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Friday, October 19, 2018

Eisteddfod singing star to perform Down Under

* Mared Williams sings at this summer's eisteddfod.

A performer who was named the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod’s 2018 International Voice of Musical Theatre is gearing up to perform on Australia’s Gold Coast on Saturday.

As part of her Llangollen prize 21-year-old Mared Williams from Llannefydd will join hundreds of exceptional performers in the Gold Coast Eisteddfod’s Musicale.

The show is a celebration of musical theatre and one of the highlights of the seven-week long Australian festival of dance and music.

Mared wowed audiences and adjudicators with her performances of So Big So Small from Dear Evan Hanson, Pulled from the Addams Family and Being Alive from Company on the stage of the Royal International Pavilion in July.

Since winning the prestigious title at the eisteddfod, Mared has not only been gigging with her own songs but has also started a Masters degree in Musical Theatre at the Royal Academy of Music in London, whilst preparing for her adventure across the Australian coast.

“I’ve always wanted to travel, performing my own songs,” said Mared, “but it is incredible how many doors have opened since adding the title of Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod’s International Voice of Musical Theatre to my CV.

“This really is going to be the trip of a lifetime for me, I’m really looking forward to experiencing an Eisteddfod outside of Wales as well as meeting new people and discovering the beautiful sights of Australia.

“I’d urge anyone with a passion for music and performance to enter the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod’s competitions and go into it aiming to have a wonderful day out doing what they love. It really is a dream come true!”

The Gold Coast Eisteddfod features over 70,000 singers and dancers, 330 bands and orchestras, 175 choirs, almost 1,500 dance groups and over 3,000 solo dancers.

The winner of the 2018 International Voice of Musical Theatre’s visit to the prestigious Australian festival has been covered completely by the Gold Coast Eisteddfod, a prize that will be up for grabs once again at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod 2019.

Interim Music Director of the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Edward-Rhys Harry, said: “Working with the Gold Coast Eisteddfod helps us to further raise the international profile of the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, opening doors for new and exciting soloists from across the globe and acting as a springboard for glittering musical careers.

“We would like to thank Judith and the team for welcoming our 2018 winner Mared Williams and once again agreeing to offer this fantastic prize to the winner of the 2018 International Voice of Musical Theatre competition.”

* The eisteddfod is currently accepting entries for group categories. The deadline for Choral, Ensemble and Dance Categories is Friday November 23. Entries for soloists will open in December – visit for more information.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Concert raises £2,164 for cancer charity

The concert  in aid of Pancreatic Cancer UK staged at Llangollen Town Hall recently raised £2,164 for the charity.

The James Lambert Singers from Wrexham, conducted by Mair Evans and with guest tenor Colin Holt, played to a packed house.

Audience members carried home lots of raffle prizes.

Gethin Davies compered and Laura Howard Jones from the central London office of the charity spoke about its work and future.

A similar event is planned for October 5 next year.

Public get their first view of town's traffic blueprint

Llangollen people have been given their first look at a £2 million blueprint for the future shape of the town centre.

Consultants firm Arcadis, which has been hired to find solutions for the area’s traffic problems, hosted two briefing sessions – one outside the Town Hall yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon and the other inside the building in the evening – where it unveiled its vision for how things could look by 2020.
While this is still subject to consultation and amendment before the final version is presented at the end of next month, proposals include a new mini traffic island at the Abbey Road end of the famous bridge, the partial pedestrianisation of Market Street and the removal of parking bays along Castle Street.

While a steady stream of interested people turned up at the four-hour daytime briefing session less than 30 members of the public, including residents and business owners, attended the hour-long evening event.   
Alison Powell of Arcadis (pictured below) explained that the feasibility and scoping study being presented was a collection of ideas and suggestions which at this stage had no official status.

“We have been trying to work out what is technical and feasible in terms of solutions,” she said.
“Our aim is to create a high quality town centre environment which is attractive, safe and provides usable public space for a range of users and activities.”

Problems identified by her team around Castle Street, she said, was a conflict between pedestrians and traffic flow at the Abbey Road and A5 junctions, both of which were at or near capacity, the obstacles of parked cars, narrow pavements and general east/west traffic flows. In a bid to find solutions Arcadis looked at various forms of traffic modelling and examples of best practice in other areas of Britain.
An on-street public consultation exercise by the team in July, she revealed, had seen 300 responses submitted and Arcadis had also sounded out businesses, the Chamber of Trade and stakeholders including the Pavilion and the railway.

Chief complaints about Castle Street this had thrown up were the volume of traffic (74%), parking at the roadside (72%) and the lack of pedestrian crossings (56%).

