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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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Police urge visitors to ‘check the rules’

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POLICE in Powys are reminding people to check the rules before they travel, as tourists from the Midlands, London and Bristol continue to visit despite lockdown restrictions.

Last weekend more than 1,000 cars were turned around by police in the Brecon Beacons after visitors attempted to access the area around Ystradfellte known as ‘waterfall country’.

Many of those stopped claimed they thought the rules around travel were the same as in England, while others had deliberately flouted them.

Seventy-two per cent of people reported for breaches of Covid-19 restrictions in Powys since March 27 have been from outside the police force area.

“I would like to thank the communities of Powys for their cooperation in recent months in complying with requirements of the Covid 19 legislation and also reassure them we are still working hard with our partners to police the restrictions that remain in place across Wales,” said Superintendent Steve Davies.

“Our officers have worked hard to engage with the public at every opportunity throughout these unprecedented times by explaining what we are doing and why, and encouraging people to make the best choices to protect public health in Wales.

“But where people have clearly flouted the rules we have dealt with them appropriately and issued fines.”

He said officers will continue to conduct stop checks throughout Powys and across the force area this weekend.

In England, people can now travel an unlimited distance for exercise and to access so-called ‘beauty spots’.

But the Welsh Government has said people must remain local – ideally not travelling further than five miles from their home – for exercise or limited leisure pursuits, and this also applies to anyone travelling across the border.

Wales’ three national parks – which include popular sites such as Snowdon, the Elan valley and the Pembrokeshire coast – currently remain closed to the public, as do all National Trust car parks and properties.

The latest Welsh Government advice is available at gov.wales/coronavirus.

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‘Check in, Catch up and Prepare’ All school’s in Wales prepare to enter next phase

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ALL children will have the opportunity to “Check in, Catch Up, Prepare for summer and September”, the Education Minister Kirsty Williams announced today as she published details of the next phase for schools in Wales.

It is proposed that all schools will start the next phase on 29 June, with the term extended by a week, therefore ending on 27 July.

In the next academic year, beginning in September, the intention is that the autumn half-term break will be expanded to two weeks.

In each school there will be a phased approach. Year groups will be split into cohorts with staggered starts, lessons and breaks. It is expected that this will mean, at most, a third of pupils present at any one time, though schools may need time to reach this level of operation.

There will be much smaller classes, providing secure dedicated time with teachers and classmates. This time will include online and personalised classroom experience, getting children and teachers ready for a similar experience in September.

Next week, the Welsh Government will publish guidance to support schools, as well as further and higher education institutions. This will include information on managing their facilities and logistical arrangements, including buildings, resources, cleaning and transport.

The Government is also today publishing a paper from its COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group, representing the latest understanding of the virus with respect to children and education.

Further Education colleges are ensuring that appropriate measures are being taken to re-open for face-to-face learning from 15 June. They will prioritise those students requiring licence to practice assessments and vulnerable learners. This follows close working with Government and the joint trade unions.

Guidance for childcare providers will also be published in the next week, supporting them to increase the numbers of children in attendance alongside schools.

Kirsty Williams said:

“My announcement today gives schools three and a half weeks to continue preparing for the next phase.

“We will use the last weeks of the summer term to make sure pupils, staff and parents are prepared – mentally, emotionally and practically – for the new normal in September.

“29 June means there will have been one full month of test, trace and protect, which will continue to expand. I can also announce that teachers will be a priority group in our new antibody-testing programme. As we continue to keep Wales safe, this approach will be critical.

“The evolving science suggests that warm weather and sunlight gives us the best opportunity to ensure more time in school. Waiting until September would mean almost half a year without schooling. That would be to the detriment to the wellbeing, learning progress and mental health of our young people.

“This is and has been a worrying period for us all. I know that many will feel apprehensive. We have not rushed this work and this decision.

“The three and a half week period before the next phase also gives us time to keep watch on developments elsewhere and provides further check-points to review evidence and the roll-out of testing.

“This is the best practical option that meets my five principles which underpin my decision making.

“I am also convinced that it is only by returning to their own school that we will see increased attendance from our more vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

“Working together we will secure equity and excellence for pupils as they check in, catch up, and prepare for summer and September.”

