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Monday, June 30, 2014

River Lodge is rapidly disappearing



* This photo, kindly supplied by llanblogger reader Mike Connolly, shows that the side extension of the former River Lodge/Woodlands has now gone and the contractors are working on demolition of the main building.

Fire near Llangollen: arrest

A man has been arrested on suspicion of arson in connection with a fire at a slate quarry, near Llangollen last night (Sunday, June 29).
 
Detective Constable Andrew Skyner said: “The man, who is from the Merseyside area, was arrested this morning by Merseyside Police officers on behalf of North Wales Police in connection with the fire.
 
"North Wales Fire and Rescue Service alerted police at 9.35pm that a touring caravan and machine were on fire at the Berwyn Slate Quarry.”
 
The man is in custody at this time awaiting questioning.

Major mountain bike event staged in Llan


* llanblogger reader Mike Connolly took this picture of the activity on the hillside.

Many of the UK’s fastest mountain bike racers turned took part in the Shimano British Downhill Round 4 staged in Llangollen over the weekend.

According to Dirt Mountain Bike magazine which covered the event, with many track changes over the weekend, from wet and slick on Saturday to dry, fast and loose on Sunday, riders opted for spikes and flats, with many just wanting to make it down the hillside in one piece.

Read more at http://dirtmountainbike.com/news/shimano-british-downhill-round-4-llangollenresults.html#3JMGqsT1gyr1gHTz.99

Campaigner takes health boss on tour of Llan

A HEALTH chief recently took a see-for-himself tour of Llangollen in response to concerns about its NHS facilities.  

Dr Peter Higson, chair of the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, was in the town at the personal invitation of campaigner Martin Crumpton to discuss accessibility to the planned £5 million health centre to be built on land off the A539 in Mill Street where the former River Lodge is currently being demolished.

Mr Crumpton also raised the issue of why Llangollen Cottage had been axed by the health board before the new health centre is ready.

He said the meeting “exceeded his expectations”.

With his wife Anne acting as driver, Mr Crumpton first took Dr Higson on a tour of the Pengwern area of the town, then down Regent Street to the current doctors’ surgery, round to Bishop’s Walk near the site of the new health centre and finally past the cottage hospital in Abbey Road.

Mr Crumpton, who had spent weeks arranging Dr Higson’s visit, said: “Without prompting, he picked up immediately on the steep walk through Pengwern, its `now you see it, now you don’t’ pavement and the relatively ideal location of the GP surgery.

“The length of the journey to the new health centre wasn’t lost on him either. I also showed him the pinch-point at the end of the arduous journey on Mill Street.

“Going past the old hospital, I refuted claims that it’s as decrepit as it’s been made out to be – far from it - and that the cost of refurbishing it would be a minor consideration compared to the cost of constructing the new health centre.

“I made the case that it was crazy to begin construction before Mill Street was sorted out, and that if successful use of it was dependent upon resolving that, then, in turn, it was also crazy to demolish the cottage hospital until it could be proved to be unnecessary.

“I made it clear to him that the town’s single biggest wish is to have our beds returned, but most of all I hope I impressed upon him that any decisions affecting this situation need to be made urgently.”

Mr Crumpton added: “It was well worth the effort and exceeded my expectations. We both came away with more clear pictures than we had before, in his case notably that what he thought was the situation here was, in reality, considerably different.”

Mr Crumpton recently submitted a Freedom of Information request to the health board asking for confirmation of the existence of a covenant restricting the use of the cottage hospital building. However, he received no confirmation of this from the board.
 
He says that during his tour of the town Dr Higson conceded that a covenant exists but added: “He told me the strength and consequence of it was for the legal people to sort out.”

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Rain holds off to make Picnic in the Park a hit

 
 * Members of the crowd relax and enjoy the music. 
 
 
* Soloist Karen Davies performs her songs. 
 

* The training band goes through its musical paces.


* The senior band knows the score.

Rain which had threatened during the morning held off long enough for around 100 people to enjoy Llangollen Silver Band playing during a  Picnic in the Garden in the grounds of Plas Newydd on Saturday afternoon in aid of Llangollen Christmas lights.
 
The event was compered by town crier Austin Chemenais and over two and half hours of music began with the youth band presenting a 30-minute programme, including solo performances and ensemble playing.
 
The training band played next before the five-piece Welsh girl band Paradwys provided a 30-minute set, including solos performed on both the harp and keyboards.
 
The girls showcased two of their own compositions as a unit and then a vocal duet, accompanied by the harp, rounded off the set.
 
Special guest artist this year was Llangollen's Karen Davies, an operatic soprano singer.
 
Karen's set included Gershwin's well-loved Summertime and she was accompanied by Owen Roberts on piano.
 
To round off the event the senior band played the final set of the afternoon, which included medleys based on the music of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire and Buddy Holly.
 
Conductor Trevor Williams said: "The band was thrilled to be able to organise this event in conjunction with Plas Newydd to assist in raising funds towards something that will be of benefit to Llangollen town residents, businesses and visitors for many years to come.
 
"We wish everyone involved with Llangollen Christmas Lights every success in reaching their target figure."

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Battle begins to combat plant invasion

Preparations are now gathering pace for the launch of Big Dee Day – the Invasion.

The co-ordinated event is appealing to volunteers and organisations to help remove invasive non-native plants and animals, such as Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and Chinese mitten crab that have colonised the banks of the River Dee.

