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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Filmstar bear's terrific response

AN ART teacher has been overwhelmed with the response to her one-of-a-kind teddy bear which has been spreading festive cheer in Denbighshire.

Sarah Chapman, aged 57, from Llandegla, created Carys, the six-foot bespoke bear which stars in Denbighshire County Council’s Christmas shopping video.

The two-minute  film has been produced to showcase the wide range of local shops in the county and as well as telling the story of Carys’ magical journey, features a family completing their Christmas shopping in Denbighshire with all gifts bought from local traders.

Making the bear took Sarah 50 hours, seven metres of material and 10kg of stuffing.

The mum-of-two started making rag dolls and soft toys when she was still at school near Brecon, South Wales, and now runs her handmade teddy bear business, Bilberry Bears.

Sarah said: “I have done a lot of different jobs over the years and never had any formal training as an artist.

“A few years ago I had the inspiration to make individual fabric bears.

“I’m slowly building up the business, it is just me, there is no big production line.”

Sarah was approached by Frozen Moon Productions, who produced the film on behalf of the Council, to make a bear costume modelled on one of her creations.

She said: “I was pleased to be asked but I went into a panic, I’ve never made a 6ft bear costume before.

“It was very stressful but the reaction has been fantastic. People love Carys and everyone says the video is fantastic. It is a really heart-warming story and it supports local businesses which I love.

“I have been overwhelmed. I have had a lot of lovely responses. People have been showing a real interest after the film.”

Sarah, who has been teaching art at St Mary's Catholic Primary School, Wrexham, for 12 years also writes poetry and makes greeting cards.

She said: “It is great to work with the children. I love it. I learn as much from them as they do from me.

“They have seen the film and all the children have said they love it.”

Leader of Denbighshire, Councillor Hugh Evans OBE, said: “This is a fantastic film with a heart-warming story and a really important message – shop locally this Christmas.

“All the businesses featured are based in Denbighshire and the film shows the huge range of products and services available.

“As a Council we want to see local businesses succeed as this ensures money spent locally stays in Denbighshire and helps create a thriving economy.”

More than 50 children, from Rhyl, Prestatyn, Ruthin, Bala, Corwen, Denbigh and St Asaph, aged six – to 17 from Denbigh Stagecoach also performed in the film.

For a chance to win Carys, who has now been transformed into a smaller bear, visit Denbighshire County Council’s Facebook page or to view the clip visit the Council’s YouTube page.

Friday, December 9, 2016

AM slams Welsh Government over "cuts"

North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has described Welsh Government cuts to its budgets for prevention and early intervention services and voluntary sector support as a ‘false economy’.

Speaking in a debate on the Welsh Government’s Draft Budget, Mr Isherwood expressed concern that although budgets for prevention and early intervention, and for voluntary sector support, are key to delivery of its policies - and although they represent just 1.5% of the combined Health and Local Government budgets - Labour Welsh Government has cut them again, to over £7 million below their 2015-16 level.

Mr Isherwood said: “The Welsh Government has rightly prioritised prevention and early intervention, but as this draft budget illustrates, it says one thing and does another.

“Rather than working smarter, this false economy will add additional costs to Health and Local Government services many times higher than the short-sighted cuts imposed.

“So much for the Social Services and Wellbeing Act, promoting the involvement of people in the design and delivery of Care and Support services. So much for the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, making public bodies work better with people, with communities and each other, taking a joined-up approach.”

Referring to the impact of Welsh Government cuts to the Family Fund on the most vulnerable families with disabled children, Mr Isherwood stressed that equivalent funding in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland has been maintained, and referred to other cuts already made by the Welsh Government.

He added: “Of course, Labour Welsh Government has got form for this. When, in September 2014, it announced funding to support front-line advice services Citizens Advice Cymru and Shelter Cymru, it shut out AdviceUK, the UK’s largest support network for free, independent advice centres, with 24 member organisations in Wales, denying people in crisis quick, emergency intervention and trapping them on waiting lists.

“Over the last year it has been the turn of organisations including Disability Wales and Child Contact Centres in Wales, leading to poorer and more costly outcomes for people and families.

“Despite calls by the Wales Disability Reference Group for the devolved Independent Living Fund to be administered in the voluntary sector with Scotland and Northern Ireland, Labour has given this to Local Government.

