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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Llan event promotes best of county's food and drink


* Leanne Ing from the Cabin Kitchen.

A COUPLE who run a cake-making business in Denbighshire are tasting more success with the UK’s only white water paddle-boarding experience.

Lianne and Anthony Ing, who are both 24 were among the stars of an event to promote the best of Denbighshire’s growing food and drink industry.

Both businesses were showcased at A Taste for Local, a major networking event hosted by Denbighshire County Council at Llangollen Pavilion.

Part of March for Business, Denbighshire’s Business Month, the aim was to give people involved in the hospitality and tourism industries the chance to mingle with some of the county’s top local producers.  
 
Hugh Evans, Lead Member for Economic Development at Denbighshire County Council, was delighted with the turn out.



* Chrissie Ashworth from Temptations Cakes, left, with Karen Collo
He said: “We had close on 100 people at the event who were a mixture of people running their own food related businesses and those from the catering and accommodation sectors.

"Existing businesses shared information, experience and knowledge with each other while start up businesses were pointed in the right direction. There were practical examples of how to get local produce on the menu and examples of how to diversify into the tourism sector.

“The events are all part of our work on developing the local economy and delivering the wider economic development strategy for the county."

Lianne and Anthony operate Cabin Kitchen from their home in Glyndyfrdwy in the Dee Valley to supply mouth-watering cakes to cafes across the area.

Lianne explained: “It all started when we went on holiday to San Diego and California and saw people having lots of fun aboard stand-up paddle boards on the water there.

“We bought two of the boards for about £900 each and we had more boards specially made for use on white water rivers and soon afterwards started our business, Stand-Up Paddle Board UK, which offers people the chance to try them out on the fast-flowing River Dee and also the nearby Llangollen Canal.”


* Cllr Rhys Hughes opens proceedings.
“It’s a great new sport and I think we’re unique is offering the only white water paddle-boarding experience in Wales and the UK.

“In our cake-making business, called Cabin Kitchen, we bake a wide range of cakes, including gluten free, which we sell to cafes across Denbighshire."

Lianne added: “We wanted to be at A Taste for Local because it was a great opportunity to meet people in the same sort of businesses as ours and to help give what we’re doing a higher profile.”

Amongst those who picked up plenty of ideas for future business development was Karen Collo from Wrexham who was at the event on behalf of a friend who runs a string of cafes in Liverpool, Preston, Nottingham and Rotherham.

She said: “I was looking for different types of product to use in the cafes, which all have their own concept from stand-alone cafes to coffee shops.

“I found a few things which fitted the bill. One of the stalls which caught my eye was Temptations homemade cakes where the products looked very good.”

Temptations owner, Chrissie Ashworth, said: “I’ve just moved to new, larger premises in Corwen and it was good to be at the event and to show off my products to a wider market.

“I was delighted to have the chance to show them to a potential buyer.”

Guest speakers included TV hill farmer Gareth Wyn Jones who issued a rallying cry for a “farming food revolution”.

He said: “Events such as this are fantastic because we need to show people just how good Welsh food – such as our lamb – actually is.

“Because as a nation we have more and more children with obesity or diabetes, I believe education is the key to what I call a farming food revolution.

“We have got to educate them to eat more healthily and we could start with encouraging them to drink milk, which is one of the best things you can have, rather than fizzy drinks.”

Other speakers were Colin Loughlin, chairman of the Hamper Llangollen food festival, who stressed the importance of food and drink to the tourism industry, and David Shiel, senior countryside officer for the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, who referred to the strong link between the local landscape and food.

Councillor Rhys Hughes, who represents Llangollen on Denbighshire County Council, said: “The event was all about networking and allowing businesses to meet and get to know each other.

“Tourism is worth over £400 million a year to the county and today was also a way to celebrate the abundance of good quality food products and what we have to offer our visitors.” 

Denbighshire Council have other events in the pipeline, including Social Media for Beginners at Rhyl College on May 12 and Open 4 Business at Oriel House, St Asaph, on June 30.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Group to fly in from Germany for Operatic show


 * A group of operatic members who appear in the show as frisky grannies try out their costumes outside Llangollen Town Hall.