The public are invited to an information and demonstration day to take place today (Saturday 28 June) at Ty Mawr Country Park in Wrexham from 12.30pm.

There will be displays in the visitors centre and a North Wales Wildlife Trust trailer near the riverbank along with demonstrations showing people the different ways to control invasive non-native species.

The information day will kick-start a series of events that will carry on across the region throughout July.

Events are open to everyone across the area to help tackle alien invaders right across the Dee catchment, from the river’s source in Snowdonia National Park right through Cheshire to its estuary in Liverpool Bay.

These alien species are brought to the UK either accidentally or intentionally and can cause big problems for native wildlife, as well as having other effects such as making river banks more prone to erosion, which can lead to flooding.

If you are interested in getting involved in the campaign, contact:



Dawn Thomas
Dawn.Thomas@debighshire.gov.uk
01824 708234

Friday, June 27, 2014

Free open day a leisure centre tomorrow

Llangollen Leisure Centre is hosting an open day tomorrow (Saturday) when all activities are free to try.

The programme is:

10am-2pm: Bouncy castle

10.15-10.45am: Kettlebells technique/spinning

11-11.30am: Boxercise/barbell training

11.45am-12.15pm: Bootcamp

12.30-1pm: Circuit training

1.15-1.45pm: Bleep test/spinning.

Tomorrow is also the last chance to claim the centre's "Join for £5" deal.


Railway runs fish and chip special to boost Unknown Warrior project



* An artist’s impression of how The Unknown Warrior will look on its launch day in 2018.  

VISITORS to Llangollen Railway are being invited to tuck into fish and chips to help top up the £1.5 million fund to build a new steam engine to mark the end of World War One. 

Specialist engineers at the heritage railway are steaming ahead with the ambitious scheme to create an entirely new locomotive, to be called The Unknown Warrior, by November, 2018 – exactly a century after the guns fell silent on the Western Front at the end of the 1914-18 conflict. 

The aim of the LMS Patriot Project is to commemorate all those who died in the “war to end wars”.

To keep the building project rolling regular cash injections are needed, and the latest fundraiser will the running of a fish and chip special train from Llangollen Station on the evening of Saturday, July 19.  

A steam-hauled dining train called The Patriot Plaice, complete with restored nostalgic 1950s carriages, will make a round trip along the Dee Valley to Carrog. 

At a cost of £17 per person, a meal will be served at your seat just after leaving Llangollen.

Apart from fish and chips, there’s a choice of sausage and chips or vegetable sausage and chips with peas, beans or gravy.

To wash it down there will be real ale, wine and soft drinks available on board the specially chartered train, which departs Llangollen at 6.30pm.

The LMS-Patriot Project was launched by heritage railway enthusiast David Bradshaw with the aim of building a new Patriot class loco, the originals of which ran in the 1920s and 30s. 

This will tour heritage railways across the country and will also be capable of running on the mainline rail network. 

Finance for the project is coming from public donations, legacies, commercial sponsorship and grant applications. 

It has received the endorsement of the Royal British Legion, and the engine will carry a Legion crest above its nameplate.  

Many original LMS drawings have been obtained for the project and, where necessary, draughtsmen are preparing new plans using computer techniques which produce them in 3D. 

Assembly of  The Unknown Warrior began in 2009 led by Dave Owen, chief mechanical engineer of Llangollen Railway Works.  

Other workshops around the UK are making components for the new loco. 

The massive chassis of The Unknown Warrior has now been laid, using heavy gauge steel plate and enormous castings, at a cost of £48,000. 

While some of the components for the engine are new, others are being reclaimed from scrap or bought from private railway collections. 

All places on the Patriot Plaice Special must be pre-booked and reservations should be made not with Llangollen Railway but direct with the LMS-Patriot Project by emailing: office@lms-patriot.org.uk, or by writing to LMS-Patriot Company Ltd, PO Box 3118, Hixon, Stafford ST16 9JL.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Carnival of Nations will be an entertainment extravaganza



* Pathway Dance Group, Zimbabwe.


* Rovesnik Dance Group, Republic of Belarus.



* Loughgiel Dance Group, Northern Ireland.



* Gandini jugglers.
 AN EXTRAGANZA of entertainment from across the globe with the accent firmly on fun will raise the curtain on this year’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.

Top class acts including jugglers, acrobats, dancers and a mass samba band all feature in the Carnival of Nations, the traditional opener to the festival in which Wales welcomes the world.

And Eisteddfod Musical Director Eilir Owen Griffiths promises the big event on the evening of Tuesday, July 8 is going to be “an incredible spectacle” which will be perfect prelude to seven days of fantastic entertainment.

He said: “Although this year we’re going to be staging a performance of the musical Sweeney Todd starring Bryn Terfel on the Monday night, the Carnival of Nations the following evening will be the traditional opening ceremony to the Eisteddfod, and it’s going to an incredible spectacle.

“The evening can only be described as an extravaganza and will have a real carnival atmosphere.

“I know that sometimes eisteddfods can take themselves much too seriously but the Carnival of Nations will be a breath of fresh air.

“It will bring a lot of fun and entertainment to the Eisteddfod stage and also be true to our ethos to be truly international.”

The evening’s packed programme begins at 7.30pm with a riot of colour as flags of each of the Eisteddfod’s competing nations are paraded around the Pavilion arena led by Llangollen Silver Band.

