A BLOGGER has revealed the links between those involved in the various charitable trusts and enterprises at Cardigan Castle and drawn attention to the unusual recruitment process leading to the appointment of Facilities Officer, Sue Lewis.
Royston Jones, whose blog jacothenorth.net has given extensive coverage to the state of affairs at y Castell, sets out the tangled web connecting key parties.
Drawing attention to the coincidence that the Chair of the Trustees, Jann Tucker, the Trustee- Treasurer, Sandra Davies, and Ms Lewis all live in Aberporth, Jac o’ the North points out that they are all involved with overlapping organisations.
Jann Tucker, who is involved in a holiday homes rental business, is a trustee of Aberporth and District Youth Club, and also Aberporth village hall and recreation ground. Jann Tucker joined Joined Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust (‘Cadwgan’) on March 21 2000, and Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Castell Aberteifi Cardigan Castle Building Preservation Trust (‘Castell’) March 28 2000. She still serves as trustee on both charities and also served as a trustee / director on Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd from June 15 2010 to January 28 2015.
Sue Lewis, a former newspaper editor, is chair of the board of governors at Ysgol Gynradd Aberporth and also a trustee of Small World Theatre, who have coincidentally been heavily involved in Castell Aberteifi’s re-opening and launch.
Sandra Davies, the trustee treasurer, whose description of those expressing concerns about ‘mission drift’ at Castell Aberteifi as a ‘group of bigots’ is a millstone round the venue’s neck, is vice chair of the governors at Ysgol Gynradd Aberporth.
As Jac o’ the North points out: ‘We all say, ‘It’s a small world’, but humbling phenomena like this bring home to us how true that is’.
Another figure of mystery is Jonathan ‘Joff’ Timms. We know he was born in 1945, so he’s of a ripe age, and he joined ‘Cadwgan’ November 15 2006. On the Charity Commission website he is even listed as the contact for the trust.
As if that wasn’t enough, he and Sue Lewis seem to be the only directors left standing at Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd. So he appears to be the one person who is a trustee for both trusts and is also a trustee / director of the trading arm.
Given the distance between Mr Timms’ permanent residence in a village nestled in the North Downs, it can scarcely come as any surprise that Mr Timms has a holiday home in Ceredigion: As it happens, in – or near – Aberporth.
The public was originally told that among the project’s objectives was that it should attract ‘visitors who are seeking leisure learning activities related to the Welsh language, culture, crafts, environment and horticulture and ‘using the Welsh language, and the cultural traditions of the Eisteddfodau, as a tool for tourism development and regeneration’.
Jac o’ the North points out: ‘This has not happened except in the most cursory and superficial manner.’
A letter to the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has bankrolled much of the development, and a copy of which has been seen by The Herald alleges: ‘In May of this year, the Gorsedd of Bards HAD AGREED to hold a Ceremony of Blessing at the Castle.. The Gorsedd Officials were KEEN to hold this ceremony and Mr Penri Roberts, of the Gorsedd Board of Officials will confirm that he was already’.
The next sentence alleges that a senior member of the Trust, not already named in this article, responded that the Eisteddfod would only visit ’over my dead body’.
The strength of local feeling is shown by correspondence shared with The Herald and with Jac o’ the North. One letter, dated June 15, reads: ‘Many people in Cardigan are very angry that the castle is being turned into an exclusive high end site with little opportunities for local people to get involved. It is scandalous that public meetings have not been held. We have at least sixty people in Cardigan who have asked to join as members but who have just been ignored’.
Cardigan Town Council is now taking an active interest in the activities at Castell Aberteifi. A council sub-committee has asked the Cadwgan Board for a copy of their constitution, as well as job descriptions of the trustees’ individual responsibilities. However the council will not now meet until September 1 because of the summer recess.
The council’s interest is likely to have been piqued by the decision to exclude the Town Council’s representative from a meeting regarding the future of suspended director Cris Tomos on the basis that it was ‘a staffing matter’.
And staffing matters have been a recurrent theme in recent months.
The post of Facilities Officer occupied by Sue Lewis since her redundancy as a newspaper editor did not exist before her appointment and was not advertised widely – not even in Ms Lewis’ former newspaper: So quite how Ms Lewis became aware of a serendipitous vacancy at a time when existing Castle staff were being asked to reapply for their jobs is something of a mystery.
Technically, the staff were on fixed term contracts which all came to an end in Dec 2014, and the staff were told that they would be welcome to apply for new posts. Sue Lewis was a member of the panel which did the interviews
The process ended around the beginning of December, and several of those who had been with the project for a long time were escorted from the premises. They included Rhian Medi, the daughter of the late Archdruid Dic Jones. Rhian was to have been education officer, but that post was axed showing a departure from the original vision for the project and a new focus on (possibly) ‘facilities’.
As a letter sent to the Heritage Lottery Fund points out: ‘Countless other interested parties along the years have been elbowed out of the project by a small group who view Castell Aberteifi as their personal property’.
The Herald emailed local Plaid AM Elin Jones for a comment. We received no reply.
An email to Mark Williams MP got only an automatic response.
Mid and West Wales regional AM Simon Thomas told us: ‘I have not been directly involved in the disagreements at Cardigan castle. As I have not been party to the emails you refer to nor talked to the parties involved, none of which have contacted me, I am not in a position to make a comment’.
Despite telling us that a statement was being prepared, the Welsh Government did not provide one before our deadline.