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Côr Gobaith, the first ten years (hopefully)

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corgobCÔR GOBAITH celebrated their 10th anniversary at the Morlan Centre in Aberystwyth on Saturday (Apr 30) with a concert which was at once rousing and reflective.

Over the years, the choir has become a feature of Aberystwyth’s cultural landscape, beloved of many people.

Following Social Forum Cymru in Aberystwyth in 2006, Susie Ennals decided to form Côr Gobaith. Social Forum Cymru was a Wales-wide gathering of civil society groups sharing ideas and looking for new ways to work together.

Susie had previously sung with Côr Cochion, Cardiff’s almost legendary socialist choir. Susie told the Herald: “On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison in South Africa, and there was a celebration in the town where I was living.

“I heard a group of people singing We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes. It was a song of hope, and that momen t stayed in my memory. I knew that day that I wanted to raise my voice and sing about peace, justice and freedom from fear.”

Côr Gobaith’s first rehearsals took place in people’s front rooms and even in a squatted social centre. Among the choir’s founding members was, for a short time, Molly Scott- Cato who is now an MEP for the Green Party. Many people of note (sic) have passed through the choir’s ranks over the years.

Some of Côr Gobaith’s other founding members brought with them a political sensibility derived from participation in Greenham Common Women’s Peace camp.

This sensibility continues to make a significant contribution to the ethos of the choir. History records that women from Wales were key players in the camp which began in 1981, lasted for 19 years, and continues to influence social movements worldwide.

Over the years, Côr Gobaith became an important part of many members’ lives as they found comradeship and musical fulfilment through the choir.

While still in school, co-founder and editor of the EGO Paddy O’Malley sang with Côr Gobaith in its early days. Unable to attend Saturday’s performance, he sent a message to the choir: ‘To think that 10 years has passed is terrifying. Please pass on my congratulations to everyone! I have always had such a great admiration for you all.’

Hope in the dark

Côr Gobaith is committed to peace, justice and environmental sustainability. Drawing its members from as far afield as Machynlleth and Lampeter, Côr Gobaith is a street choir, determined to bring music and a politics of hope into public space. Roughly translated into English, the choir’s name is choir of hope.

Since the choir’s inception, Côr Gobaith has sung in Owain Glyndŵr Square on Aberystwyth’s Great Darkgate Street on the last Saturday of every month come rain or shine. And, let’s face it, in Aberystwyth it is too often the former!

A perennial problem for the choir is stopping banners, signboards and themselves from blowing away. Initially, this regular slot was a collective commitment to sing until war in Iraq ended and British involvement ceased. Nowadays, the commitment is to general principles of peace, justice and sustainability.

Côr Gobaith busks to raise money for local and international causes and campaigns. Often, the money raised is donated to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF or Doctors Without Borders). Côr Gobaith has also sung for Medical Aid for Palestinians, Welsh Women’s Aid and Aberystwyth’s Freedom from Torture group.

One member of the choir Lotte Reimer said: “It’s always worth the effort of turning out even when it’s tipping it down. Singing together lifts the spirits and if only one person stops to listen that’s great. Every time a child comes over and puts their pennies in the collecting pot to help victims of war or refugees, I almost choke up. But we keep singing, always!”

The white poppy

One of Côr Gobaith’s long term hopes was realised last year when red, white and purple poppy wreaths were laid together at the war memorial in Aberystwyth on Remembrance Day. The white poppy commemorates all those who die in wars, civilians as well as soldiers, and symbolises a commitment to peace. Created in 2006, the purple poppy is for animal victims of war.

Dating back to 2004, Aberystwyth has had two separate remembrance ceremonies, one laying red poppy wreaths, the other white and purple poppies.

In 2015, after white poppy wreaths were torn from the memorial and stuffed into waste bins, participants in the two ceremonies began a reconciliatory dialogue. With members of Côr Gobaith and Aberystwyth Peace and Justice Network to the fore in negotiations with the Royal British Legion, agreement was reached on a single shared ceremony. Côr Gobaith sang a version of Sibelius’ Finlandia as part of the remembrance service in St Michael’s church.

Côr Gobaith believes that the result is testament to the mutual respect that can be fostered through open dialogue and that the shared ceremony is a credit to the town. Town and County Councillor Alun Williams who facilitated the dialogue said: “It’s always easy to find differences, but it became clear that the different people wanting to lay red and white poppy wreaths actually had much in common.”

Street Choirs and solidarity

Côr Gobaith attends the Street Choirs Festival every year and has sung at these festivals in Manchester, Brighton, Sheffield, Bury, Hebden Bridge and three times in Whitby. In 2013 Côr Gobaith hosted the Street Choirs Festival in Aberystwyth. Refusing to rain on their parade, the gods smiled on the town that day. In beautiful sunshine thirty-six choirs totalling some seven hundred people marched down Penglais Hill to sing together on the sea-front.

