LAST 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.
Ceredigion County Council remembers the Holocaust on International Holocaust Day
THIS year Ceredigion County Council, along with many other Local Authorities across the United Kingdom, will illuminate two of Aberystwyth town’s most iconic buildings in a show of solidarity, respect, and honour to all victims of genocide. From Friday 22 through to Thursday 28 January, the Bandstand on Aberystwyth’s seafront and the Alun R Edwards Centre will be lit up purple.
Holocaust Memorial Day is an international event which takes place annually on January 27, the purpose of the day is to encourage remembrance of all victims of genocide world-wide, including honouring the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, the millions of people killed under Nazi Persecution and in the genocides that have happened since in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2021 is Be the light in the darkness. It encourages everyone to reflect on the depth’s humanity can sink to, but also the ways individuals and communities resisted that darkness to ‘be the light’ before, during and after genocide.
Holocaust Memorial Day is for everyone. Each year across the UK, people come together to learn more about the past and take action to create a safer future. Although this year we are unable to hold any actual events in person due to the ongoing pandemic, this does not mean that we cannot mark this extremely important day.
Ceredigion County Council Leader, Councillor Ellen Ap Gwynn, said: “On Holocaust Memorial Day let us all take the opportunity to reflect on the atrocities committed in the past and to shine a light to lead us to a more humane way of treating our fellow citizens of the world, whatever their colour or creed, in future.
“It is vital to remember and raise awareness that the Holocaust threatened the fabric of civilisation, and genocide must still be resisted every day.
“Our world often feels fragile and vulnerable and we cannot be complacent. Even in the UK, prejudice and the language of hatred exist and must be challenged by us all.
“Together we bear witness for those who endured genocide and honour the survivors & all those whose lives were changed beyond recognition.”
Paul Davies MS quits as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd
PRESELI Pembrokeshire MS Paul Davies quit as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd this morning.
The Conservatives’ Chief Whip also quit his frontbench role.
The dramatic move comes only 24 hours after Mr Davies got the Conservative Senedd Group’s unanimous backing.
However, later yesterday (Friday, Jan 21) – as criticism poured in – the Welsh Conservatives’ Executive met. In that meeting, Constituency Chairs reported widespread disbelief and anger among the Party’s members. Conservative Party Chair, Lord Davies of Gower, received particular criticism for a lack of leadership. Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales, also attended the meeting and was left in no doubt of the strength of feeling within the Party.
In a statement issued via the Conservative Senedd media office, Mr Davies said: “I am truly sorry for my actions on the 8th and 9th December. They have damaged the trust and respect that I have built up over 14 years in the Welsh Parliament with my colleagues and the wider Conservative Party but more importantly with the people of Wales.
“Whilst using the Senedd facilities at all times my colleagues and I maintained social distancing. There was no drunk or disorderly behaviour. We did not have to be escorted out of the building as some reports have suggested. What we did was to have some alcohol with a meal we heated up in a microwave, which was a couple of glasses of wine on Tuesday and a beer on Wednesday.
I broke no actual Covid-19 regulations.
“For the last 10 months of the pandemic, I have followed the Covid-19 regulations to the letter. As with everyone across Wales, I have not seen family members or friends, I’ve not eaten at my favourite restaurants and, like you, we enjoyed a subdued Christmas compared to other years. I will continue to follow the Welsh Government’s Covid-19 Regulations and I would urge everyone to play their part in defeating this virus so that we can all return to normality.
“My priority as Leader of the Welsh Conservative Group in the Welsh Parliament has always been to bring the Conservatives into government in Wales. Our main focus as the Welsh Conservatives must always be on challenging and removing a failing Labour government.
“I am grateful for the support of colleagues in the Welsh Conservative Party for their support in this difficult time, and especially to my wife Julie and my Senedd colleagues who have offered empathy, trust and advice. They have treated me with the same courtesy and decency I hope I have always extended to others.
“Over the last couple of days, I have been speaking with colleagues in the Senedd and the wider Conservative Party. Whilst they have confirmed they do not wish to see me step down, I believe that my actions are becoming a distraction from holding this failing Welsh Labour-led Government to account, not just on their rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines but from more than 20 years of their dither, delay and failure. Yesterday I indicated to the Conservative group in the Welsh Parliament that I wished to resign, but they urged me to reflect further, and we agreed to meet again on Monday. However, for the sake of my party, my health and my own conscience, I simply cannot continue in post.
