Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The latest 'On Song' column from the Carmarthen Journal and Llanelli Star

The latest 'On Song' column (about the choral scene in Carmarthenshire) from the Carmarthen Journal and Llanelli Star -

There’s a big concert celebrating St David, the patron saint of Wales, planned for Carmarthenshire in March.
The St David’s Celebration Concert is being staged by Loud Applause Productions at Ffwrnes Theatre, Llanelli, on Saturday, March 11, 7pm.
The concert will featured a more than 100 male voices as the combined choirs of Burry Port, Dyffryn Amman, Dyffryn Tywi and Mynydd Mawr take the stage under the skilful baton of renowned maestro Alwyn Humphreys.
The soloist will be soprano Elin Manahan Thomas and the guest accompanist will be Jeff Howard.
Popular host Garry Owen, of TV and radio fame, will be the compere for the evening.
The event will mark a rare Llanelli appearance for Elin Manahan Thomas.
Thomas was born in 1977 in Gorseinon, the daughter of M. Wynn Thomas OBE, a Professor of Literature at Swansea University, and Karen Thomas.
She was educated at the Welsh-speaking Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr in Gowerton and by the time she was 15 was singing in the Swansea Bach Choir.
Elin Manahan Thomas is one of the most exceptional sopranos of her generation.
Since releasing her début album ‘Eternal Light’ in 2007, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, she has performed at many of the world’s most prestigious venues and festivals, and with leading orchestras and conductors.
Perhaps most famously known for her performances of baroque masterpieces - such as Handel's Eternal Source of Light Divine at the London 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony - Elin is equally at home performing classical and contemporary works.
Elin has performed across Europe at major venues and festivals, including: the Edinburgh, Canterbury, Three Choirs, Llangollen, Mostly Mozart and Lufthansa festivals, St John's Smith Square, Wigmore Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Birmingham Town Hall, Bridgewater Hall, Casa de Musica in Porto, Zurich Tonhalle, and the Concertgebouw Amsterdam. In 2008 Elin gave the World Première of Sir John Tavener’s Requiem in Liverpool Cathedral (also recorded for EMI), and later premiered his Love Duet at the Manchester International Festival in 2013.
Orchestras she has worked with include the Halle, Britten Sinfonia, Royal Philharmonic, Academy of Ancient Music, BBC NOW, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Bournemouth Symphony, City of London Sinfonia, the Malaysian Philharmonic, and Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra.
She has performed for many of the world's leading conductors, among them Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Sir Andrew Davis, Harry Christophers, Paul McCreesh, Stephen Layton, Sir Roger Norrington, Vasily Petrenko, Thierry Fischer and the late Richard Hickox.
Equally comfortable performing contemporary music, Elin has been fortunate to work with Sir John Tavener, John Rutter, Sir Karl Jenkins, James Macmillan, Judith Weir and Eric Whitacre, among others.
Alongside concert performances, Elin is also known for her presenting work.
She has been twice nominated for a BAFTA Cymru (Best Newcomer, Best Presenter) and has presented for BBC 4 (The Proms) and BBC 2 Wales (Proms in the Park). Elin regularly presents for Radio Cymru, and is presenter on Radio Three's Early Music Late, on Sunday evenings.
Elin has released five solo albums, and appeared as featured soloist on innumerable discs, for labels such as Universal, Naxos, Chandos, Hyperion, Coro, Signum, Collegium and Sain.
In 2012, her ‘Vivaldi’ recording with Florilegium was Radio 3’s CD of the Week; BBC Music Magazine awarded the disc five stars; while International Record Review placed it in their ‘Outstanding’ category.
Her recordings range from the renaissance to Handel to Elgar and beyond, and 2016 sees the release of a CD of songs by Morfydd Llwyn Owen (previously unrecorded) for Ty Cerdd, and Karl Jenkins' Cantata Aberfan for Deutsche Gramophon, alongside Bryn Terfel.
In April 2016 she was Classic FM's Artist of the Week.
In addition to her singing and presenting, Elin is a passionate advocate of music education, and has led choral workshops with Eric Whitacre, masterclasses at RWCMD, University of Oxford, children's concerts with LPO and OAE, and children's operas with Children's Music Workshop. She is an Honorary Fellow at RWCMD, and at the Universities of Swansea and Bangor, and is currently Artist in Residence at Bangor Music Festival.
In other news, tickets for a special charity concert at Ffwrnes Theatre are going like hot cakes.
The concert is being organised on Saturday, February 4, 2017, by the Chairman of Carmarthenshire County Council, Councillor Eryl Morgan, to support his chosen charities for his year of office.
Councillor Morgan is raising cash for the Ty Bryngwyn Hospice in Llanelli and for a new MRI scanner for Prince Philip Hospital, Llanelli.
Top of the bill will be the sensational Valli Boys, South Wales based performers who specialise in the ‘Jersey Boys’ catalogue made famous by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.
The Valli Boys are made up of four very talented West End performers.
The Valli Boys members have appeared in musicals such as Les Miserables, Mamma Mia, The Lord Of The Rings, Merrily We Roll Along, Starlight Express, Miss Saigon and, of course, Jersey Boys.
Ben Evans, the founding member of the group, set up the Valli Boys after understudying and playing the role of Frankie Valli in the West End production of Jersey Boys for five years.
The Valli Boys will take you on a musical journey through major hits from the Jersey Boys, including ‘Sherry’, ‘Grease Is The Word’, ‘Bye Bye Baby’, ‘Stay’, ‘Silence is Golden’, ‘Working My Way Back to You Babe’ and‘Oh What a Night’.
Supporting the Valli Boys will be Côr Meibion Llanelli Male Voice Choir and rock and pop choir The Phil Harmonics.
Tickets can be obtained from the Ffwrnes Theatre box office or from the website on -

Robert Lloyd works as a media consultant –
If you have any news about the choral scene in Llanelli, the please contact him on 07777 683637 or email

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

A walk in the dark

This morning's 10,000 steps were taken before dawn . . . around North Dock and Llanelli's Millennium Coastal Park.


Safer routes proposals for Carmarthenshire

Residents in three Carmarthenshire communities are being asked for their views on proposals to create a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists.
The council is consulting on Safer Routes in Communities schemes for Carmarthen, Pontyberem and Pencader.
These communities were successful at the first stage of the assessment process.
Display boards showing details of the schemes will be put up in each of the areas so that people can leave feedback.
The comments will form part of a bid to Welsh Government for funding for the schemes to be carried out next year in 2017-18.
The council is also consulting directly with local schools, town and community councils and the local members.
The Safer Routes in Communities project has been developed to create a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists through the implementation of engineering measures such as cycle routes, cycle paths, traffic calming and educational road safety initiatives.
The aim is to shift away from car use for certain journeys, which results in reduced levels of congestion, improved local air quality, and an improved street scene, especially in relation to road safety.
Executive Board Member for the Environment Cllr Hazel Evans said: “The support and co-operation of the schools, businesses and local people is essential and it is important that they are involved in every stage of the project.
“Key to ensuring the long-term success of a Safe Routes in Communities project is ownership of the project's aims and objectives by the schools taking part and the local community alike.
“Any comments or issues raised will be considered as part of the ongoing development of the scheme and although it may not be possible to accommodate all suggestions, we will ensure that all responses/proposals are thoroughly investigated.”

Consultation events are taking place in the following locations:
• Pontyberem – Pontyberem Memorial Hall, Wednesday, January 18, 3pm-5pm.
• Pencader – Pencader Pavilion, Thursday, January 19, 3pm-6pm.
• Carmarthen – St Peters Civic Hall (foyer), Friday, January 20, 12noon- 1.30pm and 3pm-5pm.

All comments need to be in by January 27. For further information please contact Thomas Evans on email or call 01267 228258.

Details of each of the schemes are set out below together with a pdf. map link:

New path linking Brandway with the school;
Potential new footpath through the park to the Memorial Hall;
Improved access to the park, dropped kerbs & tactile crossings; and parent waiting shelters
Upgrade to signalised crossing outside the school.

Proposed uncontrolled tactile crossing point;
Proposed footway (general width of 1.2m) along B4459 from the Maescader estate to Tremle Farm.
Parent waiting shelter at school;
Improved access to playing field.

Improved access into Ysgol y Dderwen via Llys Fynnon;
Safer crossing points and traffic calming measures along Lime Grove Avenue;
Raised plateau and improved lighting around Pondside, Johnstown;
Improved walking links to Richmond School;
Proposed zebra crossing and parent waiting shelter at Model School.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Good news for food hygiene ratings in Carmarthenshire

More than two thirds of food businesses in Carmarthenshire have achieved the top rating of five for food hygiene standards.
And more than 97 per cent have achieved a rating of 3-5.
The good news has been reported to today’s (Monday) meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council’s environmental and public protection scrutiny committee.
The council has also revealed the businesses that are performing poorly and have failed to respond to a council letter asking them to confirm their plans to become broadly compliant with the rules.
Two businesses have now been removed from the list after making improvements.
Food Hygiene Rating Scheme was set up in November 2013 and has ratings covering the level of current compliance with food hygiene and safety procedures, including food handling, cleanliness, layout, and how the business manages and records what it does to make sure food is safe.
There are six different food hygiene ratings; these are 0 to 5.
A rating of 5 is the highest rating and represents a “very good” level of compliance with legal requirements.
Business with scores of ‘3’ (generally satisfactory) or greater are also deemed to be ‘broadly compliant’.
Those with ratings of ‘0’, ‘1’ or ‘2’ are likely to have been observed as performing poorly and would be revisited and worked with until they had achieved at least a 3 rating.
Food businesses can only be closed down if there is found to be an ‘imminent risk’ such as an infestation of vermin. Premises subject to this type of action are not awarded a score as they are deemed to be closed and therefore not trading.
Executive board member for environmental and public protection Cllr Jim Jones (pictured above) said: “I’m delighted that 97 per cent of food premises inspected are broadly compliant and that two thirds have achieved the top rating. This shows the generally high standards in the industry.
“However, I’m concerned that a small numbers of businesses are performing poorly and that some of them have failed to respond with information on how they intend to improve.
“We are determined to tackle the situation and to have high standards in those businesses, too.”
The updated list of poorly performing businesses that have failed to respond is:
Check Point Filling Station, Llanwrda, 14 months since last score
Denham Stores, Llanelli, nine months
Dhaka 2 Bombay, Pembrey, two months
Furnace United Rugby Football Club, Furnace, 10 months
New Sunrise Chinese Take Away, Llwynhendy, two months
Number 11, Newcastle Emlyn, one month
Trimsaran RFC, Trimsaran, nine months
Webb’s FOODs, Burry Port, six months
Andrew and E Barker, Llanwrda, seven months
Bara Gwalia Bakery, Llanybydder, 10 months
The Curry Port, Burry Port, nine months
Cymru Balti, Tumble, 10 months
Farmers Arms, Pencader, 12 months
Lynn’s Catering, LLanwrda, one month
Mynydd Mawr Fresh Meats, Tumble, 10 months
New China Wok, Llanybydder, 10 months
Peppinos, Ponthenry, 15 months
PJ Snack Bar, Llanelli, 15 months
Pontyberem Balti Tandoori Takeaway, Pontyberem, 11 months
Top Taste, Carmarthen, nine months
White Hart Inn, Newcastle Emlyn, 11 months
White Lion Inn, Llanelli, 10 months

Just Desserts, Llanboidy, nine months, and Popty Bach Y Wlad, Pentre Cwrt, 15 months, have exercised a right to reply on the FSA website commenting on the particular reasons for their rating.

This week's special offers at Jenkins Bakery shops

This week's special offers at Jenkins Bakery shops -

WEEK COMMENCING January 16, 2017

3 Medium Corned Beef Pasties, £1.75
2 Large Corned Beef Pasties, £2.10
2 Minced Beef and Onion Pies, £2.40
2 Egg Custard Tarts, £1.40
Rustic Baguette of the Week, Chicken Tikka, £2.50
Filled Softie of the Week, Ham Salad, £2.35

Thursday, 12 January 2017

BRAVO - optimising the performance of brassica crops

Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) is a lead partner in a new five-year project aimed at combating the losses experienced by two of the UK’s most economically valuable vegetable crops.
Oilseed rape and Brassica crops have a combined UK market value in excess of £1bn, but suffer annual losses of up to £230m, primarily due to increasingly unfavourable and unpredictable weather patterns.
The ‘Brassica Rapeseed and Vegetable Optimisation’ programme (BRAVO), funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), aims to combat these crop losses by unravelling the processes that control key aspects of plant development.
This knowledge will then be applied to help develop new, more resilient varieties of Brassica crops that can achieve superior field performance whilst reducing yield loss and industry wastage.
The BRAVO project, led by Professor Lars Østergaard of the John Innes Centre (JIC), brings together the expertise of leading UK plant scientists from three research institutes - JIC and Rothamsted Research and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University and the universities of Nottingham, Bath, Warwick and York.
They will be collaborating with representatives from the oilseed and horticultural industries.
Professor John Doonan, Director of the BBSRC funded National Plant Phenomics Centre at IBERS said: “Producers need improved resilience to adverse environmental conditions to cope with the combination of climatic variability and the increasingly stringent delivery time and quality requirements imposed by the food industry.
“IBERS will apply state of the art bio-medical imaging and computer-vision approaches to reveal and exploit the diversity available in these crops, making the food supply chain more efficient and robust.”
Environmental conditions influence a number of key stages of plant development including inflorescence growth, flowering, fertilisation and seed production. In the face of climate change, it is more important than ever that our crops are capable of tolerating rapidly changing environmental conditions while still maintaining good vigour and achieving consistently high yields.
Discussions between BBSRC BRAVO consortium members and industrial stakeholders identified a number of strategic targets sensitive to such changing weather patterns. These include more concise flowering, consistently high fertility under fluctuating environments, reduced yield loss and more uniform seed performance.
As well as improving the fundamental understanding of how Brassica crops grow and respond to the environment, the £4.4 million BBSRC BRAVO project will support the training of young scientists and raise industry stakeholder awareness of new developments through workshops in Brassica genetics, genomics, phenotyping and modelling.
Professor Lars Østergaard said: “As our climate changes and the global human population is predicted to exceed 9 billion people by 2050, it is more important than ever that our crops are able to grow and produce as much food as possible in varying weather conditions and season lengths. By unravelling and exploring the processes behind important genetic traits in crops, we will provide a basis for the development of improved Brassica crops that reduce losses and withstand changes in climate and environmental conditions.”
BBSRC’s Strategic Longer and Larger (SLoLa) grants support integrated research projects requiring long timescales, extensive resources and multidisciplinary approaches.
Supported projects must be scientifically excellent, demonstrate exceptional relevance to one or more of BBSRC’s strategic priorities, an understanding of the potential for impact and be conducted by an internationally leading research team.
BBSRC’s Head of Agriculture and Food Security, Dr Adam Staines added:
"This proposal addresses a number of key BBSRC research priorities. Making UK crops more resilient to our changing climate is key to maintaining future productivity and reducing food waste. This group is building on past investments in basic plant science and translating this knowledge to key UK crops, working with the relevant industry to deliver real potential long term benefits for UK farmers. "

Photo: Rapeseed plants being scanned in the BBSRC funded National Plant Phenomics Centre at IBERS Aberystwyth University.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Its aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond. Funded by Government, BBSRC invested over £473M in world-class bioscience in 2015-16. It supports research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people it funds are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Its investments underpin important UK economic sectors such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

The Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) is an internationally recognised research and teaching centre providing a unique base for research in response to global challenges such as food security, bioenergy and sustainability, and the impacts of climate change. IBERS scientists conduct basic, strategic and applied research from genes and molecules to organisms and the environment. IBERS receives strategic research funding of £10.5m from the BBSRC to support long term mission driven research, and is a member of the National Institutes of Bioscience. IBERS also benefits from financial support from the Welsh Government, DEFRA and the European Union.

About Aberystwyth University
Established in 1872, Aberystwyth is a leading teaching and research university. In the 2016 National Student Survey, the University was ranked the best in Wales and one of the top ten higher education institutions in the UK for overall student satisfaction. It is one of the top 40 universities in the UK according to the Times Higher Education’s World Rankings 2015-16 and is 35th in the UK for ‘Research Quality’ (Sunday Times University Guide 2015). The University is a community of around 11,000 students and 2,000 staff and is about creating opportunities, research with excellence that makes an impact, teaching that inspires, engaging the world, working in partnership and investing in our future. Registered charity No 1145141.

Full house for Llanelli indoor market

It’s a full house for Llanelli Indoor Market - offering shoppers even more choice.
Shoppers can take advantage of the huge variety and choice on offer from 68 businesses all under one roof, including two new stalls.
A pet stall and a cake shop and ice-cream parlour have taken up the last of the vacant units adding to the market’s variety.
The Honey Bear Cake and Ice Cream Parlour has moved into the former Bizy Fingers unit, near the entrance to St Elli Shopping Centre, and offers a wide range of mouth-watering desserts.
The Pet Pantry sells a selection of pet supplies including Burns, Royal Canine, James Wellbeloved, Bakers and Pedigree foods as well as offering a home delivery service. It is situated near the centre of the market (behind the card shop).
The council’s executive board member responsible for markets, Cllr David Jenkins said: “It’s great to see new businesses opening up, not only do they offer a greater choice for shoppers but they complement existing traders too. I wish them all the very best during their time at Llanelli Market.”

Legendary Merlin Festival set to return to Carmarthen

Carmarthen's legendary Merlin Festival is planned for a relaunch this year.
The event aims to celebrate the “Year of the Legend” in Carmarthenshire, one of a series of themed years being spearheaded by Visit Wales to promote what the country has to offer to tourists. In 2018 it will be the ‘Year of the Sea’.
A range of activities are being planned by Carmarthenshire County Council’s Marketing & Media team to mark the year locally, one of the highlights of which will be the Merlin Festival, centred in Carmarthen.
The event is scheduled to take place on March 24 and 25, and aims to celebrate the legend of Merlin and other Arthurian characters said to have lived in the town and given it its name.
Originally called Caerfyrddin, which means Merlin’s Fort; the town also has Merlin’s Oak and Merlin’s Hill, plus many tales of the wizard associated with the area.
The festival aims to feature street entertainment, magic, a local produce market, plus a community/ schools sculpture trail.
It also aims to use the event to showcase the heritage and culture which Carmarthen and the surrounding area is rich in.
Organisers are now looking for businesses and groups to take part in any way they can.
Council Leader Cllr Emlyn Dole said: “The Merlin Festival has great potential in promoting the vibrant and busy town of Carmarthen.
“The event is in the early stages of planning and is currently a blank canvas for those wishing to bring value to it.
“We are looking to invite individuals, businesses or community groups to take part in any way they can to create a lively an attractive event which can be sustained for years to come.”

Anyone interested in taking part should contact Sian Williams at Carmarthenshire County Council on (01267) 224894/

Construction industry businesses invited to discover new opportunities in Carmarthenshire

Businesses in the construction industry will get a chance to hear about the major opportunities open to them as part of the South West Wales Regional Contractors Framework.
A contractor engagement event is being held at Llanelli’s Parc Y Scarlets on February 9, giving local businesses the opportunity to find out about forthcoming projects that they could be a part of.
The Framework is used for the delivery of construction, design and project management services across the Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot council areas.
More that £103million worth of projects have been awarded amongst the 23 contractors on the Framework since February, with a further £177million worth of projects in the pipeline.
The event will bring these contractors and potential sub-contractors together, allowing them to network and discuss future business opportunities.
Buyers of the Framework services will also be in attendance, and there will be free workshops to support businesses to get the most out of their contracts, including advice on community benefit clauses.
Carmarthenshire County Council leads the Framework on behalf of the partner authorities.
Cllr David Jenkins, the council’s Executive Board Member for Resources, said: “This event reaches out to hundreds of local suppliers within the South West Wales region, and is a great opportunity to engage informally with major contractors, local small and medium-sized enterprises, buyers and business support organisations.”
“The Framework has major potential for local businesses and employment. Launched in February, it has already won the Government Opportunities Excellence in Public Procurement Award, which is a recognised benchmark for procurement excellence in the public sector.
“I hope that this event will be the start of a prosperous journey for many businesses which of course will be good news for the local economy.”