Choirs from all over Britain then busked around town before an evening concert at the Arts Centre featuring all the choirs. The Festival received the support of many organisations, people and businesses in Aberystwyth, not least the Arts Centre and Town Council. It raised money for MSF, Welsh Women’s Aid and Radio Bronglais.

After all the bills were settled, donations made and a sum passed on to the next choir to host the festival in Hebden Bridge, Côr Gobaith used the funds that remained to help plant a Peace Tree in Aberystwyth’s Queen’s Square in February 2016.

The tree, a white flowering cherry (Prunus Umineko) symbolises the ongoing commitment of diverse groups and individuals in Ceredigion to working towards non-violence and peace in the world.

The choir were delighted to join with others in the town on the Peace Tree project, including Aberystwyth Town Council and Parks and Gardens, CND Cymru, Aberystwyth Quakers Religious Society of Friends, the Morlan Faith and Culture Centre, Capel y Morfa and Women in Black. As the choir celebrated ten years, the Peace Tree had been in full and splendid bloom.

At the Street Choirs Festival in Aberystwyth, Côr Gobaith’s Lotte Reimer was instrumental in forming the UK-wide network Campaign Choirs. This network serves to help street choirs support each other, especially in local, national and international campaigns.

Participants alert each other to protests, demonstrations and other events, often co-ordinating a singing action that includes members of several different choirs. Campaign Choirs is also a forum for sharing songs.

Campaign Choirs now has more than ninety members and represents over forty choirs. The network has already involved more than twenty choirs in taking collective action.

Actions have included Liverpool Socialist Singers inviting other choirs to sing together in a national demonstration against fascism organised by the Unite trade union; the Natural Voice Practitioners’ network issuing a call to ‘Belt it out at Balcombe’ against fracking; ‘Sing Trident Out’ in Basingstoke; an anti-drones protest at MoD Aberporth, a No NATO rally in Newport, Gwent; and at Britain’s biggest anti-nuclear weapons rally in a generation in London in February this year.

Home and away

Côr Gobaith’s archive records that the choir has sung at almost 200 protests, festivals, concerts and community events over the years. Regular festival dates include Raise Your Banners, an occasional festival of music and politics held in Bradford, the annual All Wales Peace Festival, now sadly defunct, and El Sueño Existe in Machynlleth.

Lotte Reimer narrates an amusing tale from El Sueño Existe. “Some members of Côr Gobaith sang with the folk singer and former Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Iwan as part of an All Wales blockade of the Trident base up at Faslane back in 2006. The next time we met him we were on stage just before him at El Sueño in 2009.

“We sang his song Cân Victor Jara about the much loved Chilean singer and activist who was killed by Pinochet’s brutal regime in Chile. It’s a really powerful song and we sang it well, I think. But word got back to us that Dafydd Iwan had been going to sing it himself. So, we stole his song and his thunder! Luckily, he didn’t hold it against us.’

At Faslane in 2007, again as part of a Wales Day of action against Trident, three members of Côr Gobaith were arrested by MoD police before the choir even started singing.

The arrestees sang in their cells, anyway, while undeterred the rest of the choir sang as part of the blockade. The choir’s archive records that MoD police are not fans of choral singing.

Côr Gobaith also regularly raises its voice at RAF Aberporth in opposition to the testing of military drones there. In 2014 as the choir and others sang on the traffic roundabout outside the base, a police sergeant not only halted the traffic but insisted that impatient motorists turn their engines off and ‘respect the singing’. Only in Wales?

Côr Gobaith sings on International Women’s Day, Hiroshima Day, International Peace Day and Earth Day. The choir’s very first political outing was to the ‘Time to Go: Troops out of Iraq’ demonstration in Manchester in 2006. Last year the choir returned to Manchester with a coach load of other people from Ceredigion to protest against austerity at the Tory party conference. On this occasion, Côr Gobaith joined a Campaign Choirs action with members of street choirs from Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, East Lancashire, Leicester, Birmingham and their oldest allies Côr Cochion Caerdydd.

Although 2016 looks to be as busy as ever for Côr Gobaith with their tenth anniversary concert, a Street Choirs Festival in Leicester and crossing the channel to sing with the Revolutionary Choirs of France, Lotte Reimer wouldn’t want people to think choir life was hyperactive and only involved radical politics: ‘We spend a lot of our time singing in our own community, supporting local groups and events. Sometimes we go to sing to people in Hafan y Waun Nursing Home, which everyone enjoys immensely.’

What a performance!

The concert on Saturday included the story of Côr Gobaith as a piece of theatre, wonderfully hammed up by members of the choir. The performance featured songs from the choir’s extensive repertoire.

