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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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Ceredigion’s Energy Efficiency work recognised at the Wales Energy Efficiency Awards

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ON June, 17, 2022, Wales Regional Energy Efficiency Awards were held in Cardiff. Ceredigion County Council’s Energy Efficiency Schemes scooped 2 awards.

The Energy Efficiency Awards were introduced to help recognise the fantastic work being undertaken by the energy efficiency sector in Wales. The measures were introduced to help homeowners reduce their energy bills, tackle fuel poverty and reduce Carbon emissions.

Ceredigion County Council have been delivering the ECO Local Authority Flexibility scheme along with the Warm Homes Cozy Ceredigion Scheme for a number of years. These schemes have seen a number of insulation measures and heating systems being installed in properties improving their energy efficiency. With the drive towards renewable heating systems the concentration lately has been on the installation of air source heat pumps.

The Council scooped the top prize for the Regional Council or Local Authority of the Year where one exceptional council in each of the 11 Regional areas of the UK has shown a true commitment to promoting energy efficiency within their region. This award was sponsored by Improveasy.

For this award, the judges look at the impact their work has had within the local community, what their customer and local community have to say about the council, what level of expertise the council has within its own teams and what priority the council gives to tackling fuel poverty within its current plans.

The Council also won the Regional Vulnerable Customer Support Organisation of the Year having shown a true commitment to improving the lives of vulnerable people within their region. This award was sponsored by Consumer Energy Solutions.

Councillor Matthew Vaux, is the Cabinet Member responsible for the Housing Service. He said: “I would like to congratulate the Housing team for their hard work and success at the Regional Energy Efficiency Awards this year. With the current rise in fuel costs and the increase in cost of living, this is a fantastic achievement for the Council’s housing team in showcasing that they are helping our residents save energy and combat fuel poverty.”

Find more information about Energy Efficiency Schemes on the Council’s website: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/housing/financial-assistance/energy-efficiency-schemes/

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The Welsh Government launches Basic Income pilot scheme

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FROM 1 July 2022, more than 500 people leaving care in Wales will be offered £1600 each month (before tax) for two years to support them as they make the transition to adult life.

Launched by First Minister Mark Drakeford, it is hoped the pilot will set care leavers on a path to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.

The radical approach has trust, autonomy and respect at its centre. It will provide independence and security to people who have faced immense challenges during their childhood, giving them greater control and empowering them to make decisions about their future.

The £20 million pilot, which will run for three years, will be evaluated to carefully examine its effect on the lives of those involved

Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt said the scheme is a direct investment in the lives and futures of some of Wales’ most vulnerable young people.

Those taking part in the pilot will also receive individual advice and support to help them manage their finances and develop their financial and budgeting skills.

Local authorities will play a key role in supporting them throughout the pilot. Voices from Care Cymru will also work with the young people to give them advice on wellbeing, education, employment and help them plan their future after the pilot.

To launch the scheme, First Minister Mark Drakeford, Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt and Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan met with people taking part in the pilot, and young people who themselves have been in care, to talk about the impact this support will have on peoples’ lives.

They discussed how they hope the financial stability will give people the opportunity to make positive life choices as they leave care and provide a more solid foundation from which to build their adult lives.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We want all our young people to have the best possible chance in life and fulfil their full potential. The state is the guardian of people leaving care and so has a real obligation to support them as they start their adult life.

“Our focus will be on opening up their world to all its possibilities and create an independence from services as their lives develop.

“Many of those involved in this pilot don’t have the support lots of people – myself included – have been lucky enough to enjoy as we started out on our path to adulthood.

“Our radical initiative will not only improve the lives of those taking part in the pilot, but will reap rewards for the rest of Welsh society. If we succeed in what we are attempting today this will be just the first step in what could be a journey that benefits generations to come.”

Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said: “We’re in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis like no other and we therefore need new ways of supporting people who are most in need.

