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Cabarration!

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screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-11-23-58LAST Friday (Oct 21), Aberration presented ‘Cabarration in the Great Hall’ at Aberystwyth Arts Centre.

Billed as ‘A cabaret night with a very queer bite’, Cabarration presented ‘a glitzy line-up of local and national talent’. The event was compèred by the incomparable Helen Sandler, and top of the bill was the suitably glitzy and very funny comedian Jonathan Mayor. Hailing from Manchester, Mayor had the crowd in stitches from the moment he previewed his own act to the moment he took a final, glittering bow, no mean feat in his astoundingly high-heels and flamboyant costume. With a wickedly acid tongue, Mayor’s audience put-downs were a delight to hear – if not to be on the receiving end of! Before Mayor strutted his stuff, Sparkles Hoop Troupe from Cardiff performed some dynamo dance routines with, of course, their hula hoops. Ernie Sparkles was then true to his name in his solo dirty dancing routine. Ashleigh Owen performed an extract from her one-woman show, ‘The Rise and Fall of the Hamburger Queen’, currently on stage at the Unity Theatre in Liverpool. Employing comedy, dance and song, the versatile Owen took the audience a little way down the road of her journey through life: ‘From Liverpool to London, rags to riches, Chicken Cottage to Nando’s’. Also on the bill was country singer Lynette Frances who, later in the evening, led the audience in a hysterically inept line dance.

The audience’s efforts in a limerick competition run by the author Mike Parker were judged via a ‘clap-o- meter’. The prize of a bottle of pink sparkling wine, donated by Ultracomida, went to a verse by Nicki Wilkins and Jilly Wilson that riffed on Brokeback Mountain and featured a creatively smutty rhyme for Pen Dinas. The audience numbered 150 people, ranging in age from 18 to 80. A raffle raised £221 for two good causes: an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) sanctuary house in Kampala, Uganda, for people to live in relative safety in a regime where male and female homosexuality is illegal; and West Wales Domestic Abuse Service (formerly Women’s Aid). Prizes were donated by Over the Rainbow vegetarian guesthouse, Crimson Rhino cafe and the Arts Centre. Over the Rainbow also signed up for two years as one of the event’s new sponsors. Aberration are very keen to get more local businesses to join the scheme.

Audience members told The Herald: “Sparkles, buttocks and Jonathan Mayor. Who could ask for more? Brilliant evening!” “A great relaxed evening full of sparkles, laughter, and general acceptance of all kinds of folk.” “It was a great evening with everybody out to have a good time. Bois y Fro were fantastic, Sparkles Hoop Troupe gob-smacking in more ways than one, the limerick competition was hilarious, and Jonathan Mayor made me laugh so much my stomach muscles hurt the next day! Well done, Aberration!”

OUR CHILDREN TOO

One of the evening’s highlights was certainly opening act Bois y Fro, an acapella group from Aberystwyth, who entertained the audience with their harmonies on pop classics and famous show-tunes. Accompanied on the grand piano, bass Barry Powell led on a memorable take of The Overtones’ ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’, making the whole hall resonate with his ‘Do-do-do-do-do’. Bois y Fro also sang Frankie Valli’s ‘I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’, which went down well with the audience. Their rendition of ‘Bui- Doi’ from the musical Miss Saigon was moving. Bui-Doi translates as ‘dust of life’ and in the musical, the term refers to the children left behind when their American soldier fathers left the country after the US military was defeated by North Vietnam. The lyrics resounded poignantly on the eve of a week when so many children were due to expelled from the Jungle refugee camp in Calais: ‘Because we know / Deep in our hearts / That they are all / Our children too’.

ABERRATION – AN LGBT ARTS SPACE

Aberration is a banner for events about and for LGBTQI people (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Intersex) in Aberystwyth and district. Also welcomed under this banner are non-binary and genderqueer people plus supportive friends and open-minded straight people. Wherever you’re coming from on the sexuality and gender spectrums, though, a passion for arts and community events is an Aberration must!

Aberration started in 2014 in response to a communal desire for an arts night in Mid Wales that focused on LGBTQI themes. One of Aberration’s prime-movers, Ruth Fowler, works at Aberystwyth University and is a co-organiser of the staff LGBTQI network, Enfys Aber. West Wales residents Jane Hoy and Helen Sandler bring to the party their experience of organising arts events through their non-profit company SpringOut. From the outset, Aberystwyth Arts Centre have been very supportive of the idea, inviting the Aberration team to meet new director, Gareth Lloyd Roberts, and other managers to put plans in place.

