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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

How loss of cash machines can hit communities

In the wake of local bank closures, Llangollen people may be interested in a story on the BBC website which highlights claims that as a result of being left without ATM cash dispensers communities in Wales could die.

* For the full story, see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-40315134

Knighthood was one of Sir Bryn's proudest moments



* Sir Bryn Terfel on song.

Sir Bryn Terfel has described how being knighted by the Queen was one of the proudest days of his life - along with the birth of his first daughter.

The globally renowned bass baritone was speaking ahead of his appearance at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod where he'll be starring in a special production of the classic opera Tosca on Tuesday, July 4.

He revealed he even persuaded Buckingham Palace to give him an extra ticket so that his three sons and his fiancee Hannah Stone could all attend the ceremony.

According to Sir Bryn, returning to one of his favourite venues to perform one of his favourite roles, the unscrupulous police chief Baron Scarpia in Tosca, was the "icing on the cake in what has been an amazing year".

He said: “It’s been such a roller coaster since I turned 50, so much has happened and it’s been wonderful, I’m a very lucky man.

“Going to Buckingham palace to be knighted by Her Majesty the Queen was just wonderful.

To be in the company of so many tremendous public servants, sports stars and entertainers who were also being honoured that day, was humbling and just such a proud, proud day.

“It was one of the proudest days of my life if I’m honest. It’s something that’s not supposed to happen to a lad from Pant Glas, Caernarfonshire.

“I received a letter from the Palace and three guest invitations. I called the palace and asked if it was at all possible I could have four invitations so I could take my three sons and Hannah and thankfully they agreed without hesitation. It was such a fabulous day.

“Then of course Hannah gave birth to Lili in May which was so special. And to bring her to Vienna where I’m currently performing is magical. I just love having Hannah and Lili with me.”

Sir Bryn says he can't wait to perform with two other world-class opera stars, soprano Kristine Opolais and tenor Kristian Benedikt in the operatic tale of love, lust and intrigue.

The concert is being sponsored by the arts-loving care organisation, Pendine Park, whose owners, Mario and Gill Kreft, are close friends.


Later in the week on Thursday, July 6, Sir Bryn and Pendine Park will be joining forces again as sponsors of the Voice of the Future Competition to find the world's best young singers when the finalists will be competing for the Pendine Trophy and a cheque for £6,000.

Sir Bryn said: “I always enjoy the Llangollen International Music Festival. It’s always a favourite festival and I’m always delighted to be asked to perform on that wonderful Llangollen stage.

“Tosca, as many other Eisteddfod past concerts, is sponsored by Pendine Park and Mario and Gill have become close friends over the years, they are incredible human beings and deserve huge credit for the work they do supporting the arts.

“I’ve visited their care homes both at Wrexham and Caernarfon and they are wonderful places where music and the arts are used to help and support residents. I know there will be dementia workshops taking place on the field at Llangollen which is fantastic.”

He added: "I want the Llangollen audience to also appreciate the young Welsh singers in the cast, baritone Steffan Lloyd Owen, who plays the jailer, and tenor, Elgan Llŷr Thomas, who plays Spoletta.

"I know the role of the Shepherd Boy is going to be played by 11-year-old, Joseph Elwy Jones. I’m really looking forward to hearing him sing.

“He sounds an incredible young man having overcome some ill health in the past and I’m delighted we can still unearth such amazing talent in North Wales.

“Having the opportunity to hear these young Welsh singers developing their careers on the Llangollen stage is something not to be missed and I always enjoy working alongside the conductor, Gareth Jones and the Welsh National Opera Orchestra. It’s going to be an amazing evening.

“The Llangollen International Musical Festival audience has a wonderful treat in store. I’m certainly really looking forward to what will be a wonderful evening.”

Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft MBE said: “Sir Bryn Terfel is the best of the best and to have him appear at Llangollen once again is the perfect way for to celebrate the 70th anniversary of this amazing festival where Wales meets the world.


"We're also delighted to be teaming up with the Sir Bryn Terfel Foundation to support the International Voice of the Future because we are passionate about nurturing young talent.

"The arts in general and music in particular are the golden threads running through everything we do at Pendine Park because of how they help enrich the lives of not only our residents but our staff too.

"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, is thrilled Sir Bryn Terfel is once again gracing the festival’s stage.