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Four further coronavirus cases confirmed in Hywel Dda area

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THE LATEST figures from Public Health Wales (PHW) reveal four new cases of coronavirus have been reported in the Hywel Dda Health Board Area.

As of today, June 2, Carmarthenshire identified three new cases, Pembrokeshire has one new case and none in Ceredigion, meaning the new totals stand at 732, 279 and 42.

Wales now has a total of 14,121, with 67 new cases and seven additional deaths recorded, bringing the death total to 1,354.

With Hywel Dda reporting 61 deaths to date.

Dr Giri Shankar, incident director for the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: “Contact tracing continues in Wales as part of the Welsh Government’s ‘Test, Trace, Protect’ strategy. Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who have come in contact with an individual with Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) in order to prevent the risk of others spreading the infection in our communities.

“Anyone who has a positive Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) test will be contacted by a team of contact tracers, and asked for details of everyone they have had close contact with while they have had symptoms.

“Please keep a note of your activities so you can easily remember your whereabouts on a given day, along with who were in contact with. You do not need to have any concerns about providing names to the tracing team. This is for everyone’s benefit and we are grateful for your continued cooperation.

“If you are asked to self-isolate, you should also comply with this request to prevent further spread of the virus.

“Tracers are trained staff and personal information that you provide will handled in line with data protection regulations and will not be shared widely.

“Over the last few weeks, Public Health Wales has been setting up the methods and guidance for how contact tracing will operate. We will continue to work closely to support local health boards and local authorities in delivering contact tracing.

“Welsh Government’s revised lockdown arrangements also continue. People from two different households in the same local area can meet up outdoors, provided they continue to maintain social distancing and strict hand hygiene.

“The announcement adds that, as a general rule, people should not travel more than five miles from home. This will help to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading as people begin to travel more.

“Revised lockdown arrangements also apply to people in Wales who have been told to ‘shield’ from the virus. They are able to go outside and meet people from another household, provided they keep a two-metre distance.

“Future relaxation of lockdown measures will also be dependent on everyone following advice set out in the ‘Test, Trace, Protect’ strategy, including self-isolating when required.

“Information about the symptoms of Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) to look out for is available on the Public Health Wales website, or members of the public can use the NHS Wales symptom checker.

“Anyone experiencing Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) symptoms can now apply for a home testing kit using the new UK online portal. For further information and a link to the booking website, visit: www.gov.wales/coronavirus or www.llyw.cymru/coronafeirws. This will be supported by a national 119 phone service, through which people can also order a home test.

“We are encouraging everyone to download the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Symptom Study app, which has been supported by Welsh Government. The app allows users to log daily symptoms to help build a clearer picture of how the virus is affecting people. For more information, including how to download the app, visit covid.joinzoe.com.

“As part of wider support measures for families, Public Health Wales is offering all parents, parents-to-be, grandparents and care-givers free access to a series of online courses designed to help them understand the development and emotional milestones of their children, covering everything from pre-birth to late teens.

“To get access users just need to visit www.inourplace.co.uk and use the code ‘NWSOL’ if you live in North Wales, and ‘SWSOL’ if you live in Mid, West or South Wales.

“Public Health Wales is also continuing working to address the negative impact of Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) on the social, mental and physical wellbeing of people in Wales. Our latest campaign, ‘How are you doing?’ is now live and offering practical advice from phw.nhs.wales/howareyoudoing.

“Anyone with a suspected coronavirus illness should not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. They should only contact NHS 111 if they feel they cannot cope with their symptoms at home, their condition gets worse, or their symptoms do not get better after seven days.

“Only call 999 if you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, do not call 999 just because you are on hold to 111. We appreciate that 111 lines are busy, but you will get through after a wait.

“We also want to reinforce the message from NHS Wales that urgent and emergency care services for physical and mental health are still open and accessible.

“For parents, if your child is unwell and you are concerned you should seek help. If you have urgent dental pain you should still call your dentist. If you have a health complaint that is worrying you and won’t go away you should call your GP practice. If you or a family member are seriously ill or injured you should dial 999 or attend your nearest Emergency Department.”

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