Also helping to set the red-hot pace for the night will be a mass samba band comprising young musicians from two local schools, Ysgol Maes Garmon and Ysgol Penycae, led by percussionists from the Eisteddfod’s own orchestra.

Iconic Eisteddfod President Terry Waite will give the opening address warmly welcoming competitors and guests from around the world.

Following the formalities the entertainment then kicks off in style with performances by folk dance groups from China, the Republic of Belarus, Zimbabwe and Northern Ireland, who are all competing at the festival, interspersed with appearances by internat ional circus-style entertainers from China and Europe.

Spelbound, the UK gymnastic troupe which rose to fame after winning the fourth series of Britain’s Got Talent in 2010, was forced to make a last minute withdrawal from the show after a crucial member of the team broke an arm.

But definitely ready to thrill the Carnival of Nations crowds are Canadian-born acrobat Bruce Bilodeau who does some breath-taking gymnastic routines on a big wheel.

A performer since the age of 11, Bruce was part of the internationally acclaimed acrobatic group Cirque du Soleil for 20 years.

More gravity-defying moves will come from the group Chinese Acrobats whose core members have been professionally trained in China from the age of just six.

They have performed across the world and collected many awards in the process.

Stunning feats of juggling will be provided by the Gandini group whose members are recruited from the cream of talent around the world.

Formed in 1992 by renowed juggler Sean Gandini and champion rhythmic gymnast Kati Yla-Hokkala, the group continues to be at the vanguard of contemporary circus.

Also making an appearance will be the Fusion Percussion Ensemble which was formed in 2006 by four of Wales’s top freelance players and has performed at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff.

Joining this all-star line-up in the Pavilion will be four folk dance groups who will later appear in a host of competitions at the Eisteddfod.

From the Chinese capital are members of the Beijing Haidian Foreign Language Shi Yan School.

Founded in 1999, the group aims to develop students in physical as wel l as intellectual subjects.

It specialises in a variety of dance styles including ballet, Chinese folk dance, traditional Chinese dance, jazz and hip-hop.

From the Republic of Belarus comes the Rovesnik Children’s Dance Ensemble. Created in 1958, it now has more than 500 children aged from four to 17 in its ranks.

Rovesnik performs a wide-ranging repertoire including Belarusian folk dances and dances from around the world and has been showered with honours and awards from competitions in Russia, Turkey, Morocco, China and across Europe.

The Pathway Private Primary School dance group is heading for Llangollen from Chitungwiza in Zimbabwe.

Starting out with just 15 members, the group now has over 50 young dancers ranging in age from six to 11 years.

Pathway has put itself firmly on the map by winning a host of awards both in its home country and abroad.

Group spokesman for Pathway George Tamisai said: “There are 27 members coming over to Wales and the group is so excited to take part in the Carnival of Nations as we will have a chance to showcase our identity as Zimbabweans.

“This is not the first carnival we will perform in as we have recently participated at the Zimbabwean International Carnival in May.

“As for the competition, the dancers cannot wait to perform on a bigger stage and show what they have to offer to the world of performing arts. We are all ecstatic!”


From nearer to home comes the Loughgiel School of Irish Dancing based in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Formed 35 years ago, the Ballymoney-based group currently has around 120 pupils and has also won a trophy cabinet full of awards from competitions across Ireland. It recently made history by taking the first three places in the Ulster Championships held in Letterkenny.

One of the group leaders Denise Dobbins said: “We have been coming to Llangollen since 1993 and have made many friends there over the years.

“There’s nowhere quite like the Llangollen Eisteddfod, so we are all looking forward to coming back to perform in the Carnival of Nations and to take part in the competitions.”

Denise, who herself began as a dancer with Loughgiel back in 1978 and progressed to becoming one of its teachers, added: “We will have around 40 people actually dancing who range in age from eight to 25.”

This year's Eisteddfod will also feature concerts by Dutch jazz sensation Caro Emerald and veteran British rockers Status Quo as well as a world premiere of a new work, Adiemus Colores, by top composer Karl Jenkins.

He will conduct his Latin American themed work with American tenor Noah Stewart, Venezuelan trumpeter Pacho Flores and Latvian accordion player Ksenija Sidorova to the accompaniment of the Llangollen International Eisteddfod Orchestra.

The Choir of the World competition for the Pavarotti Trophy on the Saturday night is the blue riband event of the week-long festival.

To book tickets and for more details about Llangollen International Eisteddfod go to the website at www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Warning over 10% rise in council tax

A Llangollen county councillor says Denbighshire residents could be facing a 10% rise in council tax as the result of a much worse financial settlement from the Welsh Government than expected.

Cllr Stuart Davies has issued the grim forecast in the wake of an announcement yesterday (Tuesday) by the county council on the latest financial outlook.

The council expressed its concern about the likelihood of a "substantially worse" financial settlement for the county for 2015/6 than had previously been indicated.

Cllr Julian Thompson-Hill, Lead Member for Finance and Assets, said: "We have been working very pro-ctively as a county on developing our budget strategy for 2015/6 and beyond, to ensure that we are not having to take knee jerk reactions late in the year.

"We have developed a new system for providing our councillors with choices over where we make our reductions in budget and are working our way through detailed discussions on each and every one of our service areas.

"As Welsh local authorities, we have been given from Welsh Government an indicative budget reduction at an average of -1.6% and this is what we have been working to deliver.

"We are now very concerned that the Welsh Government may be considering a significantly greater reduction in the local government budget next year.

"This would equate to a potential additional £3 million over and above the £6m of cuts we are already planning for.