He said: “This is my final Eisteddfod as music director as I’m standing down after six years in the role and to have a concert performance of Tosca starring Sir Bryn and soprano Kristine Opolais is going to be the highlight of what will be an emotional week for me.

“The cast that has been put together for this concert performance is spectacular and this is going to be an evening of music and performance not to be missed.

“It will be a concert that in years to come people will be proud to boast they were there to witness, that’s how good I think this concert performance will be. It’s certainly an evening I’d recommend to anyone who loves good music and amazing voices.”


* For tickets, please visit www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Plas Newydd’s events for July




Sara and Eleanor – The Ladies' Play

19th July    18.00 – 21.00   Performed at 19.00

In the Grounds of Plas Newydd this play specially written two years ago for the town’s fringe festival was performed in 2015 to great acclaim and provides a fascinating and thoughtful insight into the lives of the famous Ladies of Llangollen. The one hour drama penned by Wrexham playwright Peter Read explores the exact nature of the ladies' relationship.  This is an opportunity to see/see again this beautiful interpretation of the Ladies’ life.  Bring a picnic/rugs/chairs and enjoy a wonderful evening.

Dee Valley Myths & Legends Art Competition

Sunday 16th July   All Day

Last day to hand in your piece of artwork or photo.

Thursday 20th July    14.00

Presentation of prizes to winners and an opportunity to see the art exhibition and the winning entries in Y Caban.

Poetry Reading by Jan Wallis

Sunday 23rd July  in Tearooms Courtyard    15.00 -16.00

As part of Llangollen Fringe Jan and friends will be reading poetry inspired by the Dell at Plas Newydd and the Ladies' poem engraved by the Font. 

The Great Victorian Dinosaur Hunt

Thursday 27th July    10.00-11.30

Back by popular demand, join us on a journey to discover creatures from the dawn of time….maybe even the mighty T.Rex!  The quest will take the audience to a mysterious lost valley, encountering various wild animals and dinosaurs along the way - learning about the creatures they see, as well as having fun.  The creatures are very realistic puppets.  Suitable for Primary age children.  Booking essential.

* For more details call Plas Newydd on 01978 862843.

Monday, June 26, 2017

New Llan promotional film is premiered


* A panoramic shot of the town looking from the direction of the Pavilion.


* Valle Crucis Abbey.


* Castell Dinas Bran.

Llangollen Town Council Cittaslow in partnership with Llangollen Chamber of Trade have premiered their exciting new short film, Llangollen Landscape of Legends.

Produced as part of the Visit Wales Year of Legends initiative, the two-minute video has been created by Needle Films specifically for social media outlets.
Stunning, high-quality drone footage brings to life the Dee Valley around Llangollen and a number of its legendary locations such as the Horseshoe Falls, the canal, the river, Dinas Bran Castle and Plas Newydd.

The film was launched at a ceremony in Llangollen Town Hall this afternoon (Monday) afternoon along with an upgraded website for the Chamber of Trade and Tourism the design of which has been enhanced to function more effectively on smartphones.
Councillor Karen Edwards, chair of the town council’s Cittaslow Committee, said: “Cittaslow is delighted to be involved with this short film production promoting and celebrating Llangollen’s contribution to the Wales Year of Myths and Legends theme for 2017.

“Since I first introduced the concept of a short drone footage film to the Chamber of Trade and Tourism some months ago I have been grateful for the support by all concerned and especially the land owners who allowed access to produce what I believe is an excellent product.
“The footage will certainly allow us to promote the town of Llangollen to a wider audience through social media and as chair of the Cittaslow Committee I am able to access the Cittaslow International Website to widen the appeal of the town to a truly international audience.”

Ian Lebbon, vice-chair Llangollen Chamber of Trade, said: “We are really pleased with this film and our newly upgraded website.
“The film has given us the opportunity to showcase the beautiful scenery of the Vale of Llangollen and some of our legendary attractions, events and activities.

“We hope that it will inspire visitors to experience some of our hidden gems in a North Wales landscape that has already been named by Lonely Planet this year as one of the top ten places to visit in the entire world.”
Neil Wyn Jones, director of Needle Films Media, said: “The Llangollen project has been a really inspiring one to film and produce.