“Our Basic Income pilot is an incredibly exciting project giving financial stability to a generation of young people. Too many people leaving care face huge barriers to achieving their hopes and ambitions; such as problems with getting a safe and stable home, to securing a job and building a fulfilling career. This scheme will help people live a life free of such barriers and limitations.

“We will carefully evaluate the lessons learnt from the pilot. Listening to everyone who takes part will be crucial in determining the success of this globally ambitious project. We will examine whether Basic Income is an efficient way to support society’s most vulnerable and not only benefit the individual, but wider society too.”

Tiff Evans of Voices from Care Cymru, speaking on behalf of young people who have experienced care, said: “This is a brilliant opportunity for care leavers in Wales. It is good to see that care leavers in Wales are being thought of and Welsh Government are providing this opportunity for them as young people to become responsible, control some parts of their lives and have a chance to thrive and be financially independent.

“We thank Welsh Government for investing in them and their future and we look forward to other changes and developments for care experienced young people in Wales in order for them to reach life aspirations.”

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Ceredigion man living in Ireland sentenced after involvement in illegal meat operation

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A CEREDIGION man living in Ireland has been extradited and sentenced after his involvement in illicit farming and trading of meat that was unfit for human consumption.

Robert Thomas, 45, was found to be part of an organised crime group (OCG), who were involved in running an illegal meat operation, where “smokies” were being prepared for human consumption. The production of “smokies” involves the illegal slaughter of sheep which, as part of the production process, have their fleece retained on the carcasses and burnt with blow torches to impart a smoked flavour to the meat. This process is illegal in the UK and many European countries.

The initial prosecution was undertaken by Ceredigion County Council in 2015, but due to Mr Thomas persistence in evading justice it has taken 7 years for the proceedings to reach a conclusion. The prosecution involved Mr Thomas and another male person from Ceredigion, who is still wanted on warrant in respect of the charges.

At Swansea Crown Court in December 2015, Thomas was sentenced to a 28-week term of imprisonment, suspended for two years and was ordered to undertake 200 hours of unpaid work and ordered confiscation proceedings to try and identify and recover any assets obtained by Thomas, through his illegal activities. That confiscation investigation was undertaken by officers in the Tarian Regional Economic Crime Unit (RECU) assisted by Ceredigion County Council. Various Proceeds of Crime Act hearings took place during which Thomas gave evidence on oath that his assets and income were minimal.

He declared that he had two old cars and was earning just £40 per week working for his parents. He also claimed that he had two UK bank accounts with no money in them and produced bank statements to prove so. Over the course of three years, Thomas persistently denied having any more than this, and in April 2017 he failed to appear at court.

Further investigations revealed that Thomas held a number of bank accounts and held property and land in Ireland.

A European Arrest Warrant was subsequently obtained, and he was finally located in Ireland and arrested in December 2021 by the Irish authorities and extradited to the UK in February 2022.

On Monday 13 June 2022, Thomas appeared in Bristol Crown Court having previously entered a guilty plea to a charge of perjury. At sentencing, His Honour Judge Cullen described Thomas’ actions as ‘a considered lie and a practiced lie’. He also said that giving sworn evidence to a Judge was a serious matter which could only be dealt with by an immediate imprisonment and requires a significant custodial sentence.

Thomas was sentenced to 22 months imprisonment for perjury and for breach of a Community Order, he was sentenced to 2 months imprisonment to run consecutively, making a total of 24 months imprisonment.

Councillor Mathew Vaux, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member for Public Protection Services, said: “This case has shown that regulatory services will work together effectively in partnership in order to bring justice for these serious crimes. The illegal trade in “smokies” is a serious public health risk, as the meat is often infected with diseases and parasites that could pass to those people who eat the meat. The animals are also killed inhumanely with no regard to their welfare, which is against the principles of high animal welfare held by the farming community of Ceredigion County Council.”

The proceeds of Crime Act proceedings have not been concluded as Thomas has not fully discharged his liabilities under the Order which the Court concluded amounted to a criminal benefit sum of over £200,000. Thomas will therefore be subject to further legal proceedings.

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