What an area hit by riot wants from the election

One city community hit the headlines three years ago for all the wrong reasons.

Cars were set alight, homes vandalised, and police attacked during two hours of rioting in Mayhill in Swansea, described by a judge as the "worst outbreak of mass violence" seen by the city in his lifetime.

Eighteen people were sentenced for their part in the disorder, which began after a balloon release for local teenager Ethan Powell, 19, who collapsed and died the day before, on 19 May 2021.

Now the people living in the area say while they do not want to focus on the past, issues like anti-social behaviour, drug misuse and childcare costs continue to affect them.

Burned out cars in a street in Mayhill following disorder
Cars were set on fire and bricks were thrown through people's windows during the disorder [Robert Melen]

Mayhill, along with the city centre, Sketty, Blaenymaes and Morriston, sits within the traditionally safe Labour-held seat of Swansea West.

But claims that Labour’s candidate for the area has been "parachuted" in for this general election have been criticised by locals and members of the party.

With polling only days away, residents say most important to them is seeing change on their doorsteps, no matter which party forms the government after 4 July.

One thing they would like to see change is the drug-taking on their streets.

Beverly Williams, 45, from Mayhill, said she will "definitely be voting" and that the use of illegal substances is widespread.

"Drugs are freely available, on every street in Swansea, I’ve seen it," she said.

"We live it, it’s on our street day in, day out."

Beverly Williams
Beverly Williams says drugs are a problem across the city [BBC]

While most said that the community has moved on since the riot, in Townhill’s Phoenix Centre anti-social behaviour was worrying people.

Seb, 16, who volunteers in the community centre, is too young to vote in this election but said he had concerns about his local area.

"There’s a lot of anti-social behaviour involved, from drugs to motorbike issues," he said.

Owen Pillai is a former youth worker in Swansea and said that there’s "very little facilities or services" to engage the young.

"The fact that there are young people, not in education or participating in anti-social behaviour, is a result of a much wider picture," he said.

"Many families are working hand to mouth day in day out. Young people are basically left to entertain themselves."

Sanu Suresh, 33, has been living in the area for only a year and does not know how she will vote.

"Day to day life is costly, the council tax, everything. Me and my husband will discuss, and we will vote."

In Sketty’s Cylch Ti a Fi nursery session, a regular conversation topic amongst mothers is childcare costs, especially ahead of the election.

"It’s like having a second mortgage, paying for childcare," said mother-of-two Sarah Dorsett, 38.

"My husband works full-time, I work part-time, and the financials are [that] every month we’re only just breaking even."

Sarah is also concerned about sewage spills in the sea and not being able to use their local natural resources in Swansea.

Sarah Dorsett holding her baby daughter Heidi
Sarah Dorsett says the cost of living and water pollution are the issues she's most concerned about [BBC]

Mother-of-two Lizzie Lewis, 31, said healthcare was "key" for her in this election - although it is the responsiblity of the Welsh government, and not the UK.

"I know a lot of doctors and GPs that work in the NHS and know the pressures they’re under," she said. "So it’s really hard when I’m trying to access the medical access we need, like accessing a GP."

Another devolved issue which concerns her Also is local Welsh language education provision. Many Welsh primary schools in the area are close to full capacity.

"There’s lots of demand for Welsh language education in the area, but not enough provision," she said.

"My daughter has a place in reception, but my son turns three in March and their meithrin [nursery] is full."

Morriston has joined the Swansea West constituency during this general election after boundaries were redrawn.

Rhian Williams, secretary of the town's Tabernacle chapel, said people worried about NHS waiting times.

"Lots of our members here have got mobility problems, waiting for hip replacements, and it takes an age to see somebody, let alone get on the waiting lists," she said.

"We’re a very under-privileged area, lots of people are out of work."

The candidates in Swansea West are:

Labour - Torsten Bell

Conservative - Tara-Jane Sutcliffe

Plaid Cymru - Gwyn Williams

Liberal Democrats - Mike O’Carroll

Reform - Patrick Benham-Crosswell

Green Party - Peter Jones

Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition - Gareth Bromhall