“The area has such a stunning array of attractions, heritage and iconic landmarks that it’s not hard to see why it draws in so many visitors from near and far.
“It has been a real honour to have been involved in the promotion of the Vale of Llangollen by helping to put our truly Legendary Landscape in front of the eyes.”

The Wales Year of Legends campaign will be focusing on Llangollen in July, a town with a variety of legends from Dinas Bran, King Arthur and the Holy Grail, Thomas Telford to the Ladies of Llangollen.
The film illustrates a wide range of locations and activities showing just what a fascinating and thriving tourist town has developed over the centuries.

In 2016 the Chamber website received over 200,00 unique visits and five million hits and it is now planning to increase online traffic with the upgraded website, created by Mark Anderson of OaD Design and featuring a range of accommodation, outdoor activities, thriving shops, cafes and restaurants.
Denbighshire County Council’s Tourism Team has also supplied support through its Discover Denbighshire and North East Wales Tourism initiatives and the website has been supported by Denbighshire County Council Business Support.

* The film can be viewed on the Chamber of Trade website at: http://www.new.llangollen.org.uk/

For further information and a copy of the film, contact Gareth Thomas, Llangollen’s Town Clerk, at: clerk@llangollentowncouncil.gov.uk

Cash boost to help highlight county tourism


* Llangollen Railway is one of Denbighshire's top tourist attractions.


A grant of £40,000 from Welsh Government has been secured to highlight North East Wales’ tourism offer.

Lead partner Denbighshire County Council together with Wrexham County Borough Council and Flintshire County Council have joined forces to run a ‘Routes to the Sea’ project during Visit Wales’ themed Year of the Sea in 2018 and have been successful in the funding from Welsh Governments’ Regional Tourism Engagement Fund 2017-2019.

The project, supported by the three county Destination Management Partnerships, aims to showcase and tell engaging stories about the region’s coastline, cycle routes, walking trails, mountain biking, outdoor activities, landscape, historic sites, canals and rivers as well as celebrate the food offer.

Ian Lebbon, Chair of Denbighshire Destination Management Partnership, said:  “I’m really pleased to hear that the North East Wales partnership has secured this funding to continue the great work in promoting the region to both residents and visitors.

"We know tourism plays a vital part in the regions’ economy, with a total economic impact in 2015 of £808m and over 11 million visits made and this funding will help to ensure we continue to build a thriving, sustainable tourism economy.”

Economy Secretary, Ken Skates, said: “Innovative projects are key to the future success of tourism and attracting visitors to Wales. The North East Wales funding is part of £2 million which has been approved for a total of 38 projects across Wales under the Tourism Product Innovation Fund and Regional Tourism Engagement Fund. 

"I’m delighted that this funding enables the private and public sectors to develop innovative projects that will stimulate demand and improve the visitor offer through supporting our themed years.”

A variety of high quality images and short films featuring many of our key locations and landmarks such as the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct & Canal World Heritage Site, Wales Coast Path and Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty will be produced.

Building on the success of the 2017 North East Wales Food Challenge; a ‘Year of the Sea’ Food Challenge will also be launched in 2018 which will showcase our food offer and restaurants associated with our coast and waterways.

The three Destination Management Partnerships will be launching their Destination Management Plans for 2017-20 this year to build on the work already done and ensure long-term sustainability for the development of tourism. The North East Wales brand will continue to be a key feature of all three plans to promote the region for visitors and residents to enjoy.

* For more information on North East Wales please visit www.northeastwales.wales

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Council "disappointed" by broadband information

Denbighshire County Council has expressed its "disappointment and frustration" at information released by the Welsh Government about which properties will not get access to fibre broadband through the Superfast Cymru programme.

Although a second scheme is due to get underway next year there are no guarantees that properties in Denbighshire currently unable to access superfast broadband will get this opportunity in the next phase.

The current information shows that there are 2,400 properties not able to access superfast broadband in Denbighshire. 

Councillor Richard Mainon, Cabinet Lead Member with responsibility for Digital, said: “This is very disappointing as the council has been pressing both the Welsh Government and BT for many months for answers as to when all communities in the county can benefit from it.

“The council is aware of the economic benefits that high quality broadband can bring to communities and that superfast speeds are or will become essential for many of our businesses and residents.

