Owen Evans studied Economics at Swansea University, graduating in 1991. He is Chief Executive of Welsh language television channel, S4C.
What are your memories of studying at Swansea?
I remember a happy campus, friendly lecturers, a friendly town, the beach, waiting for a bus in the rain in the Quadrant, seeing the Manic Street Preachers in the sunshine at Singleton Park, trying to think of how to get home from Mumbles after an evening out, rugby at St Helens and the Gym Gym (the Welsh society) on Wednesday afternoons. Sweet memories.
I loved the subject after doing an A-level in a year. A combination of philosophy and science and understanding how people's behaviour affects their decisions. Why Swansea? The University had an outstanding department under the leadership of Professor Ken George.
What are the challenges facing Welsh medium media today?
Some historical ones: a lack of funding, a relatively small pool of people, but also new challenges as the offer to viewers and content users has changed with Netflix etc. We must fight now to get the voice of Welsh-speaking people heard on the world stage. But there are new opportunities - a chance to unite the Welsh people and share the language and our content across the world through digital communities by encouraging our people's pride in our language.
What does a typical day look like? (before the current crisis!)
We have offices in Carmarthen, Caernarfon and Cardiff so I'll be on my way to one of them. Meetings with the team or colleagues to discuss ideas or opportunities or, of course, to discuss our challenges. At some point there is a political element, dealing with S4C supporters in London or in Wales, discussing the future and then some conversations about some of our longer-term themes as we plan a channel for a future where fewer people will be watching the schedule on a screen at home and more will be choosing what, when and on which platform they want to see S4C content.
Did your university education inspire you to progress to the Welsh Government’s Director of Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning role?
Yes. I enjoyed my time in Swansea, I had the privilege of higher education - meeting people from all walks of life and learning about an interesting subject. I was given the chance to think and mature in happy surroundings but also be challenged and nurtured academically. What moving to work in Government as Director and then Director General for Education and then Deputy Permanent Secretary gave me was the ability to try to change things for the better for learners across the country from all backgrounds to give them the same opportunity as I had been given.
What are your memories of being a Welsh-speaking student at Swansea University?
I feel that Swansea still has not lost its greatest asset - that it is a city that feels like a town. It was impossible to walk down a street without hearing a ‘Morning!’ Neither Swansea nor the University were extremely Welsh but yet there was a feeling of support for the language. The Gym Gym (Welsh Society) was quite successful at the time and there was a buzz around its activities. In fact, many of my friends today are the same ones who I had a few pints with back in Swansea. In that period, it was supportive of the language, with two of the top leaders being Welsh speakers. As the University settles into new leadership it will be an important step to reaffirm their support for the language.