The venue was originally built in 1908 as a Public Hall and Institute and was opened with much celebration in 1909 by Madame Adeline Patti. Designed by W. Beddoe Rees of Cardiff and constructed by Radford and Greaves of Derby, the building was comprised of three separate architectural areas: the three storey main building containing offices, the single storey snooker hall, and the grand auditorium.
Like many public halls in South Wales, Pontardawe Institute fell into dereliction and eventually closed to the public. In 1993 Lliw Valley Council sought to improve the arts provision in the town which was, at the time, using a space (known as Theatre Cwmtawe) at Pontardawe Leisure Centre to host cultural events. However, the space was limited which restricted the calibre of event that could go ahead there. Using funding from the European Regional Development Fund and Welsh Development Agency, the lease for the old Institute was purchased and plans for a new venue began. In 1996 Pontardawe Arts Centre was re-opened housing a new Box Office, the Oriel Lliw Art Gallery, a dance studio, meeting rooms and offices, the restored snooker hall, a theatre bar, the grand traditional auditorium and the town cinema.
Fact or Fiction?
The venue today is said by many to be haunted and both the public and staff have had spooky experiences there, including hearing the piano play by itself and witnessing ghostly sightings at night. It has even been the site for a paranormal investigation. Sceptic or not, it is hard to deny that the building is an impressive blend of contemporary and traditional styles, steeped in history and is a treasure to the people of Pontardawe.