“Until now there has been uncertainty on which properties would not benefit from the publicly subsidised Superfast Cymru programme and the council has shared the frustrations and concerns of our businesses and residents.

“The council has identified those properties in the county that cannot access superfast broadband. While this is far from unique across Wales,  the council is taking the opportunity to highlight the issue and support communities in moving forward."

Funding is available from Welsh Government for individuals and groups of property owners to upgrade their broadband themselves and the council is providing information on these opportunities on its website –

The council believes the Welsh Government’s ‘Access Broadband Cymru’ (or ABC) scheme may be the most appropriate option for most residents. It offers grants of up to £800 per household on a first come, first served basis.

The council says it is willing to coordinate meetings with the most affected communities who would be   interested in working together to improve their broadband, but would need local ‘champions’  who would be willing and able to co-ordinate the work required to implement a community solution.

* If you are interested, or know of anyone who would like to work with the Council please contact the Council, on 01824 706000 or e-mail: customer.services@denbighshire.gov.uk

Friday, June 23, 2017

Tourist spots "becoming too popular" says report


* The Horseshoe Falls.

A report by the Clwydian Range and Dee Valey claims some North Wales tourist hot-spots, including the Horseshoe Falls, are becoming too popular for their own good.

* See the full report on the BBC website at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-east-wales-40369388

'Best live band' to play at Llan Fringe


* CC Smugglers will play at the Fringe on Friday July 14.

Cerys Matthews has described Bedfordshire sextet CC Smugglers as “the best live band on the scene at the moment.”

This summer, CC Smugglers will be taking their formidable live show to prominent slots at Cambridge Folk Festival, Cropredy and Llangollen Fringe.

Since their rapid rise to fame supporting two-time Grammy award winning Old Crow Medicine Show on their UK tour, CC Smugglers have been selling out venues, and stealing headlines at the Cambridge, Cornbury, and Glastonbury festivals.

The band have also been touring around Europe, playing many prestigious festivals, including Werchter Festival in Belgium – sharing a bill with Bruce Springsteen. 

CC Smugglers describe their sound as a mixture of American folk music, swing, jazz, country, ragtime and bluegrass with contemporary touchstones such as hip hop, metal, dubstep, house and dancehall.

It seems nothing is off limits for this group who began their career busking outside of venues across the country. 

The band have collected many critical plaudits along their journey to success, including The Sunday Times culture section, Bob Harris, Cerys Matthews - and even Jon Snow says he's is a fan. 

CC Smugglers will appear at the 20th edition of Llangollen Fringe on Friday July 14, supported by Wrexham’s Heal the Last Stand. 

* Tickets are now on sale at: www.llangollenfringe.co.uk 

Llangollen Fringe Festival takes place from Thursday-Sunday, July 13-23.

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 Hallé 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.

“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."

Piano prodigy to play at major music festival


*Julian Gonzalez, 17, a pupil of Ysgol Dinas Bran, at the piano.

A "breath-takingly talented" young pianist will have a starring role at the launch concert of an international music festival - just after sitting an A level exam.

Julian Gonzalez, 17, a pupil of Ysgol Dinas Bran, in Llangollen, will be enchanting the audience at St Asaph Cathedral at 7.30pm on Wednesday, June 28.

The concert will be the curtain-raiser for the acclaimed North Wales International Music Festival that will be staged at the same venue from Saturday, September 16 to Saturday, September 30.

Hours after finishing his maths exam Julian will be performing two solo pieces of work at the festival.

He began playing the piano under the watchful eye of Ann Atkinson, who also happens to be the artistic director of the festival which has a track record for nurturing young musical talent.

The event's resident orchestra is NEW Sinfonia which was founded by conductor Robert Guy and his brother, Jonathan, a clarinettist, who were regulars at the festival's music masterclasses when they were younger.

Another stellar name who came through the ranks was royal composer Paul Mealor who was mentored by the festival's founder, the late Professor William Mathias.

Again this year, the festival is being supported by the Arts Council of Wales and Ty Cerdd and the sponsors include the arts-loving care organisation, Pendine Park and the Colwinston Charitable Trust.

Although music is Julian's passion, he has chosen to study mathematics at university.

He said: “I’ve always enjoyed playing the piano and as soon as I started playing there was a real connection between the instrument and me. I always enjoyed and looked forward to my piano practice and worked with Ann Atkinson every week from the age of seven and later with the renowned pianist, Iwan Llewelyn Jones.