Since then, the partnership between the Arts Centre, Enfys Aber and SpringOut has led to more than 10 Aberration events over three years, mainly run at the Arts Centre, while the university more widely has also been supportive. The biggest night of the Aberration year is the annual cabaret, Cabarration. Smaller and cosier events are put on in the Studio and feature acoustic music, theatre, talks and panel discussions. Artists from the Aberystwyth area who have featured in the past year include singer Kedma, writers Maj Ikle and Nic Herriot, pole performer and teacher Ali Cocks, musical duo László Xavia and Emily Farr, and the band Arms Like Legs.

Both university students and lecturers have given lively talks on topics such as gender identity, gay art history and lesbian literature. Aberration received an Arts Council Wales grant in 2014 and was shortlisted in the Aber First Awards this year.

NOTHING QUITE LIKE IT

The idea driving Aberration is that the arts are a reflection of our lives. By getting together to watch cabaret, theatre, music or film, or to have a discussion, LGBTQI people and their friends and allies can see their own lives writ large in a way they seldom do in the mainstream. Aberration is also about building bridges in the community between the gay and straight worlds, with many people attending events simply because they like to be informed and entertained, rather than because they are LGBTQI themse lves. Aberration brings quality arts events with an LGBTQI theme to Aberystwyth and people travel from all around to come to see them. Local artists appear on the bill alongside those who are well known on the national circuit.

There is nothing like Aberration in the area and the organisers have been told by visitors from Cardiff, London and Liverpool, there’s nothing quite like it in the cities either! Certainly at Cabarration, the mix of top performers with a very friendly and appreciative crowd created what one audience member described as ‘a unique magic’.

Helen Sandler told The Herald: “Tonight Jonathan Mayor joked about ‘lesbians coming down from the hills’, but the jest was accurate. People come from their villages, farms and isolated communes, from across Ceredigion, Powys and Gwynedd, arriving in new cars or battered campervans, hiking up the hill from the bus and train stations, or just wandering across campus. The word is out and Aberration is a fixture in many people’s diaries. One big aim of Aberration is to give a boost to LGBTQI people at home and abroad. That might mean giving a warm welcome to new audience members or sending money to Uganda.”

Ending her night of hosting on Saturday, Sandler read a poem about a happy ‘non-binary’ child – someone who does not want to choose either a male or a female identity. Sandler acknowledged that it can be difficult for a trans person to come along to an Aberration event in their preferred dress for the first time, or for someone suffering from anxiety to come along at all. But in the friendly atmosphere created, she and the rest of the Aberration team hope that people will enjoy spending time with friends and making new connections.

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Join the stand against scams

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CEREDIGION residents will get the opportunity to learn more about how they can protect themselves against scams in an event to be held at the Bandstand, Aberystwyth on 27 September between 9:30am and 1:30pm.

Ceredigion County Council have joined the National Trading Standards (NTS) Scams Team and Wales Against Scam Partnership (WASP) who will be touring Wales holding scam awareness events between 24 and 28 September.

Friends Against Scams is an NTS initiative that aims to protect and prevent people from becoming victims of scams by empowering communities to ‘Take a Stand Against Scams’.

Councillor Gareth Lloyd, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Public Protection Services said, “Scams often target the most vulnerable people in society but the reality is that anyone can become a victim of scams. Scams damage lives and can affect people financially and emotionally so I’m proud that Ceredigion County Council has joined the work of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, Friends Against Scams and others who are working together to prevent people from being victims of scams. By signing up as an organisation we undertake to actively promote the Friends Against Scams initiative.”

Each year scams cause between £5bn and £10bn worth of detriment to UK consumers. In addition to the financial impact, scams can have a severe emotional and psychological impact on victims.

Louise Baxter, Team Manager in the National Trading Standards Scams Team said: “The tactics used by scammers leave victims socially isolated and ashamed of telling their friends and families what’s really going on behind closed doors. It is fantastic to have a great organisation to help us tackle this problem on a local, regional and national level and I would encourage all those that are interested in showing their support to join the campaign and be part of our growing Friends Against Scams network.”

Call by at the Bandstand, Aberystwyth on 27 September between 9:30am and 1:30pm to learn more on how to protect yourself from scams. For more information about becoming a Friend Against Scams, visitwww.friendsasagainstscams.org.uk

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Victim speaks out about the impact knifepoint robbery

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Teifion Lewis: Robbed the man at knifepoint

THE VICTIM of a knifepoint robbery has spoken out about the impact the incident has had on his life as Dyfed-Powys Police takes part in a national knife amnesty aiming to get weapons off the streets.

The 24-year-old was approached by a man he didn’t know while walking his dog in Carmarthen on July 20 this year. A knife was held to his chest, and he was forced to hand over the money in his wallet.

His attacker, Teifion Lewis, of Llammas Street, Carmarthen, was arrested and charged with robbery within four days, and was sentenced to 40 months in prison.

Looking back at the incident, the victim, who has asked to remain anonymous, said: “At first, I didn’t realise he had a knife on him. I just assumed he was another man who was out partying, given he was young and it was late on a Friday night.

“Even when he was right in front of me with his hand on my chest, I assumed he must have had too much to drink and just stumbled into me. Once I saw he was brandishing a knife, though, that changed everything. It was at that moment that I realised I was in far more danger than I’d first thought.

“I suppose the only real thing that was going through my mind at the time was to talk to him, do as he says, and get out of there as soon as possible without becoming hysterical. I just had to keep as calm as possible for the time he was blocking my route.”

He explained that it was only when Lewis had taken his money and walked away, that he realised what could have happened had things gone wrong.

“I thought about how easily he could have stabbed me and I’d have been left out in an empty street, cold and alone, bleeding to death, without even a mobile phone on me to call my friends and family to tell them I love them,” he said.

“I’ve never given much thought as to what my inevitable death will be like, but I’d never have thought it could have ended that way.”

The victim had walked his dog every night for two years – using this particular route for seven months – with no issue. Since being robbed, he has become wary of going out at night and hasn’t been able to walk down the lane where he was stopped without suffering flashbacks.

“It’s not necessarily the whole event that comes back to me, but different parts, such as when he started to sob to me about his home life, or when he apologised for ‘having to mug me’,” he said.

“By far, what’s stuck with me the most are the words said to me as I was being mugged. The words ‘I want your money, I don’t want your life’ have been repeating in my mind every day since then, without failure.”

On September 2, at Swansea Crown Court, Teifion Lewis was sentenced for robbery and possessing a knife in a public place. The victim read out a statement directly addressing Lewis, urging him to get his life back on track and forgiving him for what he did.

“You asked me that night to forget that the robbery had ever happened,” he read. “My assumption is because you were fearful as for what might subsequently happen to you. I’m afraid though, that the image of a knife being flicked towards my chest, and the phrase ‘I want your money, I don’t want your life’ is something I will never be able to erase from my mind, no matter how much I wish for it to go.

“I want you, however, to improve. I want you to use your punishment as your wake-up call, and as a doorway to improving both your future and the future of those who you are close to. There is help available for you, even in prison, and even when it seems all hope is lost. If I can get my life back on track after my autism diagnosis, so can you.

“You’re young, you’re able bodied, and you still have time. Use it wisely. I can’t forget what you did, but just this once I will forgive you.”

The victim has spoken out about his experience as Dyfed-Powys Police takes part in Operation Sceptre – a national week of action aimed at cracking down on the illegal possession of knives. A knife amnesty is taking place during the week (Sept 18-24), with people able to bin their knives at specific locations across the force no questions asked.

The 24-year-old has backed the operation, and the chance to get knives out of our communities.

“I’d prefer it if these people who carry knives with them be honest about who they are and why they have them on their person,” he said. “But it’s much more important that it’s an opportunity to get these weapons off the street.

“If the ability to do this anonymously is what gives these people the confidence to rid themselves of their weapons, then so be it.”

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A brand new Welsh language ukulele orchestra

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CAN you play the ukulele and would like to join a ukulele orchestra? Or would you like to learn a new skill and to socialise in a Welsh-speaking environment? Why not join Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl?

On Monday, October 15, Cered: Menter Iaith Ceredigion, Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Learn Welsh will launch Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl which is a brand new, Welsh language ukulele orchestra in Aberystwyth for free, for those aged 16+.

Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl will practice weekly between 6pm and 7:30pm every Monday night during the school term and practices will take place at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. There is no need for any experience or ability on the ukulele and there will be instruments available to borrow so that you can have a taste before buying your own ukulele.

Welsh will be the main language of Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl but there is a warm welcome to everyone whatever your level of proficiency in Welsh. Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl is supported by Learn Welsh as a great activity for learners to practice their Welsh outside the classroom in a fun and new way.

Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl’s conductor will be Steffan Rees who has held a number of Iwcs a Hwyl workshops over the last year as Cered’s Community Development Officer. Steffan is also a musician who composes and performs as “Bwca” and he has been playing the ukulele for years.

Steffan said, “I have really wanted to start a Welsh ukulele orchestra in Ceredigion for a while having seen the successes and popularity of those in Cardiff and South East Wales. The ukulele is an instrument that excites people of all ages and with some patience and perseverance, it is an easy enough instrument to master. I’m looking forward to developing a repertoire with the orchestra and play a few gigs; the National Eisteddfod in Tregaron in 2020 perhaps!”

Numbers for the first term of the orchestra are limited so contact the Arts Centre Box Office on 01970 632 232 to book your place in Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl.

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