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Saturday, April 21, 2018

New date for Rotary and Inner Wheel Fete


* Cwmwd Ial re-enactors at last year's fete.

The date of the annual Rotary and Inner Wheel Garden Fete held at Plas Newydd has been
changed this year.

The new date is Saturday June 9 rather than the traditional first Saturday in June. This is to avoid a clash with the Llangollen Round Challenge on Saturday June 2 as many of the volunteers are involved in both events.

The fete will have all the usual attractions, stalls, refreshments and activities for the children.

The main arena attraction will once again be the Cwmwd Iâl re-enactors but fete organisers say this
year’s performance will be even bigger and more spectacular than last year.

Cwmwd Iâl re-enact living history and combat displays at events nationwide. They portray the people living in Wales between the 9th and 12th centuries.

Fete organisers are delighted that both Ysgol Bryn Collen and Ysgol Y Gwernant will be involved and the Brownies and Rainbows will also have their own competitions.

More details of the event will be available later.


Friday, April 20, 2018

AM attacks school uniform grant cut

North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood grilled the First Minister this week over his Government’s decision to cut a £700,000 grant which helps thousands of poorer families buy school uniforms in Wales.

Speaking in the Assembly Chamber, Mr Isherwood (pictured) blasted the plans and urged the First Minister to protect the funding.

Following fierce criticism of the proposal, Carwyn Jones has said the Welsh Government is “looking to introduce an improved grant that suits families' needs better”, but Mr Isherwood said parents need assurances that they will still receive the funding.

Speaking in the Assembly Chamber, he said: “After this announcement was made, the Welsh Government said that the cost of uniforms had reduced. The Bevan Foundation called this a mealy-mouthed justification for a cut that will save a small sum.

“A headteacher in Bangor said uniform is a way of avoiding social stigma because pupils all look the same. He blasted what he called the ‘bonfire of the grants’ affecting some of the most vulnerable school children.

“A Conservative Bridgend Councillor described the move as heartless and said it would hit the poorest families the hardest. You were just asked clearly whether you would protect the funding, so can I ask you, yes or no, even if you won't answer whether you'll protect the funding, will all year 7 pupils in receipt of free school meals still be eligible for a school uniform grant?”

The First Minister replied: “What we're looking to do is to do that and beyond. Our commitment to the most disadvantaged pupils is there for all to see. We've increased it to £93.7 million through the PDG (Pupil Development Grant) spend. We are looking at not just school uniform items, but possibly the cost of school trips, stationery, extra curricular activities, school photographs, cost of equipment or resources”.

Mr Isherwood added: “This is more uncertainty than ‘u-turn’ by a Welsh Government caught on the hop and a First Minister seeking to retrieve believability from blunder. In referring instead to his Government’s Pupil Development Grant, which is supposed to tackle the impact of disadvantage on educational outcomes, he omitted to mention the statement by education watchdog Estyn that using the Pupil Development Grant to support disadvantaged pupils was ‘rarely a central aspect’ of schools’ plans."

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Llanfest teams up with the Cavern Club


* Dancers from the festival (Sai Mayur) perform with The Cavern Club at the Yellow Submarine statute outside Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod has announced that the world’s most famous music club, The Cavern, will host its first ever pop-up stage at this year’s festival.

The Liverpool-based music venue will be joining bands including the Kaiser Chiefs at the festival’s finale party, Llanfest, on Sunday 8th July, as the date also marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ animated film Yellow Submarine.