“When I raised concerns about the shortage of qualified nurses providing Palliative Care in the Voluntary Sector identified by Charity “Together for Short Lives”, this was dismissed – as it was when I highlighted concerns raised by the North Wales Safer Communities Board that too much was being spent on firefighting substance misuse problems and not enough on intervention and prevention, and when I criticised the 10% cut to the Third Sector Supporting Communities and People Budget, emphasising the crucial role the third sector plays in delivering quality services for less.

“Such cuts to ground level support compromise the more user-led, preventative and cost-effective services that the Third Sector delivers – when we should instead be transforming Wales’ public services by embedding co-production.”

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Campaigner slams Llan housing plan as a "travesty"

A proposed development of nearly 100 houses at Vicarage Road Llangollen would be a “travesty” and fail to meet the needs of local people, says Mabon ap Gwynfor who has campaigned against it.

He slams the scheme, which is recommended for approval subject to conditions when it is considered by county planners next week, in a Daily Post article published today.

* For the full story, see:

Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner voices Brexit fears

* Ann Griffith, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales.

Fears are growing that North Wales could become a more dangerous place as a result of leaving the European Union.

The latest warning has come from Ann Griffith, the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales, who says the Brexit vote has raised worrying questions about the implications for fighting crime and security.

Among her concerns is the potential damage to the European Police Office, known as Europol, which contributes to more than 13,500 cross-border investigations every year.
Life could also be made more difficult for other joint investigation teams from agencies like Eurojust which tackle a range of crimes from terror to child abuse.

Another worry is whether the UK will still be a part of the European Arrest Warrant agreements that allows for the most wanted criminals to be returned promptly.

The agreement was introduced 2002 in response to a growing threat from international terrorism and a recognition that extradition procedures were complex and time consuming.

Ms Griffith said: Brexit wasn't sold to us with all of the information available -  very little was said about the implications for policing and security about which there are very serious concerns.

"Unfortunately, the vote to quit the European Union leaves us with more questions than answers in all areas of governance and we are facing a period of huge change and uncertainty.

"But one thing that remains the same as it applies to policing and security, is the fact that the sharing of intelligence and cooperation between countries will remain vital in understanding the movement of criminals and domestic and international terrorism into the future.

"What you have is years and years of hard work and preparation gone into creating agencies and agreements that may be dashed as a result of Brexit.

"We're very aware now in North Wales how cyber-crime is the biggest emerging crime problem that we have - it's across Europe and indeed across the world.

"The majority of crime doesn't happen on the streets anymore and our frontline is now online.

"Europol was established in 2009, and one of its main function is cyber-crime cooperation.

"If the cooperation with Europol an Eurojust is to continue, it will come at a price because it is likely we will have to pay a lot more to benefit from the work of these agencies.

"I am also particularly worried about the possible loss of the European Arrest Warrants which currently means that most wanted criminals can be returned promptly.

"Before the European Arrest Warrant, extradition arrangements could take up to 10 years whereas now we're talking about people being able to be transferred within a matter of weeks.

"There is a huge amount of legislation to be worked through as a result of the Brexit vote but it is vitally important that security and policing are given priority by the UK Government.

"Keeping people safe has got to be our priority," she added.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Transport chiefs keep on eye on 64 bus route

Problems with the operator which could affect a bus service into Llangollen are being kept under review by the county council.

The problems affect the 64 service from the Ceiriog Valley to Llangollen via Chirk.  

Llangollen county councillor Stuart Davies said: “More disruption is on the way but Denbighshire’s passenger transport team are keeping on top of the situation and are ready to pick up any slack if necessary.

“I understand from them that Wrexham council is securing a successor but in the event that they cannot find a new operator for the contract we will resume our minibus operation from Parade Street to Pengwern.”

* For the full story, see:

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Joshua wins top care award

A rugby-playing dad who devotes his time to help turn around the lives of young people in a children’s home has been presented with a top care award.

Josh Wilson, 25, from Llangollen, (pictured) scooped a silver trophy in the Exceptional Newcomer category of the Wales Care Awards 2016, run by Care Forum Wales.

The keen sportsman has been described as a role model for the youngsters he supports at a specialist therapeutic children’s home in Ruthin by encouraging them to strive for the best and keep active through sport.

