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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Eisteddfod prize gets major cash boost


* Mario and Gill Kreft of Pendine with eisteddfod musical director Eilir Owen Griffiths. 

Twenty four of the world's best young singers are flocking to North Wales to compete for a prestigious new international prize.

Competitors from as far afield as Switzerland, the Philippines, the USA and China will be competing for the title of International Voice of the Future at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod on Thursday, July 6.

The record number of entrants has been attracted by the boost given to the prize fund by  the arts-loving Pendine Park care organisation and the Sir Bryn Terfel Foundation.

The finalists will compete for the brand new Pendine Trophy and a cheque for £6,000 while the two runners up will each receive £2,000.

Pendine Park  have pledged to contribute £5,000 to the International Voice of the Future competition with £3,000  coming from Sir Bryn's foundation and £2,000 from the Eisteddfod.

As a result, the total prize pot is more than six times the  £1,500 awarded in previous years and the aim is to catapult the competition into a whole new league.

The idea is to showcase and nurture young talent, providing each year’s winner with support and a cash injection to advance their burgeoning careers.

The competition will be one of the highlights of the week at the festival which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.

The preliminary round gets underway at a free event at Llangollen Town Hall at 10am when the adjudicators will be internationally renowned soprano Elin Manahan Thomas and BBC presenter Gareth Jones

Each entrant will perform up to eight minutes' of music in its original language, after which the judges will select three finalists to take centre stage at the International Celebration evening concert,  when they'll be performing 12 minutes' of music.

Pendine Park are also sponsoring the performance of the classic opera Tosca, starring Sir Bryn Terfel, Kristine Opolais and Kristian Benedikt on Tuesday, July 4.

"Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft said: "Our aim in supporting the event and providing the Pendine Prize is to help transform it into a truly international competition that attracts the best singers from across the world.

"It is wholly appropriate that the Sir Bryn Terfel Foundation is also involved because the Eisteddfod provided him with a stepping stone to his stellar career and he is keen to nurture the talented young singers following in his footsteps.

“I firmly believe in the vital role played by music and arts in social care and as part of our enrichment programme for people with dementia we regularly have world-class musicians from the HallĂ© orchestra and Welsh National Opera as part of our enrichment workshops and staff training and development programme.

"Again this year we will be showcasing the value of the arts in social care and are organising a series of activities on the festival field, including dementia workshops. and intergenerational music workshops involving our residents and staff on Children's Day.

"We are deeply rooted in the communities which we serve and the ethos of the Eisteddfod chimes perfectly with what we are doing in promoting the arts and culture as way of enriching lives across the generations."

The festival's music director, Eilir Owen Griffiths, said: “Nurturing and promoting young talent is at the heart of the Eisteddfod and the Voice of the Future competition has launched the career of many a young soloist.

“The standard of entries is always high but thanks to the generous contribution of Pendine Park and the Bryn Terfel Foundation the increased prize fund has attracted a record number of high-quality entries. The adjudicators will have their work cut out for them this year!”

Sir Bryn Terfel added: “The Bryn Terfel Foundation is committed to supporting the development of aspiring young performers, particularly those who may be otherwise discouraged by financial hardship.

“The Eisteddfod’s International Voice of the Future competition has great synergy with the foundation’s objectives and we are happy to be contributing to the prize fund in the festival’s 70th anniversary year.”

* For more information on the preliminary round of the International Voice of the Future Competition to secure your tickets for the International Celebration, please visit: www.Llangollen.net

Leisure centre stages special fundraiser

The charity which re-opened Plas Madoc Leisure Centre following the council closure in 2014 is calling on local people to help it gain extra funding through Localgiving’s Small Charity Week Match Fund campaign.

The campaign starts at 10am today, Thursday (June 22) and one-time donations will be matched pound-for-pound up to £25.

For a one-time £25 donation with Gift Aid, Splash receives £56.25.

Each year Small Charity Week celebrates and raises awareness of the essential work of the UK’s small charity sector - of the invaluable contribution that these groups make to the lives of millions of individuals, communities and causes across the UK and the rest of the world.

The Small Charity Week match fund has been funded by the FSI and a private philanthropist.

Stella Matthews, Chairman of The Splash Community Trust said: "2017 has been a great year for us so far, we’ve seen major investment in the facility by the Welsh Government which has allowed us to replace the roof, upgrade electrics and modify the plant room.

"The Small Charity Week Match Fund is an exciting campaign and a fantastic opportunity for us to kick start our summer fundraising.

"All donations will make a huge difference to us and with the added bonus of doubled donations we hope local people will join in. The support we’ve received since re-opening has been overwhelming and together we can keep this fantastic community asset open.”

* To help The Splash Community Trust benefit from match funding, visit their Localgiving page on Thursday at: www.localgiving.org/charity/plasmadoc/

For more information about the trust and the work they do, go to: www.plas-madoc.com, email info@plas-madoc.com or call 01978 821600.        

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Plaid AM voices concern over bank closures

The Plaid Cymru AM has expressed his fear that north Wales will lose "yet more community banks" following an announcement that Barclays are set to shorten the opening hours of their Llangollen branch from July.

Residents from Llangollen contacted Llyr Gruffydd expressing their concern that the Barclays branch in the town was set to close on Thursdays from July 24, and opening for Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays only.

Mr Gruffydd (pictured) contacted Barclays seeking assurances, but was disappointed with the reply.

He said: “We already know that bank lending to businesses falls when banks close, and the fall is significantly more when the last branch closes in a community.

"Llangollen and the area have been hit by the closures of HSBC and NatWest. Barclays argue that cutting opening hours is an attempt to keep a branch open, and I understand that, but the truth is that they cannot guarantee that they will retain a presence there beyond six months.