A GROUP of Germans are planning to fly almost 700 miles to catch the latest show by Llangollen Operatic Society.

There are now just a couple of weeks to go until the curtain goes up on the first of six performances of Mel Brook’s smash-hit musical The Producers at Llangollen Town Hall.

Cast and crew are working hard to put the finishing touches to songs, dances, costumes and scenery and tickets are starting to sell like hot cakes as word spreads and information and action shots of rehearsals are shared on social media.

Society members were particularly thrilled to hear that four people are planning to jet over from Germany to catch the show.

A few months ago two people from Frankfurt, named August and Monika, who were spending time in Llangollen to arrange internships for students from Germany were in the town’s Corn Mill restaurant when a group of operatic members came in for post-rehearsal drinks.

After striking up a conversation, it became clear that The Producers was one of August’s favourite shows, so it was jokingly suggested to him he might to come back and see it when it’s staged next month.

Producer, Tracey Rawlinson, said: “I arrived at the pub to find a group of members laughing and joking with August and his colleague, trying to persuade them to come and see the show.

“Whatever they said, it worked as I received an e-mail from him a few days later requesting four tickets.

“The group from Germany are planning to stay at a local guesthouse and tour around the area for a few days before attending the Saturday night performance.

“We’re so excited to have international supporters and are looking forward to welcoming them back to Llangollen and hope they will join in our post performance celebrations.

“In his e-mail August said he was really looking forward to seeing the show so much that he was jumping for joy.”

The Producers will be staged at Llangollen Town Hall from April 12-16, starting at 7.30pm, and with a matinee performance at 2.30pm on Saturday 16th.

* Tickets are now available online at the following link:  www.ticketsource.co.uk/llangollenoperaticsociety.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Campaign to prepare for social care changes

The six North Wales councils and the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board are supporting a campaign to inform residents across the region of significant changes to the way health and social care is provided in future.

The new Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 comes into effect on April 6 and represents a shift in focus for health and social care providers across the country.

In the face of challenges such as demographic changes, a growing demand for services and further cuts to budgets, the Act calls for smarter, more innovative approaches to delivering cost effective care of the highest possible standards.

Jenny Williams, Director of Social Care at Conwy Council, speaking on behalf of the partner agencies in North Wales, said: “The time for implementing the new Act is fast approaching and a lot of work is going on behind the scenes to prepare for this big change.

“The Act is very much a new way of working. It aims to make residents an equal partner in their care, with access available  to advice and information. Any assessments will clearly focus on the individual and what matters to them.

“It is really important for those who currently use health and social care services, their networks, carers and those potentially needing care that changes are on the way. They need to understand how their care and support will be affected.

“We want North Wales residents to be fully aware of the changes and to embrace the change. We will continue to provide information to residents and signpost them to websites, resident newsletters and other forms of communication over the coming weeks."

* All the latest information on the Act and the changes can be found on your local authority website or through Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s website.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Mike to run in triathlon for air ambulance

* Mike Edwards outside Chirk Leisure Centre with one of the Wales Air Ambulance mascots, Huw HEMS.



Mike Edwards of Llangollen is competing in the Chirk triathlon on April 17, raising funds for Wales Air Ambulance. 

The event starts and finishes at Chirk Leisure Centre and Mike is training at the leisure centre.

Mike, a long-term cyclist,  regularly hits the mountain bike trails at Coed Llandegla  and pounds the roads in the Wrexham and Llangollen areas.  

Following a heart attack five years ago Mike regained his fitness and took up the triathlon event. 

He is a keen supporter of  the air ambulance, being well aware of the value of a speedy response in his sport. 


* To sponsor Mike please contact him at Cittaslow Llangollen Twitter: @Mike262, @MikeBuyLocal(Buy Local Llangollen), Facebook: Michael Edwards : BuyLocalLlangollen, or LinkedIn: Michael Edwards and also on Google Hangout



Mike has so far raised £150 through Virgin Money Just Giving. To support him, follow the link:

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Low income familes could cut water bills, says AM

Many lower income households in North Wales could be eligible for savings of up to £250 on their water bills, says North Wales AM Mark Isherwood.

And he is urging local people to check whether they could benefit.

Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water has launched a special HelpU tariff for customers in households with a total annual income of no more than £15,000.

Mr Isherwood said: “Welsh Water says that many thousands of customers could benefit from HelpU - and some could see their annual water and sewerage bill cut by a half. People who qualify only have to get in touch with the company and they’ll be helped to make the switch to the HelpU tariff.

“This is an initiative that would benefit many in my constituency and I urge people to think about whether they qualify and, if so, to contact the company immediately. We know that for many the water bill exceeds five per cent of household income and so paying it can be a struggle.

“There are big savings available to those on low incomes. If you don’t qualify yourself, perhaps you know someone else who does. Please spread the word and pass on this valuable information to them.”

Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water can be contacted online at www.dwrcymru.com or by calling 0800 052 0145.

60,000 customers already benefit from Dŵr Cymru’s social tariffs for water and sewerage bills. HelpU is the company’s only social tariff based solely on household income. It has been devised after consultation with the Welsh Government, the Consumer Council for Water, and Community Housing Cymru. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Make sure you register to vote on May 5

Denbighshire County Council is encouraging people to visit www.gov.uk/register-to-vote to register to have their say on Thursday May 5 when voters in Wales will go to the polls to elect an Assembly Member and a Police and Crime Commissioner.

The Electoral Commission has launched its major national voter registration campaign across Wales to remind people to register by the deadline of Monday April 18.


In Wales, advertising will appear across TV, radio and online on demand video services.

This is in addition to the work that is already being carried out across Wales by the Commission and partner organisations, which started earlier this year.

The public awareness campaign across Wales aims to encourage anyone not yet registered, to do so as soon as possible.  Research shows that young people, students, and recent home movers are less likely to be registered to vote.

Registering to vote is quick and easy to do online at gov.uk/register-to-vote but you only have until Monday April 18 if you want to vote in these elections in Wales this May.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Castle a popular tourist destination


A trip up to Castell Dinas Bran was a popular excursion for visitors to the town on this sunny Good Friday.

Here, one group enjoys a breather and the spectacular view after their climb to the summit.

Candidate meets mayor and other groups

Welsh Conservative candidate for Clwyd South, Simon Baynes (left), says he had a very good meeting recently at the Hand Hotel with the Mayor, Cllr Mike Adams, Fiona Maher of http://northwalesfaeryfestival.com/ and David Davies, Chairman of the Llangollen Chamber of Trade and Tourism http://www.new.llangollen.org.uk

Mr Baynes added: "This discussion produced many good ideas and points to raise at the postponed meeting with Welsh Minister Lord Bourne which will be held in Llangollen soon."


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Redevelopment of old tip site gets underway

WORK to prepare for the redevelopment of the former council refuse tip on the road into Llangollen has started.

One of the area’s county councillors, Stuart Davies, said Denbighshire’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) team had received a Heritage Lottery grant to help create a countryside training area on the Wenffryd site off the A539.
And he says he would also like to see the inclusion of extra car parking for visitors to the town along with cycle and footpaths linking the area with the nearby Llangollen Canal towpath and the World Heritage site at Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and perhaps also a football pitch.
Cllr Davies (pictured) said: “The tip closed back in 2008 because of problems of safe access from the main A539, which is a very busy road.
“I’ve been trying for the past four years to get something done with the site and now, at last, things are happening.
“The main aim has been to create a safe access with good visibility and that is now being done as the job of clearing the area around the old tip get underway.
“The AONB people will then have a training facility for countryside maintenance, such as woodcraft, on the site.
“All this is very much a work in progress and I must stress that nothing has yet been agreed, but I’d also like to see extra car parking put in for visitors to the town and foot and cycle paths joining the area up with the nearby canal towpath and eventually the World Heritage site.
“My fellow Llangollen county councillor Rhys Hughes and I would also like to see a football pitch on the site and maybe also an area set aside for wild plants.”   

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

MP calls for tougher law on bank closures

Susan Elan Jones MP has urged the Government to toughen the law against 'insidious bank closures' in Parliament.

Speaking in a debate in the House of Commons on the budget yesterday (Tuesday), the MP said "It's time we looked very seriously at what happens when banks closes. This is a problem facing many communities and many people."