“However, as much as I love music I see playing as a hobby really. I really want to pursue mathematics as a career so that’s what I’m focusing on. But things might change!”

“Last year I attended a master class at the festival, given by Montreal-born pianist Janina Fialkowska. I learnt so much and she showed me a whole new way of interpreting music and understanding just what the composer is trying to say.

"I really enjoy any classical music but in particular the romantic period. I suppose if I had to choose a favourite composer it would be Rachmaninov although Chopin and Liszt are also right up there too.

“I’m going to be playing two solo pieces at the North Wales International Music Festival, Prelude in C Minor by Rachmaninov and Nocturne in D flat major by Chopin. They are both major pieces and, in a way, reflect my own musical journey.

“The theme of this year’s festival is ‘Journeys’ and I have chosen to play what are two major pieces by two of the very best composers.”

Julian, who also plays the French horn, practices for two hours a day, every day, on his own Seiler baby grand piano at his home in Carrog, near Corwen.

He added: “It’s something I never tire of really; I just enjoy playing and practicing. However, each piano has its own tone and feel and I will practice on the piano I will be using in the concert in St Asaph Cathedral beforehand.

“My parents, my mum, Morag and dad Gregorio, who is of Bolivian descent, will be at the concert and maybe my sister, Alice too. Alice is 21 and did play the piano but no longer does so.

“I have been to Bolivia once, when I was about 10, and met my Bolivian grandmother, uncles, aunts and cousins and I’m looking to going again in the next few years. I’m really interested in learning more about my Bolivian heritage.

Every Saturday Julian also attends the Northern Royal College of Music’s Junior Section where he is tutored by Jonathon Middleton.

Ann Atkinson is delighted Julian has agreed to play at the festival’s launch concert, which will also feature a quartet from NEW Sinfonia, Welsh National Opera tenor Huw Llywelyn accompanied by Annette Bryn Parri and both Trelawnyd and Bro Glyndwr male voice choirs.

She said: “Our ethos is to promote young musicians and provide them with the opportunity to showcase their music and ability. Julian Gonzalez is a breath-takingly talented young pianist who is able to interpret the works of the greatest composers, really bringing it to life.

“I would encourage anyone who loves classical music to get a ticket before they sell out and come along for an unforgettable evening of music.

“Among the stars of the festival itself in September will be singers from Welsh National Opera, vocal group VOCES8, NEW Sinfonia, baroque instrumentalists Red Priest, tenor Rhys Meirion, Ensemble Cymru, the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet, violinist Ye-Eun Choi and Italian pianist Federico Colli.”


* Tickets for the launch concert are £10 and are available from caroline@nwimf.com or Cathedral Frames, 28 High Street, St Asaph - 01745 582929. To find out more about the North Wales International Music Festival please visit www.nwimf.com.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bakery firm celebrates rising success


* Ken Skates AM with, from left, Wholebake Chief Operations Officer Eric Maudsley, Operations Director Richard Shaw and Lesley Griffiths AM, the Welsh G
overnment’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs.

Assembly Member Ken Skates has praised a fast-growing food firm which is set to more than double its workforce.

Wholebake recently won planning permission to build a £14m state-of-the-art premises near its current base at Ty’n-y-Llidiart Industrial Estate in Corwen, which would see its number of employees rise from 122 to 255.

Clwyd South AM Mr Skates, who visited the site this week, said: “Wholebake has gone from strength to strength in recent years from its bases in Corwen and Wrexham thanks to the success of its very popular snack bars.

“Demand is at an all-time high and I’m delighted this thriving company has chosen to stay in the area. It’s a real local success story. I hope to see as many of the new roles as possible being taken up by people who live in Clwyd South and North East Wales.”

Mr Skates, the Welsh Government’s Economy Secretary, visited the company along with Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs.

He added: “Wholebake choosing to stay in and expand in Corwen is huge fillip for the area and this £14m investment is fantastic news for the local economy.”

Production will continue at the current 2,400 sq m Corwen factory, with the new 13,240 sq m facility occupied in two phases to allow operations to continue seamlessly.

Friday, June 16, 2017

West Country folk star heads for Llangollen

Llangollen Fringe organisers say they are delighted to welcome Seth Lakeman as part of the festival’s 20th anniversary celebrations.