Proposals for improvement include:
* Directional signs on the main roads into town aimed at diverting HGVs away from Llangollen.

* Pavements on the western side of Castle Street being widened.
* The creation of two pedestrian crossing points, on slightly raised sections of roadway, on the main street – one outside the library.

* The removal of street “clutter”, such as repeated signage, on the street.
* A slight reduction in the width of the carriageway on Castle Street.

* More tree planting along the street.
Major proposals include the creation of a mini roundabout at the Abbey Road end of the bridge and the stopping up of Market Street from Castle Street back to Greenfield.

This partial pedestrianisation would mean that buses coming into town will have to instead reach Parade Street via the A5 and the top end of Market Street.
Alison Powell said there would still be access to properties along Market Street but the stopping up might allow for the market to move off  the nearby car park and into the street, freeing up valuable parking spaces.

Parking spaces would also be removed from the section of Abbey Road immediately opposite the bridge to allow for the roundabout to be put in.
On the sensitive issue of parking, she said proposals were to reduce the number of long-stay spaces on the Market Street car park presently used by residents using permits therefore producing more short-stay spaces, the removal of parking spaces on Castle Street and having visiting coaches dropping off and picking up on Market Street car park while actually parking up at the Pavilion.

A limited number of disabled parking bays would be created in Bridge Street and Oak Street.
Next steps in the 2020 process before the final draft is published at the end of November, she explained, were a review of latest feedback, further research on what could be done to ease traffic problems at the Castle Street/A5 junction – a couple of options for this were in mind, she said – and estimations of the costs and economic impact of the proposals.

A question and answer session brought out a number of points, mainly on parking. These included:
* Concern by a B&B owner about her guests being able to find long-stay parking. Alison Powell said the aim was to accommodate all needs.

* Whether coaches would be put off  by not being able to park on Market Street. To this she answered that research by Arcadis had shown that was unlikely.
* Whether cars would stop to allow people to use the new crossing points.  AlisonPowell said: “In other places that have these cars do stop.”

* Why a narrower carriageway on Castle Street was necessary on top of removing parking on the street. “We need to do something additional to slow down the traffic,” she replied.
Graham Timms, one of the county councillors for Llangollen and chair of the 2020 working group, said: “The needs of businesses, residents and visitors have to be balanced to make the town centre work better for everyone.”

He said the overall cost of the 2020 scheme would be around £2 million. If eventually approved, half a million pounds of this would come from Denbighshire, between £160,000 and £200,000 from the Welsh Government with a “range of other options” being explored for the remainder.   
Cllr Timms revealed a number of other moves were being considered to alleviate the parking situation.

These included freeing up more spaces for short-term use by asking the owners of parking areas such as St Collen’s and inside the Pavilion grounds if they will allow these to be used by people working in the town centre so visitors can use the spaces they would normally occupy.
Later Cllr Timms said: “Arcadis is putting forward new and innovative solutions to some longstanding traffic problems in Llangollen.

“The Abbey Road/Castle Street junction usually operates at capacity and on busy days it simply can’t take the volume of traffic, causing tailbacks in all directions.
“This also applies to the junction at the other end of Castle Street controlled by traffic lights onto the A5, where improvements to the light sequence and improved pedestrian crossing points will also lead to the traffic flowing more freely.

“The report also suggests the creation of a pedestrian zone on Market Street banning traffic from entering or leaving the main Castle Street. The consultants say that removing traffic from this area will help with traffic flow by removing the obstructions caused by large vehicles turning at this junction. 
Llangollen’s other county councillor, Melvyn Mile, said: “Denbighshire County Council has already agreed to make an initial contribution of £½million towards the project and further funding is being actively pursued by the Llangollen 2020 group.

“Llangollen has the second highest footfall in Denbighshire during August, closely following Rhyl, whilst beating Prestatyn, Denbigh and other tourist hotspots within the county. But traffic chaos and parking misery have been an increasing problem in a town which we believe is the jewel in the crown of Denbighshire’s heartlands.”
* The Arcadis study was instigated by the Llangollen 2020 group that was formed in October 2017. The initial team comprised of Llangollen’s two county councillors, two town councillors and representatives from the Chamber of Trade.

The study has been jointly funded by a range of partners including Cadwyn Clwyd, Welsh Government, European Union, Denbighshire County Council, Llangollen Town Council and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Serious accident closes A5 in Chirk

The Leader is reporting that the A5 in Chirk has been closed in both directions this afternoon following a serious road traffic collision near Jewsons.