As well as old favourites that stirred the soul, there were be new songs composed by choir members to reflect current issues of concern such as climate change, homelessness and austerity. Of many stand-out songs during the evening were Susie Ennals’ favourite No More War by Nickomo Clarke and Bob Dylan’s powerful Masters of War arranged by the current Musical Director Nest Howells.

Nest has extended Côr Gobaith’s repertoire of songs sung in Welsh, rewriting the lyrics of a number of well-known ballads and translating protest songs from around the world.

At some points in the evening the audience were encouraged to sing along. With a number of members of Côr Cochion, the Pales Peace choir and other singers filling the seats in the Morlan, very little encouragement was required!

We Will Rise! written for Côr Gobaith by Dr Vole, Zayeet and Paula Boulton, has become an anthem of resistance to the Conservative government’s programme of austerity and cuts across Britain. Almost needless to say, choir and audience alike raised the roof with the chorus: ‘We will rise / We will not accept those politicians’ lies / So come on get out and fight / unite against the right / We will rise!’

The singing was accompanied by vibrant images from many campaigns and protests over the years. A video playing on the Morlan foyer screen included Côr Gobaith singing his version of The Internationale on stage with Billy Bragg in Aberystwyth’s Arts Centre to mark the 25th anniversary of the miner’s strike: So come brothers and sisters / For the struggle carries on / The Internationale / Unites the world in song. The peripatetic Street Choirs Festival has adopted the song as its anthem.

Elin Jones, who at the time of writing was Plaid Cymru’s candidate for re-election as Assembly Member for Ceredigion, said: “I’d like to wish a very happy tenth birthday to Côr Gobaith. The choir has been part of many important campaigns, from saving public services to opposing illegal wars and raising funds for refugees.

“For so many good causes, Côr Gobaith has been willing to lend a voice. Ceredigion can be proud of the choir, who have added a new musical dimension to our area’s long tradition of support for internationalism and peace.”

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Everything you need to know about the current coronavirus restrictions in Wales

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THE GOVERNMENT guidelines in Wales are changing today (Apr 12).

There are major changes coming into force today across the country as the government coronavirus guidelines are starting to relax.

The changes affect household bubbles, non-essential retail, education and travel.

As of Monday, April 12, the following changes have come into force:

  • Six people from two different households (not counting children under 11) can meet and exercise outdoors and in private gardens
  • Households or support bubbles can holiday in self-contained accommodation – including hotels with en-suite facilities
  • All pupils and students can now return to school, college and other education
  • All shops and close-contact services can open
  • The ban on travelling in and out of Wales has ended
  • Driving lessons can resume and some driving tests (Remainder on April 22)

Non-essential retail are able to open up today for the first time since the country was put into a national lockdown with non-essential retail ordered to close in December of last year.

With infection rates falling and the national vaccine rollout success, the Welsh Government have set out a road map of restriction easing.

Unlike England, the hospitality industry in Wales will have to wait until April 26 to open their doors to customers, but only for those who can operate in an outdoor space such as beer gardens.

The current guidelines in force for Wales are as follows:

Meeting friends and family

From May 3:

  • Two families can once again form an “extended household” and meet indoors.

The following rules currently apply:

  • Six people from two different households (not counting children under 11) can meet up outdoors, including gardens.
  • If you are an adult living alone or you’re a single responsible adult in a household (a single parent, for instance), you can form a support bubble with one other household.
  • You can also end it and form another support bubble with a different household, as long as you leave a 10-day gap between.

Going to work

  • You must work from home if you can. The only exceptions will be critical workers and jobs where working from home is not possible.
  • Tradespeople can work in someone else’s private home, as long as it is managed in a safe way and both the worker and household members are well and have no symptoms of coronavirus.

Schools and nurseries

  • All pupils will return to face-to-face teaching at school from 12 April.
  • From that date all students can return to further education and training centres.
  • University campuses will be able to open for blended (face-to face and online) learning for all students.
  • Internal GCSE, A-level and AS-level assessments have been cancelled.

Leisure time

From April 26:

  • Outdoor attractions, including funfairs and theme parks, will be allowed to reopen.
  • Outdoor hospitality can resume, including at cafes, pubs and restaurants, but indoor hospitality will remain restricted.

From May 3:

  • Organised outdoor activities for up to 30 people can again take place.
  • Gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities can reopen. This will include individual or one-to-one training but not exercise classes.

