where people gathered to play football.

The community became disconnected and despondent about the lack of development and action with the site; its future, and the ideas for the stadiums redevelopment put forward by investors and local authority. After living with the Vetch in the centre of their community and enduring years of football riots, street fights, as well as momentous wins, huge concerts, police on horse back charging down the small streets, massive crowds and the eventual decline of the stadium, it was decided by the City and County that the grounds be demolished and a temporary green space be created, in order to make the land more attractive for re-sale. Vetch Veg and Adain Avion, Cultural Olympiad Wales together with Taliesin Arts Centre were given permission by Swansea City Council to have a temporary licence on 2,500 square meters of the overall site to engage the local community in the project, which was to be a temporary use of the land, lasting until August 2012.

Proposed plan for Vetch Veg garden.

The Sandfileds was ready, to not only to witness, but take part in the next stages of the sites development. Vetch Veg was about finding a way of working, which engaged the community in the physical process of shaping the artwork or activity, which allowed participation and empowerment; creating not only artists as agents of change but community as agents of change.

Vetch Veg is now being discussed as a permanent solution for a part of the Vetch’s future development. A new lease has been agreed with Swansea Council and the project continues to develop and grow. From September 2011 – 12 Vetch Veg became a new centre of the community; it attempts to address ideas around contemporary community development, land use, direct action, sustainability, food growth and the environment.