“Therefore, I am stepping down as Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament with immediate effect.”
“It is for the group to decide how best to choose a new leader, but I hope that process will be seamless and speedy, and I pledge my support to whoever becomes leader.”
Darren Millar blamed ‘wildly inaccurate and unfair reports’ and said:
“There was a member of catering staff present in the tea room for a short time after my arrival on the 8th December but she did not serve me a drink, nor did I request one. In fact, I encouraged the member of staff to go home and close up the counter as it had been a long day for her. No members of catering staff were present on the 9th December and the counter was closed for the whole evening.
“While I am advised that I did not breach coronavirus regulations I am very sorry for my actions, especially given the impact of the tough restrictions that people and businesses are enduring.
“For this reason, and given that Paul Davies has resigned as Welsh Conservative Group Leader in the Senedd, I have decided to step down from my front bench role in the Welsh Parliament.
“I am cooperating fully with ongoing investigations and will continue to do so.”
Whoever replaces Paul Davies, the role is likely to an interim appointment ahead of a vote of the Party membership after the Senedd election.
Aberporth mum praised by police following sea rescue
POLICE have praised the quick-thinking and immense bravery of an Aberporth woman who saved an injured man from the sea.
Dyfed-Powys Police Inspector Owen Williams has commended mother-of-three Cora Thomas for her actions when she feared a man was in trouble off the coast at Ogof Llidw.
Cora was walking along the coastal path with her family on January 9, when she saw a group of people she suspected to have been drinking jumping from the rocks into the sea.
Immediately sensing the danger of the situation due to the combination of extremely cold weather, the possibility that they were drunk, and the fact it was getting dark, Cora stayed back from her family to keep an eye on the group.
But when they left, she feared someone had been left behind.
“It looked like they were having a party on the rocks, and when they saw me watching them they must have been worried I was going to report them,” Cora said.
“They walked off, but this one man had gone to the Ogof rocks, and the only way to get there and back is to swim – they had left him behind.
“I decided to stand there and watch, and I saw him get into the water, but he didn’t come back up.”
As Cora headed down the coastal path to get a closer look, she bumped into two men she knew, and explained what had happed.
The pair had not seen anyone, but as they looked down the cliff, they could see a pile of clothes on the rocks.
“I started screaming down to ask if anyone was there,” Cora said. “I did panic, but I thought I was going to see a body washing past us.
“After a minute or so, we saw him coming out of the water and he was clinging onto the cliff.
“He was so cold he was slurring, and couldn’t tell us his name.”
Dazed and confused, the man was wearing just underwear, had cut his foot and was struggling to speak, such was the cold he had been exposed to.
Realising they needed to warm him up as quickly as possible, Cora and the two men got him dressed, giving him a jacket to keep out the cold.
“He was slipping and sliding all over the place – we had to drag him up the cliff,” Cora said.
“He kept saying he was tired, and I was really worried if he fell asleep he could have fallen into a hypothermic coma. We had to try and keep him calm, and stop him from walking away or he could have slipped back into the sea.”
Police and Coastguard arrived at the scene shortly after, carrying the man by stretcher to an ambulance.
After hospital treatment, he was discharged and is understood to have recovered.
Looking back, Cora described the incident as “totally unexpected”.
“I’ve never been in that sort of situation before, and it was one of the scariest things I have ever been through,” she said.
“I’m glad I stopped when I did – I genuinely think that would have been the end of him if we hadn’t been there.”
Praising the emergency services for their response, Cora also highlighted the use of the WhatThreeWords app, which pinpointed her location to the police.
“Even though I’m local, I couldn’t explain where we were,” she said.
“It was a mixture of panic and not knowing how to describe it. We downloaded the app, which gives you three words to tell the call handler – when they said ‘we’ve got your location and we’re on our way’ it was a huge sense of relief.
“Everyone should download it – you never know when you might need it, and it could save valuable time in an emergency.”
Inspector Owen Williams, of Cardigan police station, commended Cora and the two men for their actions.
“Had Cora not kept a close eye on the group jumping in the water, the man would have been left behind and in severe danger of being swept out to sea or suffering from hypothermia.
“Undoubtedly, her concern and prompt actions – as well as the invaluable help of the two men involved – contributed to preventing a tragedy that evening.”
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