The following rules currently apply:

  • Self-contained holiday accommodation, including hotels with en-suite facilities and room service, can open to people from the same household or support bubble.
  • Outdoor sports facilities such as golf, tennis and basketball are open. A maximum of six people from two households can take part.
  • Organised outdoor sport for under-18s can now take place.
  • All gyms and leisure centres are closed.
  • Professional sports will continue but stadiums are closed to fans.
  • Bars, restaurants, cafes and pubs are closed – except for takeaway and delivery.
  • The outdoor areas of some historic places and gardens can reopen in a limited way.
  • Libraries and archives can reopen

Shopping

From April 12:

  • All shops can reopen.
  • All close contact services such as hairdressers or beauty salons can open, including mobile services.

The following rules currently apply:

  • Hairdressers and barbers are open for business – by appointment only.
  • Non-essential shops remain closed.
  • Garden centres are now open.
  • Alcohol cannot be sold in shops between 22:00 and 06:00 BST.
  • Face coverings must be worn by customers and staff.
  • Indoor shopping should be done alone, or with people in your household.

Other

From April 12:

  • You can travel anywhere in the UK or the Common Travel Area (Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands)
  • Outdoor canvassing for the Welsh elections can begin.
  • Driving lessons can resume and some driving tests (remainder on 22 April).

From April 26:

  • Weddings receptions can take place outdoors, but will be limited to 30 people.

The following rules currently apply:

  • Weddings and civil partnerships can take place at licensed venues, but receptions are not allowed.
  • Care home residents can receive one designated visitor.
  • You can travel anywhere within Wales.
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Ceredigion dog breeder fined for failing to comply with dog breeding licence

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A CROWN COURT has upheld a conviction that the dogs under the care of Mr. Jones were kept in overcrowded conditions in contravention of the minimum space standards required by the license conditions.

Other convictions were overturned.

On 27 November 2020, and 22December 2020, the Crown Court heard an appeal by Mr. Dorian Wyn Jones, of Dorwan Kennels, Penrheol, Talsarn, relating to convictions for failing to comply with dog breeding licence conditions. 

Mr. Dorian Wyn Jones had previously been convicted at Aberystwyth Magistrates Court of running a licenced dog breeding establishment far in access of the number allowed on his licence and that the dogs in his care were kept in overcrowded conditions.

The Court heard evidence that Mr Dorian Wyn Jones had been granted a licence for 33 dogs. However, during a visit undertaken by Ceredigion County Council’s Public Protection Officers on the 07 August 2019, they found 91 dogs at the premises excluding puppies, in breach of his license. The dogs were kept in pens of a size that were inadequate for the number of dogs kept within them.

On 9 February 2021, Dorian Jones was fined £1000 for the overcrowding offence, and ordered to pay legal costs amounting to £2500. 

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Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, dies aged 99

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The Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen’s ‘strength and stay’ for 73 years, has died aged 99.

Prince Philip’s health had been slowly deteriorating for some time. He announced he was stepping down from royal engagements in May 2017, joking that he could no longer stand up. He made a final official public appearance later that year during a Royal Marines parade on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace.

Since then, he was rarely seen in public, spending most of his time on the Queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk, though moving to be with her at Windsor Castle during the lockdown periods throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and where the couple quietly celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in November 2020. He also celebrated his 99th birthday in lockdown at Windsor Castle.

The duke spent four nights at King Edward VII hospital in London before Christmas 2019 for observation and treatment in relation to a “pre-existing condition”.

Despite having hip surgery in April 2018, he attended the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle a month later and was seen sitting beside the Queen at a polo match at Windsor Great Park in June. He and the Queen missed Prince Louis of Cambridge’s christening in July 2018, but he was seen attending Crathie Kirk near Balmoral in August, and driving his Land Rover in the surrounding Scottish countryside in September.

It is expected that flags on landmark buildings in Britain will be lowered to half-mast as a period of mourning is announced.

The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford has expressed his sadness on the news of the death of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and offered condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal family on behalf of the Welsh Government.

He said: “It is with sadness that we mourn the death of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. Throughout his long and distinguished life, he served the crown with selfless devotion and generosity of spirit.

We offer our sincere condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, his children and their families on this sad occasion.

He will be missed by the many organisations that he supported as Patron or President over many decades of service”.Andrew RT Davies, the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, has led tributes to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, whose death was announced today.

In light of the sad news from Buckingham Palace, campaigning has been paused with immediate effect.

Mr Davies said: “This is a very sad day for the United Kingdom.
“The Duke of Edinburgh led a remarkable life, excelled himself with his career in the Royal Navy, was the strength and stay to Her Majesty The Queen, and has left a legacy to the nation through the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

“Dutiful, devoted, and diligent, his like will never be seen again, and Welsh Conservatives offer their deepest condolences to The Queen, and the rest of the Royal Family.”

Adam Price, leader of Plaid Cymru said: “On behalf of Plaid Cymru, I send my condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and her family. Many young people in Wales will have benefited from the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme, a reflection of many decades of his public service. Thoughts are with the Royal Family at this time.”

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