Ms Jones made her comments after HSBC announced they would close branches in Ruabon and Chirk.

In a separate debate on the Macur Review, the Clwyd South Labour MP, speaking in her role as Shadow Wales Office Minister, also urged judges "not to be soft in sentencing" in cases relating to historic child abuse in North Wales homes.

Local attractions join new gardens festival


* Blooming marvellous: Festival of Gardens organised by North Wales
Tourism at the Hidden Garden Plas Cadnant on Anglesey.
Pictured are Tony Russell, festival co-ordinator, Anthony Tavenor, owner of Plas Cadnant, and Shirley Foulkes, of North Wales Tourism.

Chirk Castle and Erddig are both taking part in a major new gardens festival being launched to attract green fingered tourists to North Wales and tap into a £5 billion market.

From Saturday May 28 until Sunday June 5, gardens which are the jewels in the crowns of Anglesey, Conwy, Gwynedd, Powys and Wrexham will throw open their gates to thousands of visitors during the first ever Festival of Gardens North Wales.

A packed programme of events, ranging from behind the scenes guided tours and gardening workshops to a visit by a vintage steam train will be staged at various gardens as the festival unfolds.


* Chirk Castle gardens are joining the festival.
With more than 20 million gardeners in Britain, the drive to bring the growing garden army to the region is being mounted by North Wales Tourism who believe the festival has huge potential.
The horticultural market is worth £5 billion annually – more than UK people spend on chocolate.

The festival will be officially opened at a ticket only event, with limited numbers, at the beautiful Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens in Anglesey by celebrity gardener and broadcaster Roy Lancaster CBE VNH.

North Wales Tourism managing director Jim Jones said: “North Wales has some of the most stunning gardens in the UK and this event is all about bringing them together and showing them off to as many people as possible.”   

More than 100 unique events are planned over the nine days of the festival at gardens taking part include musical concerts, historical re-enactments, gardening lectures, photographic workshops, art and sculpture exhibitions, children’s trails, garden inspired poetry and prose, plant sales and prize competitions.

The festival dates have been arranged to coincide with late-spring flowering displays, which will include rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias, tulips and flowering cherries, making this one of the best times of the year to visit the great gardens of North Wales.

Mr Jones added: “North Wales has some of the most stunning gardens in the whole of the UK, run by a diverse range of organisations including the National Trust and a variety of private owners, with whom we have been collaborating closely to organise this very special event.

“Our aim with the festival, which will be the largest and a most ambitious of its kind ever seen in the region, is to bring them all together under the banner of North Wales.

“The festival has been extensively marketed and we expect to attract thousands of visitors not just from around the gardens but also from a much wider area including other parts of Wales as well as the North West and Midlands of England.

“We have an exciting, fascinating and entertaining programme of events and activities lined up, which means that every morning, afternoon and evening there will be at least one special event happening in one or more of the gardens."

Co-ordinating the festival is North Wales based gardens expert Tony Russell, renowned as one of Britain’s leading experts on trees and shrubs who also makes regular appearances on the BBC’s Gardener’s Question Time and famously put the Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire on the international tourism map.

He said: “I do lots of work encouraging people to visit gardens across the UK and find that although lots of people are familiar with those in places like Cornwall or Kent, they don’t know too much about the ones in North Wales.

“They know about the region’s other attractions such as castles, steam railways, mountains and coastlines but not our gardens, which are some of the finest in the UK.

“With the festival our aim is to wave the flag for North Wales’s fantastic gardens.

“The thing about the gardens we are featuring is that they are all set in such a great landscape and because of the conditions we enjoy they contain varieties plants that can’t be found in lots of other areas of the UK.

“We’re blessed with the three things that make the difference – plenty of moisture due to the closeness of the coast, mild winters and acid soil.

“That means plants such as agapanthus, magnolias and camellias, which usually grow up in more exotic parts of the world like South Africa, flourish in North Wales.

“Gardens are also big business now, with 30 million day visits being made to gardens across the UK every year. And of the 30 million overseas visitors coming to Britain annually 11 million visit a garden.”

