Warmest of welcomes brings a smile to Spanish eyes

20 April 2011

A TOWN of contrasts and amazing talent – that’s the verdict of WildWorks community director Mercedes Kemp, who has spent six happy and productive months in Port Talbot in the lead-up to The Passion.The Passion Mercedes Kemp
Mercedes, aged 57, who is originally from Spain but now lives in Cornwall, where production company WildWorks is based, says her first impression – of a townscape dominated by the steelworks and the M4 – changed as soon as she started talking to residents.
“I was knocking doors, and setting up workshops with schools, colleges, the women’s refuge, the Women’s Institute and all sorts of other groups,” she said.
“And I soon came to realise that beneath the steel and the motorway lay a tight community with a very real pride in their town. The welcome they gave us was extraordinary.”
Residents were only too keen to provide Mercedes with the material she was seeking for The Passion – their personal memories, stories about the town, film footage, photographs and so on.
“People could not have been more hospitable, and they were very keen to participate,” she said. “They feel it is important that their stories are heard – and they didn’t feel they were being heard.”
Of course, she had the best possible entry to the community because of Michael Sheen, of whom people are all very proud, and who shares their pride in the town. Not that that’s the only thing they have in common.
“The talent of people in Port Talbot is just amazing,” said Mercedes, “be it in music, singing – in particular the choirs – or among the young people.”
Now she can’t wait for The Passion to begin.
“I am living in hope for the weather,” she said. “But The Passion will go ahead regardless – and the weather could make it very dramatic.
“But it will be a blessing if it stays as it is.”

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