West country folk singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lakeman (pictured) will be making his debut appearance at Llangollen on Thursday July 20.

He is only playing a few select solo shows in 2017, showcasing songs from his new album Ballads of the Broken Few and other live favourites from his back catalogue.

Lakeman's eighth studio album Ballads of the Broken Few is a stunning combination of his dynamic song writing and playing, produced by Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon, Laura Marling) and the sublime harmony vocals of emerging young female trio Wildwood Kin. 

Continuing Lakeman's unique vision for recording in inspiring locations – previous albums have been recorded in a church and a copper mine – the 11 tracks for Ballads of the Broken Few were cut in the Great Hall of a Jacobean manor house and they shine with the atmosphere of that setting.

There is Lakeman's trademark stomp, his swooping, sighing and aching fiddle and viola, and strident electric tenor guitar.

Since the Mercury Prize nominated Kitty Jay - recorded in his kitchen for £300 - the follow-up gold selling Freedom Fields and his last, highly acclaimed offering, Word of Mouth, a deft collection of mini musical biographies of colourful West Country characters, Lakeman has relentlessly pushed his musical boundaries and those of folk and roots music.

With Ballads of the Broken Few he demonstrates yet again that he is constantly exploring new and bold musical paths. His new album is out now on Cooking Vinyl.

TICKETS ARE ON SALE NOW AT www.llangollenfringe.co.uk or by calling 0800 1455 779.

The Llangollen Fringe 20th Anniversary Festival takes place from Thursday 13th to Sunday 23rd of July.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

AM calls for stepping up of fight against hepatitis C

Speaking in yesterday's Assembly debate North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood said elimination of hepatitis C as a serious public health concern in Wales is a "wholly achievable goal" and called on the Welsh Government to confirm its commitment to wiping it out.  

Hepatitis C is one of the three main causes of liver disease and the only one of the five ‘big killers’ in Wales and England where deaths are rising, and therefore represents a significant public health challenge.

In Wales An estimated 12,000 – 14,000 people are currently living with hepatitis C, around half undiagnosed.

In the debate, the Welsh Government was asked to confirm its commitment to the World Health Organisation Eradication Date of 2030 – and to consider new operational guidelines to support NHS Wales to work towards this.

Speaking in the Chamber, Mr Isherwood (pictured) said: “As I said in January’s debate on the contamination of blood, in the 1970s and 1980s, a large proportion of blood products supplied to patients by the NHS was contaminated with HIV or hepatitis C. Around 4,670 patients with haemophilia were infected; over 2,000 have since died in the UK, with 70 in Wales, from the effects of these viruses.

“However, evidentially Hepatitis C primarily affects people from particular groups, such as injecting drug users, homeless people, gay and bisexual men, and migrant populations from high prevalence regions.

“A recent Hepatitis C Trust report concludes with a number of key recommendations for action, including the inclusion of a commitment to eliminate hepatitis C as a serious public health concern within the Welsh Government’s forthcoming Public Health Bill.

“Approval of new drug treatments by NICE and the All-Wales Medicines Strategy Group means the elimination of hepatitis C as a serious public health concern in Wales is now a wholly achievable goal.

"To seize this new opportunity, we must find the 50% of people currently undiagnosed, by widening access to testing and further investigating which groups can be cost-effectively screened. By increasing diagnoses, we will be able to treat and cure more people.

“With effective and accessible new treatments now available to all who need them, it is easier than ever to treat and cure patients, presenting a great opportunity to achieve the elimination of hepatitis C in Wales.”

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Joseph beats illness to land dream Eisteddfod role


* Mario and Gill Kreft with Joseph Elwy Jones, 11, who has won the coveted role of the Shepherd Boy in Tosca at the Llangollen Eisteddfod.

An "inspirational" young singer who overcame a rare kidney condition has landed a dream role to perform with opera superstar Sir Bryn Terfel.

Joseph Elwy Jones, 11, will take to the stage at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod as the Shepherd Boy in a star-studded production of Puccini’s classic opera, Tosca.

The concert on Tuesday, July 4, which is being sponsored by arts-loving care organisation Pendine Park, also features two other world-class opera stars, soprano Kristine Opolais and tenor Kristian Benedikt.