Delighted to be taking part in the festival is Anthony Tavernor, owner of Plas Cadnant in Menai Bridge, Angeley.
His famous walled garden took a severe battering from floods which hit the area last December, washing away a 200-year-old wall and rare plants.
But Mr Tavernor, who has been restoring the gardens for 20 years, said repair work was currently well in hand.
“Things are going full steam ahead and there are lots of things going on to get the gardens restored,” he explained.
“We’re giving our full support to the festival and are delighted to have the launch here on May 28.
“The aim is to establish North Wales are a place to visit a range of beautiful gardens and to show people that we have some of the best in the UK because of our good growing conditions.” 

Gardening legend Roy Lancaster, who will open the festival, said: “I’ve been visiting the gardens of North Wales for the past 60 years and they are definitely some of the most attractive in Britain.

“The festival is all about showing them off to a wider audience and I’m looking forward very much to the official opening, particularly as it’s at Plas Cadnant, which has had a phoenix-like resurrection after being damaged so badly by the terrible floods.

“From what I hear they’ve really worked wonders there and I can’t wait to see it.

“The festival is unique in North Wales and should therefore do very well, especially as it features so many wonderful gardens and will be offering a very wide range of attractions.

“Garden festivals generally are becoming extremely popular these days and I’m sure this one will help put North Wales even more firmly on the UK’s tourist map.”   

Taking part in the festival from the county of Wrexham are Chirk Castle and National Trust Erddig.
Gardens from the county of Gwynedd include Plas Brondanw at Penrhyndeudraeth, Crug Farm Plants near Caernarfon, Plas yn Rhiw in Pwllheli, Plan Tan y Blwch in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Caerau Uchaf Gardens in Bala, Portmeirion in Penrhyndeudraeth, Aber Arto Hall in Llanbedr, Penrhyn Castle in Llandegai and, via its website only, Nanharon in Pwllheli.
In the county of Anglesey are Plas Newydd in Llanfairpwll and Plas Cadnant in Menai Bridge.

Gardens from the county of Conwy involved are Bodnant at Tal y Cafn, Gwydir Castle at Llanrwst, the Welsh Mountain Zoo's gardens in Colwyn Bay and the Conwy Valley Maze at Dolgarog.

In the county of Powys there’s Gregynog at Newtown, the Centre for Alternative Technology at Machynlleth, Powis Castle and The Dingle Garden near Welshpool.

* For more information go to www.gardensnorthwales.co.uk/events

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Railway volunteers work through the winter


* Volunteers at work on a section of lineside.

Over the winter Llangollen Railway has put in a large amount of work to manage the vegetation growing along the lineside.

"This is a regular but often 'behind the scenes' part of railway operations and enables the travelling public to see the superb countryside through which the railway runs instead of a green corridor," said railway spokesman Peter Dickinson.

"A dedicated group of volunteers have cleared the shrubs, trees and overhanging branches from both ends of Berwyn Tunnel, making the approaches to it much lighter and drier.

"The immediate benefit for photographers is that the view from the dedicated Lineside Viewing Area, opened last year, at the eastern end of the tunnel has been much improved.

"Between March 10 and 13 a shredder was hired in to tackle the lineside between Berwyn station and the tunnel, making light work of the vegetation growing on the embankments.

"This has dramatically improved the view from the train of the Horseshoe Falls and the Llantysilio mountains, whilst restoring the lineside back to its original Great Western Railway and British Railways condition."

Monday, March 21, 2016

AM demands action on mobile signal problems

An AM has called on regulators and phone companies to act urgently to address loss of services in Wrexham and the Dee Valley.

Ken Skates said mobile customers in his Clwyd South constituency are reporting regular and repeated losses of reception throughout the area.

BT customers have also bemoaned a slowdown in broadband speeds, he added.

The Labour Assembly Member, who is based in Llangollen, said: “I've been inundated with complaints about mobile networks not operating properly across the area, especially in the Dee Valley.

“Mobile signals are crucial for many people and for businesses, so I have demanded urgent action to restore networks immediately.

"I've also written to the UK Government, demanding that we benefit from the service obligation for networks to provide 4G to 95% of customers by the end of next year.”

Mr Skates added: “I also have concerns with the loss of speed for many broadband customers, along with the inability of others to be able to connect to the internet, so I have also asked BT to take swift action to rectify the situation.”

Mr Skates said he has gathered a huge number of concerns throughout the Dee Valley and Wrexham area, including via Facebook page Llangollen Noticeboard.

He added: “The lack of coverage is threatening businesses and essential services and affecting people throughout the valley. It needs resolving now.”

Noah Stewart to team with Katherine Jenkins at Eisteddfod



* Noah Stewart is heading for Llangollen.

One of the world’s top tenors has a musical date with classical superstar Katherine Jenkins OBE (pictured below) at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, it's been revealed.

Noah Stewart is set for a third appearance at Llangollen in four years as he prepares to join the Welsh mezzo soprano on stage for a concert adaption of Georges Bizet’s opera, Carmen.

According to Stewart, who hails from Harlem, in New York, he can’t wait to perform alongside Katherine in her portrayal of the fiery gypsy, Carmen, in ‘special’ Llangollen, which is one of his favourite concert venues.


On the opening night of this year's festival on Tuesday, July 5, he will play the role of the lead male role of Don José opposite Katherine.

Stewart said: “I’m so excited it’s going to be wonderful evening. Katherine is such a fabulous singer and a truly beautiful person.

“We have worked together before. We did the Glasgow Proms three summers ago, I think it was the last night and we sang a series of duets together.  She has an amazing voice and is such a wonderful and talented woman.”


Other highlights at this year's festival - the 70th since it started in 1947 - include superstar bass baritone Bryn Terfel in concert with top tenor Joseph Calleja on Thursday, July 7, along with Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra who bring the curtain down on the festival with a foot stomping party on Sunday, July 10.

The Wednesday night concert will be a celebration of musical theatre featuring the Kerry Ellis, dubbed the First Lady of the West End, and Collabro who won Britain's Got Talent in 2014.

They will be joined by talented Glasgow Academy of Musical Theatre, the CBC Voices from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and the Welsh National Opera Orchestra under the direction of John Quirk.

The Friday night concert, Heart Of Llangollen, will showcase the best of the international competitors. It will also include the Dance Champions competition and a Caribbean Carnival Extravaganza.
The competitions draw to a close on Saturday night with the famous Choir of the World contest with the prestigious Pavarotti Trophy up for grabs. The audience will also be entertained by the popular vocal group, The Swingles.

Playing Don José is a familiar role for Stewart.

He said: “I’ve played Don José more than any other throughout my career. In fact at least 36 times, I’ve just completed a 16 date tour of the UK with the Scottish Opera playing that very role.

“It’s a fantastic part to play and perform and Don José is such a complex character who falls madly in love with this sexy, alluring gypsy girl. It’s a tragic tale of a love triangle that has become the most performed opera of all time.

“I think people identify so easily with Carmen, Don José and the glamorous toreador Escamillo.

“It’s going to be a special night I think everyone knows the Flower Song from Carmen, it’s one of the most famous operatic arias of all time. And Don José is such a tragic figure; it’s an amazing role.”


Katherine Jenkins said: “I’m really excited as it’s a role I have always wanted to sing. I studied Carmen at the Royal Academy of Music before I graduated and being a mezzo soprano, it's my favorite opera. 

"I’ve always talked about doing this and it will be the first time fans will be able to hear all the arias in one evening.

"I do usually include several operatic arias in my concerts but I have never condensed and performed all the arias from a single opera into one concert. 

"Carmen is such a wonderful character and it’s one of the most popular operas. It’s going to be a wonderful night, something I hope everyone will really look forward to and I for one couldn't be more excited to be returning to Llangollen for this special event."  

Stewart was delighted to be returning to Llangollen, a place where he says everyone speaks the same language – the language of music.

He said: “You meet people you have never met before, people from the other side of the world yet you share that special love of music.

“I always get the impression people admire, respect and love each other at Llangollen and music is the glue that binds people together. Everyone at Llangollen is a winner."

The festival's musical director, Eilir Owen Griffiths, is thrilled Noah Stewart is returning to Llangollen and will be appearing alongside Katherine.

He said: “What an amazing evening of music for those privileged enough to be in the audience.

“To have Katherine Jenkins OBE and Noah Stewart on the Eisteddfod stage is a real coup, they would grace any of the world’s biggest concert venues.”

“We also have some wonderful artists who will be joining Katherine and Noah on stage. Baritones Adam Gilbert will be play the role of El Dancairo and Lukask Karauda the role of Escamillo.

“We also have Welsh mezzo-soprano Caryl Hughes, of Aberdaron playing Mercedes and tenor Trystan Griffiths, who hails from Clunderwen, Pembrokeshire playing El Remenado.

“The orchestra of the Welsh National Opera, under the baton of Anthony Inglis, and the voices of Ruthin’s Cor Cytgan Clwyd will add to what will be a magical night of music and drama.”

For more information about the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod, including tickets, visit www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk

Sunday, March 20, 2016

MP calls for disabled cuts re-think

Susan Elan Jones MP is writing to the Prime Minister urging the Government to re-think cut-backs to Personal Independence Payments and support to disabled people that were proposed in Wednesday's Budget.

The Clwyd South Labour MP (pictured), who has previously led a debate on Personal Independence Payments in Parliament, said: "The Conservative Government only has a small majority and I know from my personal involvement in the campaign against changing our Sunday trading laws that they can be defeated.

"The resignation of Iain Duncan Smith MP as Work and Pensions Secretary and the clear disquiet of so many MPs on the issue of Personal Independence Payments suggests that we should be able to get a U-Turn on this issue.

"Part of the craziness in the Government's thinking  is that their proposed changes actually make it harder for people with disabilities to work and access jobs, which is what PIP is about. It really beggars belief that any Government would think of implementing these changes. They are not just heartless; they don't make economic sense either." 

In her letter to David Cameron MP, Susan Elan Jones MP states: "We are all aware that Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are designed to make a contribution towards the extra costs caused by long term health conditions and disabilities.

"DLA and PIP are, of course, very important to disabled people who face a wide range of additional daily living costs. The help provided by DLA and PIP towards these additional costs makes a real difference to people's independence and quality of life. Many of my constituents are concerned that the proposals in the recent DWP Consultation on PIP eligibility, if implemented, would mean a dramatic reduction in the amount of help provided or, in some cases, no help at all."
 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Abbey Dingle uses meditation as dementia therapy


* Resident Agnes Holt, Senior Carer Hayley Reeves and resident Brenda Andrews.

People with dementia at a care home in Llangollen are using meditation to unlock their artistic talents in an exciting new art therapy project.

The ‘Try Something New’ sessions, organised by Alzheimer’s Society in Conwy and Denbighshire, are being held at the Abbey Dingle Care Home, a member of Care Forum Wales which promotes the value of the arts in social care.

The aim is to boost the health and wellbeing of residents and other members of the community and to support residents who have dementia. 

Senior carer Hayley Reeves came up with the idea after taking two residents to a Lost in Arts project at St Collen’s in Llangollen last December was run by Denbighshire Arts Services in partnership with the Alzhiemer’s Society.

The residents’ enjoyed their experiences so much that she decided to offer a six-week course on-site at Abbey Dingle.

“We have around ten regulars aged from about 85 upwards,” said Hayley, who has worked at the care home for the past 15 years.

“The residents really enjoy it. It’s an easy activity for them to take part in and it’s not too strenuous.

“The art therapy is great for interaction, socialising and reminiscing. We find the residents are really calm after the session and they thoroughly enjoy it.

“It really surprised me how well and quickly they took to it.”

There is growing support for the idea that painting and other creative art skills can enhance the wellbeing of people with dementia by improving mood, reducing depression and anxiety, promoting social interaction and stimulating memory.

The classes have been taking place every Wednesday afternoon since late January and have drawn visitors from outside the immediate area.

“We’re had an elderly lady from Rhyl coming along and a husband and wife from Llangollen,” said the 41-year-old who lives in Chirk.

“We find that an hour is enough before we have a break for tea and biscuits. 

“During this course the participants have learned all about colours and their meanings. They do a small meditation session initially and I was amazed at how much they remembered from their lives.

“The residents then apply different textures and materials to card to form a collage. One of the ladies has a daughter who’s an artist and was really surprised at how creative she was herself.”

Colour therapist Sue Hall, who has been teaching art therapy for 15 years, said each session begins with a short guided visualisation in which participants are able to explore the colour theme of the week.

“One week we visualised a picnic in the sand and another we went on a walk through the park,” she said.

“They take a big deep breath and relax and allow themselves to be guided along.
We then provide them with the corresponding colour essential oils so they can smell them. It’s amazing what they remember from the meditation and different memories from their past.

“Afterwards, they get stuck in with all the coloured materials and glue. There’s so much focus when they’re working, it’s really good to see.”

Carole Waterworth, Group Coordinator for Alzheimer’s Society in Conwy and Denbighshire said; “Just because someone has received a diagnosis of dementia it shouldn’t mean that they no longer have the opportunity to acquire new skills and share in new experiences, including our new exercise and craft groups. We want to support people with dementia to get involved with different activities in their local communities.

“As the population ages, we all face the risk of one day developing the condition. We hope that the Try Something New’ project will increase public awareness of dementia and give people a better understanding of the condition; reducing the stigma.

One of the female participants is partially-sighted but has still been able to explore her creative side through touching and feeling the textures of the materials.

“It has been hugely beneficial to her and she’s presented some really good work,” Hayley explained.
 
“This lady has already had the opportunity of having some of her work displayed in an exhibition following the last church-based project and is definitely benefitting from the therapy.

“The outcome has been really positive for everybody involved and we’re keen to hold a similar event later in the year, perhaps under a gardening or flower theme.

“As with everything, these kinds of activities come down to funding but thankfully we were able to work in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society, the use of a room is free and the tutor has been came via the Try Something New Project.

“I’m so glad the project turned out the way it has and I’m hoping to do lots more in the future.”

Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said: "This is an innovative project that is helping to enrich the lives of people living with dementia.

"The arts are able to reach people and inspire creativity which is a life-enhancing joy.
"Another benefit is that the arts also greatly assists the development of the social care workforce in understanding the value of enriching people's lives.

"Care Forum Wales has been promoting the value of the arts within social care for a long time and this project is a fantastic example of why it is so worthwhile."

Friday, March 18, 2016

Rail commuters being let down, says Lib Dem candidate

Rail commuters from Chirk, Ruabon and Wrexham have been let down by the Welsh Government and Network Rail, says Clwyd South Welsh Assembly Candidate Aled Roberts.

 “To great fanfare the Welsh Government announced some time ago that a scheme to dual the line between Wrexham and Chester would reduce journey times and be operational from February last year,” commented Mr Roberts (pictured).

“Now the first anniversary of that completion date has been and gone and we are still waiting for the scheme to be completed.

“In November last year I demanded to know what was going on and what action could be taken to speed things up. Since then I have had a number of meetings with the Welsh Government’s Transport Minister and now appreciate that the overall aim of the £40m scheme was to increase the number of trains and their speed between Shrewsbury and Chester. But commuters have been badly let down since none of the planned improvements have taken place

  “Last week the Transport Minister invited me to another meeting where a report was discussed which outlined not only the problems with the current project to improve rail services but ways in which the £10m of extra funding secured by the Welsh Liberal Democrats during budget negotiations could be used to improve services from Chirk, Ruabon and Wrexham.

  “Unfortunately when the Welsh Government was commissioning the addition of an extra line between Wrexham and Chester they left out a section between Wrexham and Rossett thereby reducing the numbe r of trains that could provide direct services to Manchester and Liverpool. The extra £10m of investment negotiated by Liberal Democrat Assembly Members will give the commuters the option of commuting by train to jobs in the north west of England.

  “A major problem appears to be the inability of Network Rail to plan and implement major rail improvements. There has been a problem with the cabling installed for signalling and a need to upgrade the level crossing at Broad Oak which had not been identified when the project was planned.

"But that is not all. There is also a problem with one of the bridges between Shrewsbury and Gobowen which can’t accommodate faster trains! The Transport Minister has issued a recent statement in which she is seeking assurances from the UK Government about the future of Network Rail – that is something that needs to be urgently pursued by the new Welsh Government after the Assembly elections."