"What we need from the Minister is a clear statement as to exactly how bad the settlement is going to be so that we can make our plans accordingly.

"As an authority our councillors want and need to make decisions well in advance of the final announcement of the budget in November otherwise we will not have sufficient time to ensure proposals are properly thought through and indeed many will require a substantial lead in time to deliver and these decisions simply cannot be made with only a couple of months notice.

"I am also highly concerned that Welsh Government may be looking for councils to protect spend in areas which are not statutory. In these very difficult times it is vital that local councils have as much flexibility as possible to determine at a local level, taking into account local priorities, how we structure our own budgets. The more areas which are externally protected the worse the impact on remaining services. In a similar vein we would be calling on the Minister to assure local government that the established principle that there will be no new requirements imposed on councils without the requisite funding being allocated will remain in force.

"In all of this, Welsh Government need to be clear that whilst we will at all times seek to preserve front line services for the residents of Denbighshire, the impact of these cuts will undoubtedly have a significant impact on our ability to maintain services and we would welcome the Minister giving us the assurance that they will not be making any punitive reductions in local government funding. We do appreciate that they have the perfect right to transfer funds from local councils to the NHS.

"I would reiterate what is needed from Ministers is a clear and transparent announcement as to what reductions in budget will be required from councils, in order that we can plan in good time and we do not need to be hamstrung by having large areas of budget protected restricting our choices unnecessarily. This is only the same consistency of approach adopted in other regions of the UK where 3 year budgeting for local councils has been the norm for some years, this should be the case here in Wales to allow us to forward plan effectively."

Cllr Stuart Davies said: "This is devastating news for residents.

"The way the funding works means that £300k is equivalent to 1% on council tax. This news means that, if we have to find an extra £3 million on top of the cut that we were threatened with, we could be potentially looking at a 10% rise in council tax, all due to the stupidity of the Ministers.

"They are presiding over a failing NHS and are allegedly taking money off local government to pay for their mistakes with the NHS.

"I had the unedifying sight last week of the former Minister for Health, Lesley Griffiths, pontificating about councils merging when she couldn't get it right at health and is now going to make a mess of local government.


"This makes my job almost impossible. Next Monday I will be participating in the budget process where I will be asked to make swinging cuts in our services or put council tax up."

Bill Liar sought by Limelight

The 1960s play Billy Liar will be staged at Llangollen Town Hall from Thursday-Saturday, September 18-20 by award-winning Limelight Productions.

The production will be directed by local playwright, author and actor Peter Read.

The theatre company is building up a good following and a strong reputation for its high quality productions.

In the last year they have wowed Llangollen audiences with their staging of Godspell, Musicals In The LimeLight, Festive Follies, Dixie or Me, Dylan's Final Journey and, most recently, Jekyll & Hyde.

However, due to illness the lead part of Billy has become available, so Limelight is urgently seeking a good male actor to play this very funny part.

Rehearsal will take place in Wrexham, and the person being sought is male aged 20-35 with good acting ability.

* Anyone interested should contact LimeLight on 01978 351315/07504031029, or email: limelightwrexham@googlemail.com

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Large section of River Lodge is demolished

Latest pictures by llanblogger and reader Mike Connolly show that the demolition of the former River Lodge is pressing rapidly ahead.

Most of the roof tiles have now been removed and a large section at the front of the building was being knocked down this afternoon (Tuesday) by contractors.

The former hoel is being cleared to make way for the town's new £5 million health centre.



* A large section at the front of the building is demolished by contractors' machinery.



* This picture by reader Mike Connolly shows that a significant
section of the building has now disappeared.

Silver Band to play at Picnic in the Park


* Llangollen Silver Band play at last year's successful Picnic in the Park.

This Saturday (June 28) Llangollen Silver Band are holding a Picnic in the Garden musical event in the grounds of Plas Newydd in aid of Llangollen Christmas lights.
 
The programme starts at 3pm when Chem the town cryer will welcome everyone to Plas Newydd.
 
Music will begin with the youth band presenting a 30-minute programme, including solo performances and ensemble playing.
 
The training band will play next before the five-piece Welsh girl band Paradwys do a 30-minute set, including solos performed on both the harp and keyboards.
 
The girls will perform two of their own compositions as a unit and a vocal duet accompanied by the harp will round off their set.
 
Special guest artist this year is local girl Karen Davies, an operatic soprano singer.
 
Her set will include Gershwin's well-loved Summertime. Karen will be accompanied by Owen Roberts on piano.
 
To round off the event the senior band will play the final set of the afternoon.
 
The weather forecast is looking good for the day and the event is due to finish around 5.30pm  to 6pm.
 
Conductor Trevor Williams said: "The band are thrilled to be able to organise this event in conjunction with Plas Newydd to assist in raising funds towards something that will be of benefit to Llangollen town residents, businesses and visitors for many years to come.
 
"We wish everyone involved with Llangollen Christmas Lights every success in reaching their target figure."

Monday, June 23, 2014

Elizabeth is railway's new chair



* New chair: Elizabeth Harland.

Llangollen Railway has a new woman at the controls.

Elizabeth Harland has been appointed chairman of the Llangollen Railway Trust and PLC, replacing Neil Evans, who stepped down at the annual meeting on June 13.

Miss Harland has been a working member of the railway team for 10 years and since 2010 has been a member of the PLC and the Trust boards.