“While HSBC and NatWest have gone through a significant closure programme, I’m concerned that Barclays will be the next of the big banks to review their presence in our communities across north Wales.

“The Government’s compromise with the British Banking Association which meant that rural communities must have an alternative is flawed and one sided.

"The BBA will argue that their members provide an online alternative, but the truth is that swathes of north Wales do not have access to Broadband or 3G let alone 4G, and Llangollen and the area is a perfect example.

"There is also a great many people, especially the most vulnerable, who continue to depend on the High Street branch. This is why Plaid Cymru have said that we would create a publicly-owned bank.

"It is vitally important that individuals and businesses in all communities have easy access to financial advice and banking services. It’s not just Plaid Cymru campaigning against this - the Federation of Small Businesses and the Farmers’ Union of Wales have raised concerns about this culture of centralisation.”

HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group are all among banks that cut 600 branches between April 2015 to April 2016. 90 per cent of those closures were in areas where the median household income is below the average of £27,600, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Mr Gruffydd has been campaigning for the retention of community banking services since being first elected to the National Assembly in 2011. He has campaigned for communities across north Wales and challenged banking bosses across the sector.

County has nuisance call blockers for trial

Denbighshire Trading Standards are looking for residents who could benefit from a blocker unit which aims to reduce the number of unknown callers that are received. 

As part of a national trial, the team has a limited number of the units available to loan out to vulnerable residents in the county on a trial basis to see if this will help combat their nuisance caller problems. 

The results of the individual units will be shared nationally and will be discussed with the individual or other nominated person. 

The unit offers three different incoming call handling profiles to choose from. 

All the profiles allow calls from trusted callers to get through unimpeded – the difference is in the way they control unrecognised callers. 

You can change the profile whenever you want so that the blocker always gives the appropriate level of protection even if needs change. 

You can easily monitor and control the unit via your personal Internet Control Panel. This allows you to view a log of all of your incoming and outgoing calls, edit your trusted callers list and change your configuration settings. 

* If you know of someone who might benefit from this and would be interested in trialling a unit you can contact the team via tradingstandards@denbighshire.gov.uk or on 01824 706446.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Assurances called for on Llan bank's future


* Cllr Bob Lube, Cllr Graham Timms and Ken Skates AM
 outside the branch.

Community leaders have called for assurances over the long-term future of the only remaining bank in their town.

County Councillor Graham Timms has contacted Barclays after it emerged the company wants to reduce opening hours in Llangollen to three days a week from July 24.

“We simply cannot lose this bank. I will be writing to Jonathan Brenchley, Barclays’ head of corporate relations in Wales, to try and get some answers,” said Cllr Timms.

Assembly Member Ken Skates has also contacted the company.

He said: “Not only is Barclays the only bank in Llangollen, it’s the last remaining branch anywhere in Clwyd South following closures in Brymbo, Cefn Mawr, Chirk, Corwen, Rhos and Ruabon – as well as HSBC and NatWest in Llangollen – in the past few years.”

Last year Mr Skates asked for – and received – reassurances from Barclays that the Llangollen branch was safe ‘for the immediate future’. He also encouraged constituents to use the branch as often as they can to keep footfall up.

“In many people’s eyes, reducing opening hours is only a few steps away from closure, so I have asked Barclays for a further commitment to Llangollen,” said Cllr Timms.

“Only once in the past seven years or so has Barclays closed the last remaining bank in any town in Wales, so I hope they will continue to operate with a greater degree of social responsibility than other banks have shown to people in our area.”

Town councillor and former mayor Bob Lube added: It would be a sad day for Llangollen if this branch closed, particularly after so many people switched when HSBC and NatWest shut.”

The changes will see the branch open on Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 10am-4pm.

Politicians voice concern over bus service changes


* Ken Skates AM, left, with Susan Elan Jones MP and Welsh First Minister
Carwyn Jones in Coedpoeth recently.
Changes to bus services could cut ‘lifelines’ for residents in Wrexham’s outlying villages, say an MP and AM.

Susan Elan Jones and Ken Skates have written to Arriva, Wrexham Council and the Traffic Commissioner about the company’s plans to restrict some of its routes from June 25, which have been heavily criticised by disgruntled service users.

Ms Jones, who was recently re-elected as Clwyd South MP, said: “I’ve spoken to a lot of people who are extremely upset about these changes, particularly older people who see these services as a lifeline connecting them to their communities and essential amenities such as their doctor, pharmacy or post office. A lot of people will be affected.”

Mr Skates said he’d made representations on behalf of residents in areas including Coedpoeth, Penycae, Rhostyllen and the Maelor villages.

“In Penycae, these changes will see key areas such as the Afoneitha estate hugely affected, and people fear they will be completely cut off,” he said.

“Arriva has stated that long-running parking issues hindering access to the estate have contributed to its decision, so I would implore Wrexham Council to act as a matter of urgency.

“Residents in the Maelor villages successfully campaigned for their 146 service to be reinstated, now it’s up in the air again. Their last bus would leave Wrexham at 4.45pm, so how are those who commute there every day for work supposed to get home?”

Mr Skates added: “Susan and I have made urgent representations to Arriva, the council and the Traffic Commissioner and hope to hear back in the very near future.”

Monday, June 19, 2017

Disgust over mess left at Riverside Park


A Llangollen resident has spoken of his disgust at the pile of rubbish which he says was left by visitors around a picnic bench at Riverside Park over the weekend.

Mike Edwards said: "A friend of mine posted this photo on Facebook of the mess left by visitors down by the river.

"It's absolutely disgusting and irresponsible and shows the disrespect visitors show to our beautiful town, which is close to a World Heritage Site and part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty."