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The Cletwr Big Build

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Postcard: The old Cletwr in the 1960s

Postcard: The old Cletwr in the 1960s

AN EXCITING new change is well underway for the people of Machynlleth and the wider area, which will guarantee to brings smiles all round.

After establishing in 2011, May 2013 saw the new Cletwr in Tre’r Ddôl spring back to life, with the Siop Cynfelyn and Caffi Cletwr opening their doors to the public and becoming more popular than ever.

Taking into consideration the building errors of the rent-free property, a small group of volunteers at Cletwr then set a target to raise enough money through local funds and applications to create a sustainable building as an alternative.

With the brand new building set to open by summer 2017, the community will be able to look forward to a modern and environmentally sound building which will hold a larger shop and cafe, a meeting room and offices to support community activities.

In addition to that, the building will even have solar panels to further reduce energy.

Cletwr has been very fortunate to have a wide range of funding from various sources, including £497,000 from the Big Lottery Fund, (of which about £300,000 went to buy the site), £172,000 from a Welsh Government grant and £88,000 from an EU grant.

There have also been smaller grants given to them by Ceredigion County Council, Trusthouse and donations from locals.

November brought even better news for Cletwr as they received a letter from the EU Rural Communities Development Fund, stating that all of the funding for the new build was officially in place.

North Ceredigion is known for being a relatively poor area and, with that in mind, one of the main aims of Cletwr is to tackle various issues affecting our community such as isolation, lack of services and poverty.

The Herald was able to interview the newly appointed Chair of Cwni Cymunedol Cletwr, Nigel Callaghan, where he was able to explain about the on-going development in greater detail: “Cwmni Cletwr was originally established in 2011, with the simple aim of re-opening the old Cletwr Services in Tre’r Ddôl as a village shop and cafe.

“The shop and cafe duly re-opened in Spring 2013, staffed mainly by volunteers. The owners of the site let us have the property rent-free for over 18 months, to help us get established. But then it got complicated – we became very popular!

“At that point, we decided to aim a bit higher, and seek funds to buy the site for the community and to build a replacement building; the existing one has a number of structural and environmental problems, and a new building could be an example of sustainable building.”

He continued: “We considered renovation of the present building as a cheaper alternative, but it would have meant closing for many months.”

Describing the inspirations behind the project, Nigel said that it was to ‘build a stronger and better community’. “When we started, the community had lost virtually all its services: shops, cafe, Post Office and petrol station all closed.

“Since then, we’ve also lost the school and the church. All that was left was a pub, a chapel, and a village hall. People had few or no opportunities to meet their neighbours. The community was in danger of becoming a dormitory.

“Initially, we aimed for the shop and cafe, but the scope of the project has now grown. We became aware that we could and should aim to provide far more than a shop and cafe, so instead we aimed to provide a wider range of services and facilities to tackle many of the problems associated with life in a rural area.

“Recent studies show that over 20% of the children in the community live in poverty. We do not think that is acceptable and through Cletwr we, as a community, can start to do something about that.”

We went on to talk about one of Nigel’s blog entries, where he said that ‘there should be some nice landscaping too, making the whole place a worthy ‘Gateway to North Ceredigion”. From that, Nigel described to us in detail about what people are able to look forward to with the new building: “The new building will be a model of sustainable building: highly energy-efficient, generating (hopefully) more electricity than it consumes.

“Our architect, Arwyn George of George a Tomos, Machynlleth, has ensured that it will be an attractive and interesting building.

“The old Cletwr services were a familiar and popular stop for travellers on the A487 for decades, and the new Cletwr is no different. It’s a convenient stop for coffee, a bacon sarnie and clean toilets, and a chance to buy a last minute present for Auntie May.

“We will also be extending the facilities for tourists, with more information about the immediate area, but also Ceredigion as a whole, and encouraging visitors to stop and spend money in the county!.”

“In your blog, you say that the Big Lottery, Welsh Government and the EU, plus Cyngor Ceredigion and Trusthouse, have all contributed costs towards the development. What were the procedures behind this and how would you encourage the public to continuously support the development?” we asked Nigel. He answered: “None of this would have been possible without considerable support from many organisations – public and private, large and small. One lesson that we have learned is that there are a lot of sources out there for funds for worthwhile projects, provided the aims of your project match theirs.

“People have questioned whether what we are doing is the best use of half a million pounds and whether it could be better spent on Bronglais. Undoubtedly, we all want more money spent on Bronglais, but it’s the Welsh Government that decides how to spend the money.

“They earmarked a fund for addressing poverty and deprivation and that’s what we received money for. Rural poverty is just as real as urban poverty, even if it is more subtle.”

“The funding wouldn’t have been possible without incredible work by several of our volunteers, who have invested weeks, even months, of their time, unpaid, identifying sources of funding, preparing the applications, and responding to questions.”

Nigel further added: “Some applications failed. Many involved very detailed written plans, running to dozens of pages. And once the money has been allocated, considerable time is spent doing the paperwork afterwards. The money is there but don’t underestimate the effort required to get it.”

Nigel then went to talk about one of his blog entries, where he said that one of the aims of the building is to tackle a number of issues affecting the community. Regarding this, we asked him what ways he believes the building will benefit in bringing the community together: “The impact of Cletwr, as a shop, cafe and community hub, is already being felt. We have over 50 regular volunteers, of all ages, helping with a wide range of activities, from serving in the shop and cafe, to baking award-winning welsh-cakes, cutting the grass and sorting out the WiFi.

“It’s already a place where people in the community meet up for coffee or attend one of our frequent events – the walks are very popular. A common comment from people is that there is a ‘buzz’ about the place. People stop to actually talk to their friends and neighbours.

“We organise activities that support Welsh in the community, including regular sessions for learners to mix with fluent speakers and develop their language skills. We also offer a free library of Welsh books for people to borrow.”

Nigel further explained: “Parents of young children like to meet up there as they can have a coffee and some homemade cake in a child-friendly space, with a proper play-area, well equipped with toys and books. The new building will allow us to offer a wider range of services, activities and products in the shop, providing even more reasons for people to call in and get involved.

“The shop, under the skillful management of Karen Evans, is already attracting customers who specifically call in because of the range of products, including many local and Welsh items.

“One of the most important aspects of Cletwr is that in involves all parts of the community: young and old, working and retired, incomers and people who have lived here all their lives, Welsh-speakers and non-Welsh speakers.

“Before we had Cletwr, there were few opportunities for people to mix. People talked about ‘community’ but that was just a geographical idea. With Cletwr, the idea is becoming a reality.”

Continuing his emphasis on how the building will benefit the community, Nigel added: “Cwmni Cletwr has been set up as a non-profit group. Any surplus we make will be invested back in the community, helping other groups within Taliesin and Tre’r Ddôl and the surrounding area, not just kept for Cletwr activities.

“With never-ending cuts in funding for local services, it is clear that communities will need to become more and more self-sufficient. A local community company can be a good starting point for this, but it requires dedication and effort from many people in the community.

“Of course, it’s not compulsory for people to volunteer in the shop to be a supporter; people have many demands on their time – work, family, health – and simply coming in from time to time to use the shop and cafe is just as important as helping with the washing up.

“Too many villages in Ceredigion, and throughout Wales and the UK, have turned into ghost towns as their shops and services have closed. Many are now starting to fight back.

“We’ve had a lot of help and advice from the Plunkett Foundation, who advise community groups on running businesses. Many already exist in Wales, from groups running a shop for a few hours a day to others who have taken over the village pub and Post Office.

“With services available again, it becomes worthwhile for people to think about leaving their homes during the day to use them. No need to take an expensive bus into town to go shopping.”

Nigel concluded the interview by telling The Herald:

“Our long-term aim is to ensure that there is a long-term future for our community. Through Cletwr and other activities, we want to make Llangynfelyn somewhere that people will want to live, somewhere where they can work, raise a family, and eventually live out a comfortable retirement, surrounded by a supportive community of friends and family.”

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It’s About Time

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Sioned spinning

THIS January, Ceredigion Museum are proud to exhibit artwork by the portrait painter Seren Morgan Jones, originally from Aberystwyth and the third generation of women artists in her family.

Jones follows in the footsteps of her grandmother Margaret Jones, whose work forms part of the Ceredigion Museum collection. The exhibition will be followed in January 2019 by a retrospective show of work by her grandmother Margaret Jones who celebrates her 100th birthday this December.

It’s About Time is an amalgamation of two distinct bodies of work created by Seren Morgan Jones; ‘History’s Eyes’ documenting Welsh women from the 19th century and ‘Portraits of Protesters’ a collection of paintings documenting Welsh suffragists at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Drawing inspiration from historical aesthetics and references, but expanding the scope of traditional portraiture, Jones redefines and re-imagines the historical narrative, and through this creating a place for women within the Welsh visual story. The paintings take on an additional layer of importance and meaning when shown in the context of Ceredigion Museum; which houses a large collection of items representing the culture and history of the county. The collection is home to many items that have been donated by women, but we too often don’t have the narrative of those women’s lives. Jones used the Ceredigion Museum collection of welsh costume as research for her paintings depicting women in welsh traditional garb; the women largely remain nameless and faceless in our displays and yet here, in Jones’ work those women’s histories are now brought to life.

The portraits are powerful and direct; the eyes gaze unswerving to create an utterly distraction-free moment between viewer and painting which seeks to challenge and question. The portraits are imagined and shaped from stories and photographs of women rather than actual bygone figures. In the creation of these false portraits, in a style that references that of the tradition of Welsh Masters; Jones places her and the women whom she is portraying within this cultural narrative.

Of her work, Jones says: “I create an alternative image of Welsh women to counter the representation often seen in tourist shops. Some would argue that this is the only ubiquitous presence of women from Wales’ past. It is important that the viewer can relate to these women and for this they must seem to have once lived.”

Join Ceredigion Museum for the official opening of the exhibition on 27 January at 2pm. The exhibition will be opened by the renowned artist William Wilkins.

The exhibition is a partnership project with TEN gallery Cardiff and will run from 20 January until 16 April 2018 at Ceredigion Museum. For more information please contact Assistant Curator Alice Briggs, alice.briggs@ceredigion.gov.uk or 01970633086.

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Four arrested as man remains in ‘critical condition’

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FOUR men have been arrested after a man was hospitalised in the early hours of Sunday morning (Jan 14).

19-year-old Ifan Richards Owen is in hospital in critical condition after the attack.

The incident took place in High Street, Aberystwyth, at approximately 2:20am.

Four men, aged 19, 20, 23 and 25 have been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent.

They are in police custody.

Police are now appealing for witnesses to contact them as a matter of urgency.

DCI Anthony Evans, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “We are issuing a fresh appeal for witnesses to the assault on Ifan Richards Owens, aged 19, which occurred on High Street, Aberystwyth at around 2.20am on Sunday, January 14.

“In particular we would like to speak to anyone who gave first aid to Mr Owens before emergency services arrived.

“Mr Owens remains in hospital in a critical condition.

“We would urge anyone with any information that could assist in our investigation any witnesses to the incident or anyone who may have any CCTV or video footage of the incident to contact police on 101, quoting incident number 402 of January 14. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

“Four men, aged 25, 23, 20 and 19, have been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent and remain in police custody at this time.”

Ifan’s family said in a statement:  “Ifan is a kind and gentle person, and we have been overwhelmed with messages of support from family, friends, as well as Ifan’s school friends, teachers, university friends, and sports teams, who are all sending their best wishes for Ifan, who is desperately ill following this incident in Aberystwyth.

“Ifan’s only choice for university was Aberystwyth, he had no interest in any other university and absolutely loves the town. He plays football and rugby for the Geltaidd Football and Rugby Clubs and is enjoying his second year studying Criminology at Aberystwyth University.”

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Ceredigion MP welcomes 7-year Lottery investment in Llandysul

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RURAL FUTURES, a new 7 year programme funded by the Big Lottery Fund, will be rolled out in 10 communities across Wales, including Llandysul in Ceredigion.

Professional advice will be available to help the town create effective long-term solutions to the challenging issues they face.

Rural Futures is delivered by Severn Wye Energy Agency and the BRO Partnership. Llandysul was chosen following a period of research into local economic and social statistics, and liaising with local councillors and staff in numerous community support organisations and community groups.

The decision was finalised following the public meeting held by Ben Lake MP and Elin Jones AM in Llandysul on November 3 whereby over 150 local people came to discuss the town’s future. This meeting helped the Rural Futures team identify that Llandysul would greatly benefit from support to address a number of local and rural issues.

Ben Lake, MP for Ceredigion said: “I am delighted that the successful public meeting held in November played a part in securing this substantial investment. Rural communities such as Llandysul are currently facing enormous challenges and I’m confident that this innovative programme will provide valuable guidance and support to the community as it seeks to come up with ambitious, creative and practical solutions that will regenerate the town.”

Elin Jones, AM for Ceredigion said: “This is excellent news for Llandysul. This programme will give the community the opportunity to take ownership of future plans and projects and implement vital improvements to the town on their own terms.”

The Rural Futures team will work with the community of Llandysul and will also work in partnership with public bodies and local organisations, who are already operating in the area, to add value where possible to their efforts.

Keith Evans, County Councillor for Llandysul said: “Having worked closely with the Rural Futures team over the past few months, I’m extremely pleased that Llandysul has been chosen as one of the 10 communities across Wales to benefit from this programme. I look forward to further collaboration over the next 7 years as we seek to regenerate and invigorate the town.”

Ruth Bates, the Big Lottery Fund’s Communications Officer commented: “This is a new approach for the BLF and in keeping with our aim of putting people in the lead, we see the Rural Futures programme as a fantastic opportunity to deliver real benefits to communities, as well as informing future policy and funding in Wales.”

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