It will be one of the highlights of the week when the iconic festival will be celebrating its 70th anniversary.

Joseph won the role after a tough audition against the cream of young Welsh singers - thanks to the extra lessons from the headteacher at his school, Ysgol Gwenffrwd, in Holywell.

He was diagnosed with Nephrotic Syndrome in 2013 but it cleared up after treatment, including steroids, and he hasn’t had any reoccurrence.

Football and guitar player Joseph is now fully recovered and raring to go - and he can't wait to meet and sing with his idol, Sir Bryn Terfel.

Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft MBE, who lives in Denbigh, said: "Joseph is not only a supremely talented young singer, he is also an inspiration to us all in the way he has overcome the health problems with great courage and determination.

"As a care organisation, Joseph's story has an undoubted resonance for us and it is wonderful that he is once again full of vim and vigour - and blessed with an absolutely fantastic voice.

"To have the opportunity to sing alongside the magnificent Sir Bryn Terfel and the rest of the world class cast will be an unforgettable experience for Joseph and a truly memorable occasion for the audience."

Joseph, who lives in Lixwm, was thrilled when he heard he had been chosen as the Shepherd Boy.

He said: “After the audition I had to wait about a week, which seemed a long time and the longer it went on the more I thought I hadn’t got the role. Then, I was at school and the head teacher Miss Owen came into class and told me the good news. I was speechless!

“I was amazed and I can’t wait to meet Sir Bryn Terfel. I’ll be nervous but as soon as the music starts I’ll be fine. I’m taking loads of paper with me because all my friends have asked me to get Sir Bryn’s autograph.

He added: “I love music but I also like lots of other things like fishing and football. I’d like to be a professional musician when I leave school but I’d also like to work in the medical profession."

According to mum Abigail, a teacher at Ysgol Llywelyn, in Rhyl,  the whole family was extremely proud.

She said: “He’s a typical lad, he enjoys playing football for Holywell and he’s got five guitars. He is proud of his Welsh roots and loves bands like the Manic Street Preachers who will also be performing in Llangollen this year. He’s also a member of the local Scout group and loves the outdoors.”

“His sister Sophia, seven, is learning how to play the keyboards and his Dad, David, who teaches English at Flint High School, has two drum kits. It’s quite a musical family!

“But he really has never had a professional singing lesson. His head teacher at Ysgol Gwenffrwd,  Iola Owen has helped him, and lots of other children, prepare for competitions at the Urdd Eisteddfod.”

“She is amazing and once we knew he had an audition I asked her if she could help him learn the part. He watched YouTube performances to help but singing in Italian isn’t easy of course.

“She spent time helping him and even got him into school on a teacher training day for an hour.

“When I was told Joseph has landed the role I thought it only fair that she be the one to tell him the news. She sent a lovely card the following day congratulating him.

“It's quite fitting in a way that he has been chosen to play the Shepherd Boy in Tosca because his great grandfather, Victor Thomas, who was the head of a Veterinary practice in Caerwys, kept sheep all his life.

“As a family we are so looking forward to watching Tosca at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod, it’s going to be a magical and very proud moment for Joseph's Dad, his sister Sophia and myself.”

Ynyr Lewys Rogers, 12, from Ruthin, a pupil at the town's Ysgol Brynhyfryd, has been chosen as Joseph's understudy.

The Llangollen Eisteddfod has been a springboard for the careers of many singers including Sir Bryn Terfel himself when he was a young bass baritone and the legendary Luciano Pavarotti who first competed at the festival with his father's choir from Modena in Italy in 1955.

The festival's music director, Eilir Owen Griffiths, said: “Increasing opportunities for youngsters to become involved with music is a cause close to my heart and that of sponsors Pendine Park – who’ve also generously tripled this years Voice of the Future prize fund.

"It's incredibly exciting to find such promising singing talent like Joseph. The innocence and purity of his voice was perfect for the angelic role of ‘Shepherd Boy’. The character brings light to the darkness of the piece and Joseph’s voice makes him the perfect candidate for the role.

“We were so impressed with the standard of auditions this year and everyone who performed was well prepared and professional. Joseph was the youngest of the singers who auditioned, proving that age truly is just a number. His passion for music really shines and his performance will be one not to be missed.”

* For more information about the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod and to book tickets go to  www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk