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‘MidMad’ at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

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Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 10.53.20

The interior of the marquee: with kind permission from Rachel Scurlock, Marketing Assistant at Aberystwyth Arts Centre.

THE ANNUAL MidMad event, for music and festival lovers, returned to the Aberstwyth Arts Centre on Saturday (Jun 25) for another funfilled day.

The event was held from 2pm, where people had the whole day to look forward to a packed schedule of activities. As well as dancing, singing and live music performances throughout the day, children were entertained by face painting, arts and crafts workshops and circus skills workshops, and families had the opportunity to enjoy the Arts Centre’s popular barbecue.

All was not lost for football fans as the Arts Centre televised the UEFA Wales game during the event.

At 2pm, the event kicked off with Manchester artist and musician Gideon Conn, a uniquely gifted songwriter who is currently based in London. Having toured extensively around the UK, he has played many UK festivals, including Glastonbury Festival, and is influenced by Soul and Jazz music from artists such as Stevie Wonder, OutKast and Nat King Cole. Conn has also had the benefit of being played on XFM Radio and on BBC Radio 1. With the likes of Ed Sheeran as self-professed fans, he supported popular American singer-songwriter Jason Mraz on his 2008 UK Tour.

An established clothing designer, painter, drawer and sculptor, he sells his artwork and accepts commissions through his official Facebook page and website.

With a list of released singles under his belt, that include first single ‘I Want You Around‘ on Mannequin Republic on 10-inch vinyl, and the release of ‘Highlights and Perceptions’ on 12-inch vinyl and digital download in November 2013.

Having already performed at the Leigh Folk Festival in Essex and the Green Note Basement in Camden, fans are able to see Conn at places such as the Glastonferret in Preston on July 10, the Cloudspotting Festival in Lancashire on July 30 and the Wilderness Festival in Oxfordshire on August 5.

Speaking to The Herald, Gideon Conn was able to tell us his thoughts on the MidMad event as a whole and on his performance: “The marquee tent was very large and almost empty as I was first on and the weather was good at that point so people preferred to stay outside.

“I did have a lovely email today though from a guy who watched the show and really enjoyed and engaged with my music. I mostly played songs from my debut album ‘New Bop Sounds’, but slipped in a couple from the following albums.”

At 3 .05pm, cabaret style singing group ‘Sgarmes’ were next to perform at ‘MidMad’.

Dynamic, bilingual and unique, Sgarmes are a close harmony singing group based in Aberystwyth, Mid Wales. Named after the welsh word for scrum, the group was set up by musical director Elinor Powell in 2006 with the specific aim of filling the gap between a formal choir and a covers band. Sgarmes sing a wide range of classic and contemporary songs in both English and Welsh.

They like to defy being categorised but are probably much more of a cabaret act than a choir that just love to sing and entertain. Sgarmes have performed at numerous events throughout Wales, the rest of the UK and even Germany and are ideal for wedding parties, charity events and functions large or small.

Speaking about MidMad, Sgarmes’ Manager , Huw Bates , told The Herald: “We’ve performed at this event a few times now and always thoroughly enjoy it. Free music, activities for kids, food and drink and Wales playing football on the big screen – what’s not to like?!” Sgarmes sung a variety of numbers showcasing their diverse repertoire from ‘Calon Lan ‘ and ‘Mambo Italiano ‘ to ‘One Day More ‘ and a couple of their newer numbers : ‘ A Little Respect ‘ by Erasure and Iko Iko, originally by the Dixie Cups.

The group have a busy summer ahead, with events ranging from a fundraising evening in Llangwyrfon to a wedding in Merthyr and will be performing on the Main Stage for the third year running at this year’s Big Tribute Festival.

‘MidMad’ was then treated to the fabulous Lady Gaga tribute and impersonator, Donna Marie. This show is the Lady Gaga tribute that raises the benchmark for all other tribute acts, and as Lady Gaga, Donna Marie is internationally acclaimed as the ‘Best Lady Gaga Tribute on the planet’! Even the real Lady Gaga agrees, when she squealed in excitement upon meeting Donna Marie, telling her: “Oh, my god ! You look just like me – you are amazing.”

Donna Marie is the only Lady Gaga Impersonator and Tribute in the world that uses an authentic working replica of the Lady Gaga Spark Bra. All the costumes are professionally tailored handmade replicas of the Haus of Gaga wardrobe, designed and created by Donna and her very own costume designer (who has worked on BBC Television and the West End as a theatre costume designer). The costumes cost thousands of pounds to make, but the attention to detail is noticeable with every single stitch, helping to re-create the experience of drama, attitude and fashion that is ‘LADY GAGA‘.

Donna Marie is constantly updating the ‘HAUS OF GAGA’, recreating the outrageous fashion trends and props in line with Lady Gaga‘s ongoing hits and ever changing wacky wardrobe.

But it’s not only the costumes that turn heads; Donna Marie, has an uncanny natural resemblance to Lady Gaga. The show has the support of a full team of professionals – choreographers, dancers, sound engineers, special effects, set and prop designer, stage manager, dresser and costume designer who together notch up over 80 years experience in the entertainment industry.

Donna Marie has won many awards for her Lady Gaga tribute show, including the prestigious GOSCAR award for the ‘Best Act of 2010’, which she then won again the following year. In 2013 and 2016, she won the Agents Association ‘National Tribute Award‘ as ‘The Official UK No. 1 Lady Gaga Tribute‘. In 2011, Donna Marie’s Lady Gaga tribute act theatre show at St David ‘s Hall in Cardiff was a sell-out.

The Lady Gaga tribute show is available worldwide and can be tailored to suit any venue, event and capacity. Clients to date range from global corporations and five star hotels (including hotels frequented by the real Lady Gaga when on tour!) to more personal private functions including birthdays and weddings.

Donna Marie was happy to speak to The Herald on how her performance went at the event: “It was great to be a part of the ‘MidMad ’ event in Aberystwyth. The crowd really enjoyed my Lady Gaga tribute performance. Dancing and singing along, they really got into the spirit of things. We had an amazing time. Thank you, Aberystwyth. “

The songs that Donna Marie performed at the event were: ‘Guy’, ‘Manicure’, ‘Do What You Want’, ‘Alejandro’, ‘Telephone’ and ‘Applause’. There was also a Gaga medley that included ‘Just Dance’, ‘Pokerface’, ‘Marry the Night’, ‘Bad Romance’, ‘Judas’ and ‘Born This Way’.

“There are a few exciting things coming up over the next few weeks. On Wednesday (Jun 29), I picked up my award at the National Tribute Music Awards. I have won the ‘UK’s Official No. 1 Lady Gaga Tribute‘. I’m then off to perform at Edinburgh Pride, a castle in Latvia for a wedding, Charlie’s Bar in Ibiza, and I’m also performing at the Royal Airforce 100 years Celebration in Kings Lynn. We are also in rehearsals for my theatre show at Blackwood Miners on October 14.”

After the televised UEFA match, international award-winning brass ensemble ‘Oompah Brass‘ performed for the MidMad crowd. The band have been described by Chris Evans from Radio Two as ‘The Legends In Lederhosen – they rock – so good‘.

Shortly after, Mid Wales band ‘Cartoon Violence‘ headed the event with songs capturing the classic British Pop scene, including music from The Kinks and Madness. Endless soaring energy, great sing-a-long choruses and wonderful piano melodies are all hallmarks of the band’s unique sound.

At 9pm, the event wrapped up with an over 18s disco with DJ Ed Underwood. As well as that, the additional entertainment at the event was Dripping Tap Theatre Company who presented ‘Webster and Jones: A pocket guide to Wales’, which was a comic interactive walkabout performance about two intrepid Victorian explorers conquering the great outdoors!

Additionally, 2009 Britain’s Got Talent competitors Jeffrey and Turbo, from ‘Flawless‘, provided a House and HipHop Dance Workshop from 2pm until 5pm.

Special thanks and credits for photos of the performers to: Dewi Alun Jones Photography and Donna Marie herself

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Schools and Businesses in Ceredigion close following a rise in coronavirus cases

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THE rise in cases of coronavirus in Ceredigion is a result of people mixing with other households and socially says council.

A spokesperson said that the number of contacts for each positive coronavirus case is increasing, which shows people are mixing more socially.

Seven schools have already closed and several businesses have been issued with closure orders.

The number of daily cases now stand at the highest since the pandemic began.

A number of businesses have already been served with closure notices for breaking regulations.

Seven schools have closed for a two week period starting Monday, November 27 and are due to re-open on December 7.

Schools which are closed ofr two week period are: Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi, Ysgol Gynradd Aberteifi, Ysgol Gynradd Penparc, Ysgol Gynradd Aberporth, Ysgol Gynradd T.Llew Jones, Ysgol Gynradd Llechryd and Ysgol Gynradd Cenarth.

A small number of pupils at Ysgol Gyfun Penglais, Aberystwyth have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days following the confirmation of a further COVID-19 case at the school.

All confirmed contacts of the positive case must remain at home for 14 days to reduce the possible spread of the virus to family, friends and the wider community. The pupils will be taught remotely for this period.

A council spokesperson said: “We are now seeing the virus spreading in our communities, several of which can be traced back to super spreader events such as parties and social gatherings.

“This kind of behaviour is totally irresponsible and is putting the health of our loved ones at risk, is having a direct impact on the education of our children and is putting pressure on the NHS.

“Contact tracing has identified that the number of contacts for each positive case has increased, which tells us that people are mixing households and are mixing socially.

“The council has taken action and has served several businesses with improvement and closure notices where they have been breaking coronavirus regulations.

“The council will continue to issue notice where we become aware of concerns or breaches.

“Members of the public are urged to inform us if they have any concerns that a business in Ceredigion does not have adequate measures in place to operate safely.

Stay apart to play your part. By doing this, we will be protecting the health and wellbeing of our most vulnerable, including care services for the elderley and those whose medical conditions make them particularly at risk from Covid-19.

“We will be protecting the education provision within schools, colleges and universities. We will enable the local economy to survive the winter months.

“Together, we can keep Ceredigion safe.”

The council have issued the following guidance to residents:

  • Keep a 2m social distance from each other when out and about – indoors and outdoors;
  • Wash your hands regularly;
  • Limit your social contact;
  • Work from home wherever possible;
  • Households are able to form a ‘bubble’ with one other – that bubble arrangement cannot be swapped, changed, or extended further than one household;
  • People are allowed to meet with others from outside that bubble in a regulated venue, such as a pub or restaurant where there are strict safety protocols in place, but the maximum number of people that can meet is four and even then social distancing should be maintained wherever possible;
  • Wear a face mask in indoor public places, shops and on public transport;
  • Self-isolate immediately at the first sign of any COVID-19 symptoms and arrange a test immediately, only leaving home to get tested. A test needs to be booked online or by phoning 119.

Chief Education Officer for Ceredigion County Council said: “We are extremely concerned about the spread of coronavirus in the Cardigan area.

“A significant number of recent positive cases has resulted in a very high number of people being classed as contacts to a positive case.

“Many of these contacts now have coronavirus symptoms and we are awaiting the test results.

“There is overwhelming evidence that the speed of the virus in the Cardigan area means that immediate action is needed.”

The Council urges all parents to refer their children for a test if they develop any of the symptoms, which are:

  •         a high temperature
  •         a new continuous cough
  •         a loss or change to sense of smell or taste.

You can apply for a test on https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-covid-19-test or by phoning 119.

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Lib Dems urge Chancellor to ‘level the playing field’ for small local shops over Christmas

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CEREDIGION’S Liberal Democrats have called on the UK Government to “level the playing field” to help the county’s high streets compete with internet giants in the run up to Christmas.

The Liberal Democrats fear local shops hit by decreased footfall during the coronavirus pandemic will continue to struggle, and have therefore proposed a new scheme similar to how the Eat Out to Help Out scheme helped local restaurants.

To encourage people to support their local high streets while shopping from home, the Lib Dems want to see the UK Government cover postage costs. Lib Dem Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine has written to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging him to adopt the idea.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has welcomed the idea to help firms survive. Mike Cherry, UK Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “This is the type of creative idea that would boost small businesses and balance out the playing field.”

Cadan ap Tomos, Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd candidate for Ceredigion, said:
“Small businesses across Ceredigion have been worried for months about staying afloat. For so many, Christmas is their most lucrative time of year but coronavirus restrictions mean our town centres are quieter than ever.

“When people turn online to do their Christmas shopping, free postage offers from online shopping giants are very tempting. That makes it even harder for small businesses in Ceredigion to compete, putting our high streets and local economy at further risk.

“The UK Government need to step in and level the playing field, to protect the vibrant array of small businesses that are the backbone of our local economy in Ceredigion.”

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds added:

“In the Summer, the Chancellor launched a campaign to support the hospitality sector. We now need to see the UK Government go the extra mile to support small business in the festive period.

“We want the Chancellor to pay the postage on online purchases from small local independent shops to make them a more viable option for people hunting for Christmas presents and encourage people to shop small from home.”

Mike Cherry, UK Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said:

“This is the type of creative idea that would boost small businesses and balance out the playing field.

“We must do everything we can to help our small, independent stores.

“This is going to be the most important festive season our economy has ever seen and could be make-or-break for some of our small businesses. That’s why we must pull out all the stops to help them survive the end of 2020 and beyond.”

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Self Assessment customers warned about scammers posing as HMRC

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SELF ASSESSMENT customers should be alert to criminals claiming to be from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

As the department issues thousands of SMS messages and emails as part of its annual Self Assessment tax return push, HMRC is warning customers completing their returns to take care to avoid being caught out by scammers. The annual tax return deadline is on 31 January 2021.

The department knows that fraudsters use calls, emails or texts to contact customers. In the last 12 months, HMRC has responded to more than 846,000 referrals of suspicious HMRC contact from the public, and reported over 15,500 malicious web pages to internet service providers to be taken down. Almost 500,000 of the referrals from the public offered bogus tax rebates.

Many scams target customers to inform them of a fake ‘tax rebate’ or ‘tax refund’ they are due. The imposters use language intended to convince them to hand over personal information, including bank details, in order to claim the ‘refund’. Criminals will use this information to access customers’ bank accounts, trick them into paying fictitious tax bills, or sell on their personal information to other criminals.

HMRC’s Interim Director General for Customer Services, Karl Khan, said: “We know that criminals take advantage of the Self Assessment deadline to panic customers into sharing their personal or financial details and even paying bogus ‘tax due’.

“If someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, offering financial help or asking for money, it might be a scam. Please take a moment to think before parting with any private information or money.”

Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said: “Criminals are experts at impersonating organisations that we know and trust. We work closely with HMRC to raise awareness of current scams and encourage people to report any suspicious calls or messages they receive, even if they haven’t acted on them, to the relevant channels. This information is crucial in disrupting criminal activity and is already helping HMRC take down fraudulent websites being used to facilitate fraud.

“It’s important to remember if you’re contacted out the blue by someone purporting to be from HMRC asking for your personal or financial details, or offering you a tax rebate, grant or refund, this could be a scam. Do not respond, hang up the phone, and take care not to click on any links in unexpected emails or text messages. You should contact HMRC directly using a phone number you’ve used before to check if the communication you have received is genuine.

“If you’ve been the victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and please report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.”

Customers can report suspicious activity to HMRC at phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and texts to 60599. They can also report phone scams online on GOV.UK.

HMRC is also warning the public to be aware of websites that charge for government services – such as call connection sites – that are in fact free or charged at local call rates. Other companies charge people for help getting ‘tax refunds’. One way to safely claim a tax refund for free is to log into your Personal Tax Account.

HMRC has a dedicated Customer Protection team that identifies and closes down scams but asks the public to recognise the signs to avoid becoming a victim. HMRC regularly publishes examples of new scams on GOV.UK to help customers recognise phishing emails and bogus contact by email, text or phone.

Ways to spot a tax scam

It could be a scam if it:

  •       is unexpected
  •       offers a refund, tax rebate or grant
  •       asks for personal information like bank details
  •       is threatening
  •       tells you to transfer money.

Self Assessment customers can complete their tax return online and help and support is available on GOV.UK.

To protect against identity fraud customers must verify their identity when accessing HMRC’s online services. They must have two sources of information including:

  •       credit reference agency data
  •       tax credits
  •       P60/payslip
  •       UK Passport
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