For the full story see:

Mark Drakeford will "deliver for North Wales" say backers

* Mark Drakeford (centre) with supporters, from left, Ken Skates, Lesley Griffiths, Jack Sergeant and Hannah Blythyn.
Mark Drakeford is the Welsh Labour leadership candidate who will "deliver for North Wales".
That’s the message from four North Wales AMs backing the man they describe as a ‘21st Century socialist’.

Ahead of a hustings in Rhyl tomorrow (Thursday) Economy Secretary Ken Skates, AM for Clwyd South, said a prime reason for backing Mr Drakeford is his commitment to North Wales.

Mr Skates said: “It’s clear that Mark is the choice of – and the best candidate for – the North.
"A key consideration of mine was the future development of, and investment in, North Wales. Mark understands the need to address concerns over the divide between North and South and to ensure we have a strong voice and the ability to flex our own economic muscles.”
Launching his North Wales campaign at Coleg Cambria in Northop on Saturday, Mr Drakeford announced that – as First Minister – he would appoint a Minister for North Wales to address the ‘disconnect’ with the South.

He said: “I recognise there has always been some sense of disconnect between the North and the South. As First Minister I would appoint a Cabinet Secretary from North Wales as a Minister for North Wales and they will have the full machinery of government behind them. I will ask that person to explore what more can be done to strengthen the bonds between the North and South, by considering an idea developed by Ian Lucas, MP for Wrexham.”

Mr Drakeford said the North Wales Minister will chair a standing committee of the Cabinet, to meet regularly in North Wales.

Outlining his vision for the economy, Mr Drakeford said: “What I am describing is a reapplied radical form of 21st Century socialism where we use the power of acting together to make the biggest difference in the lives of the greatest number, to lead and not to follow the fourth industrial revolution and to create an economy here in Wales which by sharing the fruits more fairly provides prosperity for the many, not just the few.”

Lesley Griffiths, Hannah Blythyn and Jack Sargeant are also backing Mr Drakeford, as are North Wales MPs Albert Owen, Chris Ruane and Mark Tami.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Llan chosen to explore Business Improvement District

Breaking news exclusive

Llangollen is one of 10 partnerships across the country which will share over £260,000 of Welsh Government funding to explore establishing Business Improvement Districts (BIDs).

The aim is to boost the local economy and to support regeneration efforts.

Once the BID is agreed via a legal ballot, each business contributes financially via a levy, which is then used to fund the agreed activities set out in their business plan.

These could include marketing, promotion and events, car parking, tackling anti-social behaviour, improving access to towns, or work to make the area more vibrant and viable.

Other towns apart from Llangollen receiving funding as part of the current programme are Mold, Brecon, Newtown, Barry, Port Talbot, Treorchy and Aberdare.

Sector BIDs across the UK are increasing in number, and Welsh Government is keen to ensure they are encouraged in Wales.

Minister for Housing and Regeneration Rebecca Evans said: “We are seeing BIDs make a real difference to town centres across Wales, but setting them up takes time, effort and support, which is why we provide Welsh Government funding to get them off the ground.

“We are committed to creating lasting economic change in the South Wales Valleys through our Valleys Taskforce, and I hope the BID proposals in Aberdare, Treorchy, Port Talbot and Ebbw Vale, will play a significant role in this.

“BIDs can help to revitalise our town centres and promote regeneration. We have seen existing BIDs delivering increased street cleaning initiatives, tackling antisocial behaviour, reducing crime, offering bespoke business training courses and hosting numerous events and festivals.”

Economy Secretary Ken Skates said: “Collectively, the eight BIDs created in the last programme have generated over £5 million private investment to support their chosen activities. This is a significant return on our investment, helping drive local economic development and supporting our Welsh high streets."

Town councillor Robyn Lovelock, a strong supporter of the BID scheme, said: "I see this as a huge opportunity for town businesses to come together, discuss and agree what actions they think would lift the town's business economy through the development of a business plan. 

" Those discussions will be exciting but no doubt tricky, and the support of an independent consultant will be invaluable helping businesses work through the options, the pros and cons. 

"It seems to me that the question of whether it is feasible or desirable for the business plan to then be funded through a Business Improvement District with the associated increase in rates, or through another mechanism, then comes later - at "the ballot" in 12-18 months - once the business plan and terms are available for all businesses to consider and discuss. 

"This is an exciting opportunity for Llangollen (and its neighbour and fellow Cittaslow town - Mold) to explore new mechanisms for boosting its economy during difficult economic times."

llanblogger is taking a short break

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