This collaboration on the Lindop Toyota  Globe Stage will see The Cavern Club entertain audiences with performances by their world class resident musicians.
The legendary club has been the beating heart of Liverpool’s iconic music scene for over seven decades and will celebrate The Beatles pop history at the festival - hosting a myriad of music performances by world class singers from Liverpool.
The International Eisteddfod has been promoting peace and goodwill through music and performance for over 70 years.
It even helped launch Luciano Pavarotti’s career and attracts over 4,000 performers and as many as 50,000 visitors across the week.
Chairman of the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Dr Rhys Davies, said: “The International Eisteddfod was created to heal the wounds of war and bring communities from across the globe together through music and dance, in the spirit of international friendship and peace.
“The Beatles’ values and international renown will help spread this message even further. We are so proud to be working with The Cavern Club who will be helping bring even more contemporary music genres to the festival, while still remaining true to the festival’s traditional values.”
Director at The Cavern Club, Bill Heckle, said: “We’re thrilled to be working with the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, both by hosting The Cavern’s pop-up stage at this year’s festival and commemorating the Yellow Submarine’s 50th anniversary, which has influenced music and popular culture for half a century.
“It is an incredibly exciting time for us, Liverpool and the music industry and to commemorate one of Liverpool’s biggest phenomenon at one of the largest international music festivals is amazing, we can’t wait for Llanfest!”
To celebrate their collaboration, international dancers from the festival (Sai Mayur) performed with The Cavern Club at the landmark Yellow submarine statute, outside Liverpool John Lennon Airport.
Launched in 2011, Llanfest was introduced as the finale party of the International Eisteddfod, to reach out to new audiences and attract festival goers from across the country.
The announcement of The Cavern Club and Kaiser Chiefs 2018 appearance follows the huge success of Welsh band Manic Street Preachers, who raised the roof of the Royal International Pavilion at the festival finale last year.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Operatic's stunning My Fair Lady is right up your street



* The memorable Ascot scene from the Operatic's My Fair Lady.

If you’re a lover of big stage musicals then the latest offering from Llangollen Operatic Society is going to be right on the street where you live.

The society last performed that Lerner and Loewe evergreen 30 years ago and a handful of cast members who were in it back in the Eighties have returned to add their experience to the current production which opened last night in the Town Hall and runs for the next four evenings plus a matinee on Saturday.
The show tells the well-known tale of Eliza Doolittle, an awkward Covent Garden flower girl who is transformed into the fair lady of the title by prickly phoneticist Professor Henry Higgs in Edwardian London.

But while Eliza is fashioned into an elegant and poised beauty by the Prof the often painful transformation has the unexpected side-effect of bringing out the human side of the curmudgeonly bachelor academic. 
Taking the key role of Eliza is stunning new am-dram star Esme Sallnow who was simply made for it. She looks the part, can act up a storm and has the kind of voice the composers must have imagined for their female lead.

Higgins is played by Llan Operatic stalwart Chris Sims who brings to the enormous and challenging part just the right amount of crustiness contrasted with humour.
Another actor precisely of the kind Lerner and Loewe must have had in mind when they were working up the loveably cheeky character of Alfie Doolittle, the dustman dad of Eliza, is Bill Hughes. With the ability to become indefatigably Cockney right down to his gorblimey trousers, he has one of the best and most powerful voices you’re ever likely to hear on an amateur stage anywhere.    

The excellent John Clifford, with whom Llangollen audiences are familiar from a diverse range of roles, shines again as Colonel Pickering, Higgins’s bumbling yet kind-hearted sidekick, and another Operatic favourite, Alison Ravenscroft, plays the Professor’s housekeeper, Mrs Pearce, with all her usual polish.
Graham Kelly gives a good interpretation of Freddie Eynsford-Hill, the mooning toff who makes a play for Eliza’s heart. 

With My Fair Lady it’s the unforgettable songs which have haunted audiences down the decades since this conversion of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion was first staged back in the 1950s.
And the way the Llan cast of almost 40, augmented with some budding talent from its Young 'Uns junior section, presents them with gusto and feeling does each one perfect justice.

From the touching I Could Have Danced All Night from Eliza to the crafty With a Little Bit of Luck from Alfie Doolittle and from the hopeful On the Street Where You Live from Freddie to the rousing Get Me to the Church of Time by the whole ensemble everyone's a winner.

As well as the musical numbers lots of time has clearly been lavished on the choreography and plenty of work has also gone into the period-correct costumes and eye-catching stage settings, none more so than the famous black and white Ascot scene which is stunning to both see and hear.
The show is a real spectacular and a credit to director Leigh Mason, artistic director Joanne Lloyd and producer Helen Belton who brought the whole thing together is remarkable style.

My Fair Lady is on at 7.30pm each evening of the run with the Saturday matinee starting at 2pm.
* Tickets, at £12 and £10 concessions, are available from Bailey’s, Gwyn the Butcher and Jades in Llangollen town centre as well as by phoning Stella Bond on 01978 860441 or by going online at: www.ticketsource.co.uk/llangollenoperaticsociety (fee applies).

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Curtain goes up on My Fair Lady



* Key cast members of My Fair Lady.
A cast of almost 40 from Llangollen Operatic Society are presenting the classic musical My Fair Lady at Llangollen Town Hall from tonight (Tuesday) until Saturday.

And, according to producer Helen Belton, they can’t wait to tackle the Lerner and Loewe masterpiece based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

She said: “The story concerns Eliza Doolittle, a cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from Professor Henry Higgins, a phoneticist, so that she can pass as a lady.

“The original Broadway and London shows memorably starred Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews but we’ve also got some exceptional performers waiting in the wings.  

“Eliza is played by talented Llangollen Operatic newcomer Esme Sallnow while two of our most experienced members, Christopher Sims and John Clifford, take the parts of Higgins and Colonel Pickering respectively. Alison Ravenscroft, who has also appeared in many of our past productions, is Higgins’ housekeeper, Mrs Pearce.”

Helen added: “The society last performed My Fair Lady around 30 years ago and a few of the people who were in it then are also in the new production.

“Back in the 80s the show proved a massive success for us and we’re aiming for a similar audience response this time.”

Musical director for the show is Leigh Mason and artistic director is Joanne Lloyd.

My Fair Lady is on at 7.30pm each evening of the run and there’s also a 2pm matinee on Saturday.

* Tickets, at £12 and £10 concessions, are available from Bailey’s, Gwyn the Butcher and Jades in Llangollen town centre as well as by phoning Stella Bond on 01978 860441 or by going online at: www.ticketsource.co.uk/llangollenoperaticsociety (fee applies).


Are you entitled to Council Tax reduction?

As Council Tax bills drop through the letterboxes of homes across Wales, thousands of households could be missing out on reductions they are entitled to.

Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford (pictured) has urged people to check whether they were aware of the discounts and reductions they could be entitled to.

You may be entitled to pay less council tax if:
  • you believe you live on a low-income
  • you live alone, or with people /children who do not pay council tax
  • you are a student
  • you are disabled
  • you are mentally impaired
  • your property is empty.
The Welsh Government is working with local authorities and third sector organisations including Citizens Advice and Age Cymru, to make people more aware of the range of support available to help them pay their Council Tax bills.

A new awareness raising campaign will be launched and a simple eligibility checker is available online. Reminders about the support available will also be sent to householders.

Professor Drakeford said: “We know that thousands of households across Wales are not receiving the support they could be entitled to with their Council Tax. There are many discounts, reductions and exemptions available and these are all listed on our new website. A few minutes of your time, could mean significant savings to your outgoings.”

Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services Alun Davies said: “Making Council Tax fairer is an essential part of our plans to reform local government in Wales.

“We’ve worked hard to ensure vulnerable households in Wales continue to receive Council Tax support as part of our national Council Tax Reduction Scheme. However, many households aren’t aware they could be eligible for the scheme or entitled to other discounts or exemptions.

"I would encourage everyone to check the website to see whether they could be paying less council tax.”

* A full list of eligibility criteria is available on the Welsh Government website at gov.wales/counciltaxhelp

Monday, April 16, 2018

Open day at World Heritage Site


The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Llangollen Canal World Heritage Site will be celebrating World Heritage Day on Saturday April 21 with fantastic family events near its Trevor Basin Visitor Centre.

The Canal & River Trust charity in Wales, which cares for the canal World Heritage Site near Llangollen, has organised a range of exciting activities for both adults and children, including free guided walks, canoe taster sessions, wood carving, stalls and an opportunity to build a bird box.

Between 11am and 3pm, visitors will be able to drop in and enjoy any of the activities, as well as discover more about volunteering or becoming a friend of the Canal & River Trust. Entry to Trevor Basin Visitor Centre is free of charge.

Lynda Slater, Trevor Basin Visitor Centre manager with the Canal & River Trust, said: “The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and 11-mile Llangollen Canal are part of a very exclusive club of outstanding buildings or monuments across the globe which have been designated World Heritage Site status.

“Along with iconic places such as the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids, we will be celebrating what makes us special. As we start the new summer season, we would love lots of people to come and visit us, and discover more about North Wales’s stunning Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which is Britain’s highest, longest aqueduct, a grade one-listed and scheduled ancient monument.”

The Trevor Basin Visitor Centre is open every day, 10am – 4pm, until the end of October. For more information about visiting the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Llangollen Canal World Heritage Site or volunteering and donating to the Canal & River Trust, please visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk or phone 0303 040 4040.