The home is a six-bedroom unit for young boys aged 11-18 with complex behavioural and emotional difficulties who are given intense support to help them succeed in education and employment.

Josh, who is employed by Branas Isaf and formerly taught swimming to children aged three to 12 at Corwen Leisure Centre, collected his silver award at a glittering ceremony at City Hall in Cardiff.

The awards acknowledge the hard work and exceptional performances of those in the care sector.

“I feel like I’m putting something back and making a difference. When I come back from work I feel happy, it’s very rewarding,” said Josh, who combines his challenging role as a support worker two days a week with his responsibilities at the family business, Ty Canol Caravan Park in Llangollen.

“My family are proud and my mum is especially proud.

“When you drive home at the end of the day you always think about what you’ve done with the kids and what I would’ve liked to have done better.

“I love working there. The whole team is brilliant and my manager has done a lot for me. I’ve come a long way since joining the team.

“I’d never worked in care before. I was in the deep end quite quickly but I wouldn’t have had it any other way as it meant I learnt very quickly.”

Josh, who also worked in Corwen and Llangollen Leisure Centres as a fitness instructor after leaving school, plays competitive rugby for Chester Rugby Club, which is in North Division 2, has a talent for communicating with children and inspiring them to succeed.

The new dad, whose daughter Azaia Wilson, was born a year ago, has already won the national and regional Newcomer of the Year title in the Caretech Awards in November.

Josh, who attended Ysgol Dinas BrĂ¢n, said the most satisfying aspect of his job was watching the youngsters’ progress and reform their behaviour through sport and other goal-driven work. The home has even created a squash league to build their self-confidence.

One of his most notable achievements was seeing a young boy for whom he was a key worker move on from the home and flourish.

“I feel like I’m a role model to them. I always tell them what the score was in the rugby. I’m trying to inspire them and keep them active by encouraging them to the gym,” said Josh, who is in the completion stages of his QCF Level 3 in Caring For Children and Young People.

“I’ve recently had a child myself and it’s put a different perspective on things. I’m much more empathetic.

“You have your bad days but I’m level-headed and can deal with most things thrown at me. You want to see the lads do well.

“I would like to continue working with young people in the future. I play rugby and I look after myself and the kids look up to me. I try to work on their self-confidence and you develop a bond.”

Nominating Josh for his award, registered manager Leanne Bennett said: “Josh is a very well-liked and respected member of the team at Pant Glas and nothing is ever too much trouble for Josh. He is eager and enthusiastic in his role and works exceptionally well both lone working and in a team.

“He has a good morale which impacts on others and his can do attitude is infectious to his colleagues. Josh is an asset to our team and I feel he has a brilliant career ahead of him.”

Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the standard of entries was extremely high.

He added: “There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.

“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights in the months and years to come.

“This awards ceremony is our opportunity to pay tribute and to celebrate the talent and commitment that is improving the quality of life for thousands and thousands of people throughout Wales.

“We take our hats off to them.”

Monday, December 5, 2016

Eisteddfod welcomes Albanian VIPs

* Albanian Peace Ambassador Fitim Mimani, left, with
Eisteddfod chairman Rhys Davies and Susan Elan Jones MP next to the olive trees.

Llangollen Eisteddfod leaders welcomed a group of VIP visitors from Albania on Friday.

Visaret E Gores, a group of dancers and musicians from the country competed at this year’s festival. 

Accompanying them was Fitim Mimani, the Albanian Peace Ambassador, who was greeted by Eisteddfod’s President Terry Waite, Llangollen Mayor Cllr Mike Adams and festival officials.

The group stayed at homes in Overton where they were warmly welcomed by local residents and became firm favourites with everyone they met.

The dancers gave impromptu performances on the field when passers-by were encouraged to join in with their colourful routines.

Since then, Mr Mimani has been back to Llangollen to investigate how additional groups from Albania can take part in the Eisteddfod.

He is now planning to return once more, with five Albanian dancers and musicians from a group called Qypryllinjte E Roshnikut.

A groups from Albania visited Llangollen last week and after lunch in the Corn Mill there was a short ceremony during which gifts were exchanged and Mr Mimani presented the Eisteddfod with three established olive trees which will be planted on the Pavilion field next spring.

Among those attending the ceremony was Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones, Eisteddfod’s competitions officer Merle Hunt and festival volunteers.