She currently has responsibility for policies and procedures and for the railway’s safety management system but has also previously served as the railway’s operations director.

Following a career in data management in Hampshire, Miss Harland worked for one of the major UK banks in Southampton, the Isle of Man and Leeds before taking early retirement.

She now works as a fundraiser for a major national charity.

At the railway she is heavily involved in operational issues as a responsible officer, guard and trainee railcar driver and is also plays a hands-on role in restoration projects.

Speaking of the appointment Miss Harland said: “I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to head the Llangollen Railway at a time when we are finally achieving the goal which the founder members set of having a heritage railway running from Llangollen to Corwen.

“In these changing times I am sure that there will be many challenges ahead but I look forward to helping the railway to become fully sustainable and adaptable during my time in office.”

Community garden events planned

Llangollen Community Garden has asked llanblogger to display the following poster for its forthcoming events, two straw bale building and self-build skills sessions in July and August:



Sunday, June 22, 2014

Plea over missing poodle

UPDATE ... Yogi the poodle has been found tangled up on the Horseshoe Pass.

His owner said: "Thank you ever so much everyone."


This urgent message was posted on llanblogger's Facebook page on Sunday afternoon.

MISSING - Yogi a little orange poodle has gone missing from Pentredwr 8am yesterday morning. He is dragging his extendable lead behind so may be stuck somewhere. Please check around and in hedges if you are walking dogs or around the area. He's been out all night! He is very timid and good at hiding. Ring 01978 449646.

Please help if you can. 

Flavour of the Eisteddfod brought to Cardiff

* American singing sensation Noah Stewart.
Star American tenor Noah Stewart is to top the bill at a special Cardiff concert which aims to bring the unique flavour of Llangollen’s International Musical Eisteddfod to the nation’s capital.

The Harlem heartthrob has played the biggest opera houses in the world but says he will be at Cardiff because of what Llangollen means to him after he sang there for the first time last year.

He will be the main attraction at the Spirit of Llangollen concert at Cardiff’s iconic Tabernacle Chapel, in The Hayes, on Saturday, July 5, just two days before this year’s Llangollen spectacular kicks off.

Stewart, who will be at Llangollen again this year, will be joined at the chapel by a truly international lineup, including the Mizoram Synod Choir, from India, and Cardiff’s own Cor CF1, conducted by Eisteddfod Musical Director Eilir Owen Griffiths.

He was thrilled last year to follow in the footsteps of his hero, the great Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti in performing at Llangollen, and he enjoyed it so much he’s back again this year and is one of the event’s Day Presidents too.

Stewart will be taking part in Adiemus Colores as part of the 70th birthday celebrations of acclaimed Welsh composer Karl Jenkins at Llangollen on Wednesday, July 9, when he will be supported by classical accordionist Ksenija Sidorova, trumpet player Pacho Flores, the Karl Jenkins Singers and the Llangollen International Eisteddfod Orchestra.

He said: “The festival was so, so special. I wasn’t prepared for the beauty of the region. It’s a kind of paradise with such a wonderful landscape but the festival itself seemed to me to be a great place of peace.

“I was enthralled by the canal that runs alongside the Eisteddfod site but what really struck me was the sheer number of choirs there are in the area and, of course, in Wales as a whole.

“This is a nation that knows and understands music. People really do find time for music and it plays an important role in their lives. It’s unusual to feel quite so much love for the art of music, you could really feel it.

“The Llangollen audience allowed me to be myself and express my emotions through my music. And, even though I have performed around the world, you don’t always experience that feeling of freedom.

“I was received so well and I was blessed to have the opportunity to perform for such a knowledgeable audience. It reminded me why I chose classical music, so I could forge a partnership between myself and my audience.”

The 2013 Eisteddfod audience awarded Stewart a standing ovation after he sang Calon Lan, in Welsh, accompanied by harpist Claire Jones.

He said: “There only is one real language, the language of music. That’s the beauty of the art, it’s a language of peace and there are no boundaries. 

“Singing in Welsh was a challenge, of course it was. It’s so important to get the pronunciation absolutely right otherwise the audience becomes aware and that makes it false and simply wrong.”

The first black musician to top the British classical charts, Noah, who has appeared on Desert Island Discs, is looking forward to returning to Wales.

He said: “Llangollen was special to Pavarotti; I know he had such an affinity with the Eisteddfod. Like Pavarotti I was in a choir and fell in love with classical music. And now, like him, I have fallen in love with Llangollen.

Eilir Owen Griffiths is thrilled that Stewart is back to perform not just at Llangollen but also in Cardiff and he said: “Noah is a stellar talent and a worthy successor to the great Pavarotti.

“We wanted to bring the flavour of the Eisteddfod to Cardiff as well and it’s wonderful that we have been able to put together such a fantastic lineup for the concert at Tabernacle Chapel, right in the heart of the city.

“To have Noah Stewart there is wonderful and when I was over in India I heard the Mizoram Synod Choir and they’re terrific and I know that Wales with its tradition of choral music will really appreciate them.

“They will be at Llangollen too and this year’s lineup is truly amazing and we're absolutely thrilled that Noah has also agreed to be a Day President as well as performing.”

Noah, who was born to a single mum, Patricia, in Harlem, New York, says he is considering treating her to a trip to the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod so she can experience the festival for herself.

He said: “I am hoping to be able to bring her to Llangollen. She’s now 70 and we will have to see what her health is like but I know she’d love the festival, its music, flowers and message of peace.

“I was thrilled when I was asked whether I’d consider being a Day President for the Eisteddfod and of course I didn’t have to think before accepting the invitation.

“I really hope I have a long and enduring association with Llangollen and, rest assured, I tell everyone who’s prepared to listen all about the festival and the incredible rich culture that is so evident everywhere you look.”   

The curtain raiser for this year's Eisteddfod will mark the return of opera superstar Bryn Terfel to Llangollen.
 
The acclaimed bass baritone will be playing the lead in a production of Stephen Sondheim's Broadway smash hit Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street on Monday evening, July 7.
 
This year's Eisteddfod will also feature concerts by Dutch jazz sensation Caro Emerald and veteran British rockers Status Quo who will close the festival with a Sunday night concert.
 
Tickets for the concert at Tabernacle Chapel are £16 for adults and £5 for children and are available from the Eisteddfod box office and from members of COR CF1. For more information about the Eisteddfod go to www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk

Friday, June 20, 2014

Work begins on roof of River Lodge







These pictures taken yesterday (Thursday) by a local resident on behalf of llanblogger appear to show contractors removing tiles from the roof of the former River Lodge on the A539 in Llangollen as a prelude to demolition.

The former hotel, which has been derelict for some years, is being taken down to make way for the town's £5 million new health centre.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

New scheme aims for co-ordinated health care

Denbighshire County Council and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board are joining forces to provide co-ordinated access to community health and social care services for the residents of Denbighshire.

The Single Point of Access -  'Working Together With You' aims to ensure efficient access to information, advice and assistance to promote health, well-being and independence.

The new service will focus on identifying the needs of the caller from the initial enquiry, making sure they are signposted to other services in the local community or directed to the correct service.

It will also enable people to access the wide variety of support available in their own communities.

Councillor Bobby Feeley, Denbighshire's Cabinet Lead Member for Social Care, Adults and Children's Services,  said: "We are delighted to get this project off the ground.  

"In the past, users of our services would speak to a number of organisations and this caused confusion at times.

"We want people to receive a seamless service and this new way of working means that health and social care teams will work together to make sure that people get the right information from the right service and at the right time.''

Margaret Hanson, Vice Chair of the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, said: “This will certainly develop even closer working across health and social care in Denbighshire, improving services for our patients, their families and carers.”

“We are very much looking forward to this being replicated across all the counties in North Wales, providing a more joined up approach to services for the whole population we serve.”

The new service begins on June 30.  To contact the service, please phone 0300 456   1000
People can also access the service via e-mail: spoa@denbighshire.gov.uk

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Free first aid scheme extended

An Assembly Member is offering more of his constituents the opportunity to take part in a free first aid course due to high demand.

Labour AM Ken Skates has teamed up with St John Wales to allow people in Clwyd South to attend a two-hour course which could help them save someone’s life.

The session was originally arranged to accommodate 15 people, but will now be able to cater for up to 30.

It will be held in a private room at the Wynnstay Arms pub in Ruabon from 1.30pm-3.30pm on Friday, June 27, and places – which must be booked in advance – can be secured now.

Mr Skates said: “St John Wales contacted me about hosting the event, and it’s a great idea which I’m happy to be able to extend to my constituents. We initially had to turn a few people away, but now they’re on board too and there’s still room for 10 more.

“There will be two fully qualified first aid trainers present and, whether you’re a complete novice or an experienced first aider looking to brush up, it’s a great opportunity. You could be the difference between life and death.”

If you would like to take part, email ken.skates@wales.gov.uk or call 01978 869058.

Twenty Club's next auditions

Llangollen’s Twenty Club theatre group will be holding auditions for its forthcoming production of the play Season’s Greetings, by Alan Ayckbourn, in Llangollen Town Hall  on Tuesday, July 29, starting at 7.30pm.

The play, to be directed by Natalie Evans and produced by Anna Turner, will be staged on November 6, 7 and 8.
Roles available are: Neville (35+) easy going and pleasant; Belinda (30+) highly strung and hardworking; Phyllis (35+) clumsy and zany; Harvey (65+) ex-military, who loves teasing his family; Bernard (45+) faded, touchy, with a dry sense of humour; Rachel (35+) anxious, lonely, has been single for a long time; Eddie (30-45) idiotic and professionally unsuccessful; Pattie (30+) whiney, soft and heavily pregnant; Clive (25+) shy and effeminate.

All playing ages are said to be flexible and all ages are welcomed and encouraged to try for roles.

“The most important thing is to create a realistic family structure for this show,” said a Twenty Club spokesman.

* To register your interest, contact Anna Turner on: 07971 146353, or by emailing: anna.katie@freeuk.com

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fundraiser makes £800 to help save Plas Madoc


* The Duke of Wellington, scene of Sunday's successful fundraiser.

A Father’s Day fundraiser in the sunshine saw hundreds of pounds raised for the ongoing campaign to save Plas Madoc Leisure Centre.

Organiser Greg Ogden said there was a ‘fantastic’ turnout for the Splash Community Trust even at the Duke of Wellington pub in Acrefair on Sunday, which raised vital funds for the takeover of the popular facility.

Wrexham band The New Foos played live during the afternoon, and there were also stalls, face-painting, a bouncy castle, a barbecue, stocks and a raffle – with the top prize a night’s stay in a suite at the Wild Pheasant Spa in Llangollen with dinner and breakfast.

Trust director Greg, who lives in Trevor, said: “It was a very successful and fun event for all the family. There was a fantastic turnout – I have never seen the place so busy! There was a great atmosphere and really good music, the barbecue went down very well and everyone seemed to have a great time.”

The event raised approximately £800 – making it the most successful Plas Madoc fundraiser so far. A cheque of £100 was also passed on by Clwyd South Assembly Member Ken Skates from a generous mystery donor.

Greg added: “We have to say a massive thank you to the pub’s landlady Shauny for hosting the event, and also to everyone who continues to support us for being so generous with their time and money. It’s great to be part of such an optimistic, enthusiastic project.”

The Splash Community Trust’s next fundraiser is a race night at the Old Black Horse in Rhostyllen on Friday, June 27, from 8pm. To sponsor a race or buy a horse for the night, contact Jenny Miller on 07921 659099.

The Trust now has a PayPal account through which donations can be made. If you want to contribute, visit https://t.co/VlqCYUVROU or contact Jenny direct. The group’s website, which will include a ‘donate’ button, is coming soon.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Young drivers safety course launched

North Wales Fire and Rescue Service and North Wales Police has launched a new and innovative two day course aimed at educating young drivers across the region.
 
‘Revolution’, which has been described as ‘a new, proactive approach to road safety education’, is aimed at 16 – 25 year olds who have been involved in or subject to driving offences in their area. The Welsh Government provided £118, 809 to fund the course over 2014 and 2015.
 
The course has been launched at Coleg Cambria, Wrexham, as a part of a week of multi agency activities to mark UK Road Safety Week.
 
The interactive course, which has received funding from Welsh Government, will cover various aspects such as the consequences of fatal or serious injury road traffic collisions on the drivers, their passengers and their family and friends as well as the type of psychological, punitive and financial impacts being involved in a road traffic collision can bring.
 
Each event will also include engagement with a family member of someone killed in a road traffic collision as well as close quarter engagement with a realistic road traffic collision scene and measures taken to extricate a person from it. Attendees will also be given a project to complete as a team over the two days of the course.
 
A number of agencies will be inputting into the course with much of the learning based around the five main causes of fatal road traffic collisions in Wales, known as the ‘Fatal 5’ - speeding, alcohol and drugs, mobile phones, seat belts and dangerous and antisocial driving.
 
The courses will be based at various fire stations across North Wales, with the first course scheduled to be held in Prestatyn next month.
 
Simon Smith, Chief Fire Officer for North Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We’re thrilled to be working in partnership with North Wales Police and the Welsh Government on this new course which looks at engaging with our young people in a proactive way to help them realise the consequences of their actions behind the wheel.
 
“We attend countless tragedies involving young drivers every year – road traffic collisions are the biggest cause of death among young people, so looking at new ways of raising awareness of road safety is vital.”
 
Chief Inspector Darren Wareing, Roads Policing Unit, North Wales Police: "By working closely with our colleagues at the Fire and Rescue Service we welcome the opportunity to help  address the issue of road safety and try to improve road user behaviour.

"All too often, both the Police and Fire and Rescue Service have witness the carnage on our roads when lives are completely destroyed following a serious road traffic collision.

"The pain and avoidable deaths such as those on our roads touch family, friends and communities right across North Wales. By working together we hope to raise awareness and educate drivers of the consequences of poor behaviour behind the wheel."
 
Local Government and Government Business Minister, Lesley Griffiths AM said: “In Wales, young drivers make up 12% of the population, but in 2012 they accounted for 24% of killed or seriously injured casualties.
 
“Fatal accidents are a tragedy for so many families and the larger communities, but when they are caused by collisions which could have been avoided, they seem all the more tragic.
 
“I am pleased the three Welsh Fire and Rescue Authorities planned events to mark Road Safety Week. This new course expands on the education of our young drivers, focussing on the five main causes of fatal traffic accidents and has the potential to save hundreds of lives.”
.

Health chiefs reject calls for beds at new health centre

The latest edition of the Denbighshire Free Press carries a story that the local health board has rejected calls for beds to be included in Llangollen's health centre.

For the full story see:
http://www.newsnorthwales.co.uk/news/134690/health-board-rejects-plea-for-beds-at-new-llangollen-medical-centre.aspx

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Views sought on Horseshoe Pass speed limit proposal



* Speed limit proposal: the Horseshoe Pass.

A LLANGOLLEN county councillor is sounding out public opinion on a proposal he has learned of to consider imposing a 40mph speed limit on the Horseshoe Pass.

Official figures show that over the past five years the busy main A542 route from Llangollen towards Llandegla and Ruthin, which currently has a 60mph limit, has been the scene of 22 collisions involving slight injuries, 10 rated as serious and two which were fatal.
 
County Cllr Stuart Davies said: “I understand that Denbighshire County Council has had a request to from traffic officers at NWP to impose a 40mph limit on the whole of the Horseshoe Pass, from the Britannia to the cattle grid at Pentre Isaf.
 
“I’m also told that this ties in with the Welsh Government forcing local authorities to do a review of all speed limits.
 
“I’m asking for people’s thoughts on this. Do they think it will hinder people going to work over the pass? Do they think it will slow down traffic?
 
“Do they think it will save lives? Do they think it is a money-making scheme on the part of North Wales Police or the government?
 
“Do they think it is fair that our council tax should pay - this scheme will cost thousands - for something demanded by North Wales Police and the Welsh Government when we haven't got the budget to revamp our brown tourism signs in Llangollen?”
 
Cllr Davies added: “There have been a number of accidents in that area over the last five years with two fatalities.
 
“I am of the view that better enforcement of our existing laws and better education of drivers at the hotspots would slow down traffic and safeguard lives rather than the blunt use of a blanket speed limit over the whole of the pass.”
 
Cllr Davies has asked for people to send their views to him at: stuart.a.davies@denbighshire.gov.uk

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Musical tribute to Nelson Mandela premieres at Eisteddfod


* Paul Maelor has collaborated on a special tribute to Nelson Mandela.

Royal composer Paul Mealor has teamed up with a top poet from North Wales for a special tribute to Nelson Mandela.

The European premiere of the new work, Spirit of Hope, will be at the Llangollen International Music Festival at a concert on Friday, July 11.

Professor Mealor, who was brought up in Connah's Quay, collaborated with poet Dr Grahame Davies, who hails from Coedpoeth, near Wrexham.

The piece will be performed by the Wales Millennium Centre’s Only Kids Aloud Chorus alongside the independent professional orchestra, British Sinfonietta.

The special night will also see a performance by top African opera company Cape Town Opera, Cardiff Singer of the World representative Gary Griffiths, Bloemfontein Men’s Choir and the winner of last year’s Llangollen Eisteddfod Voice of the Future competition, Pontypridd’s lyric soprano Menna Cazel Davies.

According to Paul Mealor, who was commissioned by Prince William to compose some of the music performed during his and Catherine Middleton’s wedding ceremony, the Only Kids Aloud Chorus will bring the Llangollen house down.

He said: “Spirit of Hope is a three movement piece for orchestra and choir. The first movement is the setting for a poem by Wales’ Grahame Davies. He is, in my opinion, one of the nation’s best poets. His wonderful poem, Good Hope, draws its inspiration from South African landmarks.

“It so beautifully describes the mountains, plains and rugged shoreline of what is a stunning country.

"I worked with Grahame  when I composed A Welsh Prayer to mark the 65th birthday of HRH the Prince of Wales which was performed for the first time at St Asaph Cathedral during the North Wales Music Festival.

“Grahame, who is a wonderful poet, writer and novelist, wrote the words for that piece too and they were just as emotive and joyful.”

He added: “The second movement is based around the words of Tagore, an Indian mystic poet, and is about the power of music and how music can take us home.

“The third movement is from the poem Invictus by William Henley and contains the line, I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul. Nelson Mandela had this on his cell wall at Robben Island during his long years of imprisonment and we know it was a favourite poem of his.

“The whole evening will be dedicated to the memory Nelson Mandela, his legacy and the power of hope.”

“It goes to show that Llangollen truly is an eisteddfod that has peace and unity right at the very top of its agenda.

“The whole evening will be a celebration of South Africa and Wales extending the hand of friendship. And the fact that friendship will endure across the vast expanses of water that separate our two nations.

“Spirit of Hope was commissioned by Only Kids Aloud Chorus as they wanted a brand new piece they could perform on a spring tour of South Africa.

“The chorus are to perform two concerts in Cape Town with Bryn Terfel to mark the 20th anniversary of the end of apartheid. Then, in July, they will be on stage at Llangollen for what will be a wonderful concert.

“Having listened to Only Kids Aloud rehearsing Spirit of Hope I have to say it is just beautiful and I guarantee it will be one of the absolute highlights of the 2014 Llangollen International Eisteddfod.”

Prof Mealor, who also wrote the music for Wherever You Are, the Military Wives’ 2011 Christmas number one hit, says he wrote Spirit of Hope on a Christmas break on Anglesey. 

He said: “I’ve been a Professor of Music at Aberdeen University since 2003 but have always kept a home on Anglesey. I like to get back to Wales whenever I can as that’s where I think I compose my best work.”

Paul Mealor studied composition before reading music at the University of York and Copenhagen with the Royal Danish Academy of Music.

Now 38 he lectures in music at the University of Aberdeen but remains fiercely loyal to his Welsh roots.

He said: “I head back to North Wales whenever I can. There is nothing better than sitting at my piano at my Anglesey home and composing music.

“The three poems that make up each movement in Spirit of Hope are so special and awe-inspiring. I just sat at the piano and looked for the music within the words of the poems.

“I hope the audience believes my music does justice to the beautiful words of Grahame Davies, Tagore and William Henley and the wonderful voices of the Only Kids Aloud Chorus. It really will be a magical Llangollen evening.”

The curtain raiser for this year's Eisteddfod will mark the return of opera superstar Bryn Terfel to Llangollen.
 
The acclaimed bass baritone will be playing the lead in a special English-language production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.  He will be joined by the supremely talented tenor Wynne Evans aka Gio Compario in the Go Compare TV ads.
 
This year's Eisteddfod will also feature concerts by Dutch jazz sensation Caro Emerald and veteran British rockers Status Quo as well as a world premiere of a new work, Adiemus Colores, by top composer Karl Jenkins.
 
He will conduct his Latin American themed work with American tenor Noah Stewart, Venezuelan trumpeter Pacho Flores and Latvian accordion player Ksenija Sidorova to the accompaniment of the Llangollen International Eisteddfod Orchestra.
 
The Choir of the World competition for the Pavarotti Trophy on the Saturday night is the blue riband event of the week-long festival which will close with a Sunday night concert by Status Quo.
 
To book tickets and for more details about the urban dance competition go to the website at www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk