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Love is in the air at Aber

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Eurig Salisbury and Rhiannon Parry: On their wedding day in 2013,
they returned to the lecture room where they’d met as undergraduates

ABERYSTWYTH UNIVERSITY recently set a mission for alumni to get in touch and share their romantic stories to celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day.

Couples who met and came together during their time at Aberystwyth University now have the chance, until St Valentine’s Day, to share their stories and photos on social media by using the #loveaber hashtag.

This is a unique and wonderful task created by Aberystwyth University, which has the aim of forming a visual record of the shared stories and memories from over the years.

Of course, there are no limits to the stories, which can include anything from walks along the promenade or even meeting by chance in one of the many lecture halls.

UMCA President Rhun Dafydd said in a recent statement: “Aberystwyth University attracts students from all over the world and not everyone is familiar with Welsh traditions.

“The legend of Dwynwen is ingrained in our folklore so today’s another great opportunity to celebrate our culture and share this special love story with our wider student community.”

Louise Jagger, Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Aberystwyth University, said: “Aberystwyth is an exceptional place to learn and live. Students not only have access to an excellent, research-led education, they also live in a very special place and are part of a very special community.

“It’s not surprising, therefore, that so many long-term partnerships are forged between our students.

“We have alumni all over the world who met here and who look back with very fond memories at their Aber days.

“We look forward now to hearing more stories about how they met and to see some of their memorable photos either from their time as students or their wedding day.”

St Dwynwen’s Day, also known as Dydd Santes Dwynwen, bases itself on the fifth century folk story of the Welsh maiden Dwynwen, one of the 24 daughters of Welsh king Brychan Brycheiniog.

Her life was seen to be a very tragic one as she fell in love with a man named Maelon Dafodrill at the same time her father planned for her to marry someone else she did not love.

As a result, Dwynwen was forbidden to see Maelon.

Because of this, she decided to turn to God in her hour of need and prayed for help to forget about Maelon. Then, an angel visited her in her sleep and gave her a potion to erase her feelings for Maelon and to turn him into a block of ice.

From then on, Dwynwen devoted her life to God and she was granted three wishes, which she used to ask for Maelon to be thawed, for God to meet the needs of all lovers and for her to never marry.

Dwynwen set up a convent on the island of Llanddwyn, off the Anglesey coast. The remains of the church can still be seen on the island, along with her well which is believed to be the home to sacred fish who can predict whether couple’s relationships will succeed.

A sign of a faithful husband is shown if the fish are seen to be active when visiting the well and has since become a place of pilgrimage for young Welsh lovers since Dwynwen’s death in the fifth century.

Eurig and Rhiannon Salisbury also met at Aberystwyth and recently celebrated the first birthday of their son, Llew. On their wedding day in 2013, they made sure their wedding photos also included the lecture room where they were first introduced.

Talking to The Herald, Eurig told us about his time at Aberystwyth University: “I came to Aber to study Welsh and Film and Television Studies, and stayed on at the Department of Welsh for an MPhil degree.

“After a brief spell as a translator for the Welsh Assembly, I spent nine years as a Research Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, and I’m now back in the university working as a lecturer in the Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies.”

Describing how they met, Eurig said: “Rhiannon and I met at the Old College when we were both students in the Department of Welsh. I remember arriving late to a lecture more than once and having to ask someone for paper and a pen, and it was Rhiannon (who’s much more conscientious than me) more often than not who helped me out!

“Rhiannon and I aren’t unique in this sense – I know of many, many other couples who first met in Aber, not only during their time at university, but both before and after.

“My younger brother included, who’ll be marrying later this year after meeting his wife-to-be, Alwen, when they were both students here!

“There’s something about Aber – maybe its apparent remoteness, coupled with the stunning views on the front – that’s uniquely romantic.”

“In your opinion, how important do you feel it is to celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day and to promote it to others?” we asked Eurig, to which he responded: “St Dwynwen’s Day can be, like all other ‘days’ for this and that, a bit gimmicky, but its unique Welshness is something to celebrate, I think. As well as the fact it’s always worth celebrating anything that’s to do with love!”

The Herald also interviewed James January-McCann, who met his wife during their student days at Aberystwyth University.

James said: “I’m currently in my second year working as a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Welsh at the uni, responsible for Welsh for Beginners and Modern Irish, following the completion of my PhD in the department.”

On his time studying at Aberystwyth University, James said: “I loved pretty much everything about studying in Aber: the friendliness of the town, the fact that the Welsh department has always felt like an extended family, the opportunity to immerse yourself in the Welsh language, and the fact that the unusually high number of Irish speakers means that you can actually spend a surprising amount of time speaking Irish in the area.”

James then described to us how he met Kate: “The story of how I met Kate is actually somewhat unromantic. It was during the first term of my first year, and I’d been to a lecture by Jordi Pujol, ex-president of Catalonia, run by the politics department, and was so tired that I’d actually fallen asleep in the lecture and started snoring loudly!

“I just wanted to go home afterwards and go to bed, but my friends Rick and John insisted that I go to Pier Pressure for the birthday party of one Rick’s girlfriend’s housemates.

“I refused, so they ended up physically carrying me into the club. I’m still not sure why the bouncers let us in. We met up with the girls and, as luck would have it, I ended up sitting next to the prettiest one, Kate.

“We got talking, and after a while she asked me to dance. I politely refused, explaining that I wasn’t drunk enough yet. Unfortunately, whilst what I meant was that, being a middle-class white man, I am completely unable to dance whilst even remotely sober, what she took from this was that I thought she was too ugly to dance with sober.

“Kate, understandably, flounced off, and as I watched her go, I thought to myself ‘what are you doing? She’s gorgeous’, downed my pint and ran out onto the dance floor after her.

“The rest, as they say, is history. We went back to her room in Pantycelyn and only noticed that we’d spent the whole night talking when the sun came up.

“After three weeks of impeccably teenage ‘oh my god do you think s/he really likes me?’, whilst our friends tore their hair out and shouted ‘of course s/ he does, you idiot – it’s obvious’, we got together and have been ever since.

“We got married in Aber four years ago and have a three-year-old son called Osian.”

On Aberystwyth University’s aim to create a visual record of the romantic stories of Aberystwyth couples, James said: “I like the idea of the university’s pictorial record of couples who met whilst studying here.

“I’m just somewhat jealous of couples who did it romantically, like my colleague, Eurig Salisbury, and his wife, who had their wedding photos in the lecture hall in which they met.

“Understandably, Kate and I didn’t want to have our wedding photos taken in the pier…”

Concluding the interview, The Herald asked James how important he felt it is to celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day and to promote it to others, to which he answered: “St Dwynwen’s Day is very important to us, because neither of us can stand St Valentine’s Day as it’s far too commercialised and ridiculous.

“We’ve celebrated St Dwynwen’s Day in the same way every year that we’ve been together, with a packet of Tregroes Waffles. One of the dinnerladies in Pantycelyn gave Kate a packet for us when they found out that we’d just got together, and we’ve kept up the tradition ever since.

“I think that we, as a society, should do more to promote St Dwynwen’s Day as something intrinsically Welsh, and considerably less rubbish than St Valentine’s Day.”

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Ysgol Penglais pupil Kai Frisby shares his experience of the Rickshaw Challenge

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MATT BAKER, the Children in Need crew and BBC Breakfast rolled into Aberystwyth for a momentous occasion for a local hero.

It all happened on Wednesday, October 19,

Kai Frisby, who is 16 years old and has cerebral palsy took part in the BBC Children in Need Rickshaw challenge accompanied by none other than Matt Baker. The challenge for Kai was to ride from Plascrug Leisure Centre to Capel Bangor and returning to Aberystwyth Seafront.

Kai, a pupil at Ysgol Penglais is a popular and influential member of Aberystwyth wheelchair basketball club and is an ambassador for the Mighty Ducks. Kai is a Welsh International and is often seen shooting hoops on any court across Ceredigion and beyond.

Kai has previously benefited from the Children in Need campaign and having an opportunity to participate and contribute to the 2022 challenge and fundraising was a privilege and honour for him. Kai was nominated by head coach Lee Coulson.

Lee Coulson said: “Kai has been attending the club for over 7 years and his achievement within the sport as an ambassador and a Welsh international has been outstanding. Kai has shown that no matter what disability you have, anything is possible when you put your mind to it.”

Lee continued: “The rickshaw challenge was going to prove to be really difficult, as Kai is a full-time wheelchair user and does not use his legs on a daily basis. It was an amazing experience for Kai and wheelchair basketball as we try and raise the profile of the sport. We hope it encourages people with and without disabilities to come forward and try this amazing sport. Kai found the day emotionally and physically hard but thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The support locally was unbelievable with people cheering and supporting along the entire route. The route was just over 12 miles and he has never cycled that distance previously. However, he was supported by the Children in Need Team and his physiotherapist Caryl to be able to take part in the challenge.”

Kai Frisby, said: “The rickshaw challenge was a fantastic opportunity for me and I absolutely loved the experience. Initially they reached out to me because they have been long-time supporters of Aberystwyth wheelchair basketball club. I was a bit sceptical at first for the obvious reason that I’m in a chair. I wasn’t a confident bike rider. My concern rose after being told that I was going to cycle 12 miles. I had never ridden that far before. However, I think I was concerned for no reason because as soon as I started, the worry disappeared.

“It was great to see the overwhelming support, especially from the school and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Matt Baker. I cannot thank the amazing team for what they did for me, and I have made great connections with other riders. It was a pleasure to meet them and to hear their stories as well as getting to share my own. I’m very grateful for the opportunity and I’m so proud of everyone who took part. I’m looking forward to seeing how much money we’ve raised.”

Kai’s parents said: “Kai has been supported by a number of different charities over his life and when an opportunity as exciting as this one came along he couldn’t say no. It was such a great opportunity to give something back and help raise money for a charity that supports so many. We are immensely proud of you Kai, congratulations.”

Councillor Catrin M. S. Davies is the Cabinet Member with responsibility for Leisure. She said: “It’s great that Kai has achieved such an ambitious challenge. It is clear that Kai is not only an outstanding athlete but a brave individual and he is an example to us all. Congratulations to you Kai and thank you for putting Ceredigion on the BBC Children in Need map.”

A special one-off documentary will be aired on BBC One on Tuesday, 15 November which will not only share the team’s remarkable stories but also celebrate the history of the Rickshaw Challenge.

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Theatr Felinfach’s Autumn/Winter Programme announced

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As a new term starts at Theatr Felinfach it’s also a time to celebrate that culture is igniting again as the theatre excites to reveal their programme for the Autumn and Winter months. Don’t dishearten that the nights are getting darker because there’s an opportunity for you to enjoy and warm your souls with a bit of music, comedy and drama without forgetting the annual Christmas panto!

November is full to the brim, it’s wonderful to welcome back Mid Wales Opera to the theatre on 3 November, with their small stages tour with an evening of magical music including a performance of ‘Puss In Boots (El Gato Con Batos)’ by Montsvalvatge.

If classic Welsh language literature is your bag, an adaptation by Bara Caws, of the classic ‘Un Nos Ola Leuad’ (One Moonlit Night) will be on stage on 1 November, a novel which has captured the imagination of generations.

On 11 November there will be an evening of folk music in the company of ‘Cynefin’ (with band) which is the creative vision of Cletwr Valley native Owen Shiers which gives a modern voice to Ceredigion’s rich neglected cultural heritage.

What better way to bring November performances to an end than with an evening full of laughter. On 19 November we will have a ‘Comedy Evening’ with no-one other than Noel James from Cwmtawe returning to the theatre with brand new content and entertainment of the highest degree! Steffan Evans from Eglwyswrw will be helping Noel out who’s a comedian with a unique outlook on the world.

Tickets for the above performances are available to order now online or through the box office. The annual Christmas Panto will take place between 10-17 December this year with tickets going on sale to the public on 21 October.

There’s also an opportunity for you to become a Friend of Theatr Felinfach where you can receive regular news, early bookings for performances and lots more. You can also volunteer at Theatr Felinfach – a great way to experience being a part of the theatre world.

The theatre have also re-started participatory sessions. On Wednesday there’s a chance for individuals over 50 to socialise between 1:30pm-3:00pm. An opportunity for young people between 7-18 years to enjoy and learn new performing skills at the Performing School after school on Thursdays between 4:30pm-6:45pm. On Friday mornings at 10:00am there will be Tic Toc sessions for children 0-3 years and their parents/guardians to sing, dance and story tell.

For more information and tickets, please contact the box office on 01570 470697 or theatrfelinfach@ceredigion.gov.uk between Monday to Friday from 9:30am until 4:30pm.

You can keep up with Theatr Felinfach on their social media channels; Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram on @TheatrFelinfach

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Pioneering theatre company in line for top award

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A pioneering theatre company which has won fans at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Green Man and other festivals is in line for a major award.

Hijinx Theatre, which has bases in Aberystwyth and Carmarthen and has created opportunities for scores of learning disabilities including autism, has been shortlisted for one of this year’s Wales Care Awards, organised by Care Forum Wales to recognise outstanding work in the care sector.

It has been nominated in the category for the Sir Bryn Terfel Foundation Award for promoting the arts in social care, which is sponsored by the Pendine Arts and Community Trust (PACT).

PACT was established by the Pendine Park care organisation to support arts and community activities across Wales.

Hijinx Theatre was established in 2006 and through its productions, workshops and community activities has helped to change people’s perception of learning disability. That achievement was acknowledged in 2019 when the company received a St David’s Award.

The company has five academies throughout Wales – one each in Colwyn Bay, Carmarthen and Aberystwyth and two in Cardiff – providing professional training for 70 talented actors with learning disabilities and autism, and some have gone on to appear in major TV roles.

The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown posed huge problems for all theatres but at Hijinx it was a particularly difficult time as so many learning disabled people faced isolation.

“We were very concerned about the impact closing our sessions could have on the people we support,” said Development Officer Greta Bettinson.

“We wanted to prevent loss of the confidence or communication skills gained through our work and maintain the professional skills of our Hijinx actors. During lockdown we continued to support over 150 participants, ensuring they were safe and connected, as for many our sessions were the only regular external contact.”

During lockdown Hijinx delivered a remarkable 550 online sessions, made over 600 submissions to casting directors, reached over 1,100 people through corporate training, made two short films which provided high-quality experience for six actors and produced five new on-line theatre pieces.

One of those webinar pieces, titled “Metamorphosis”, won awards for the best director and most innovative use of technology at the international Good The@tre Festival in 2020.

Tributes to the work have come from participants, their families and outside bodies.

Supporting the Care Award nomination, one parent wrote: “I was fearful that our daughter would go back to being completely socially isolated again due to lockdown, but she is really enjoying the group chat and it’s the highlight of her week.”

One young person who has blossomed through her involvement is “Ellen”, who joined Hijinx in 2015, having previously found it difficult to make friends and suffered with depression.

After her parents saw Hijinx performing at Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Theatre she joined the company and in 2018 was chosen to represent the company on an international tour. It was the first time she and others had been on a plane and travelled without their parents.

“I started to adapt and it was really exciting,” she said. “Once we did a performance in France at 1am! Hijinx teaches you how to be professional. They teach me to restrain my energy and put it into my work.”

A recent impact study by Milestone Tweed, who help organisations to generate and develop their income, stated: “Hijinx is clearly significantly changing the lives of the actors and participants with which it works. For many of them, it is highly likely that these life-altering and life-defining changes have happened as a direct result of their engagement with Hijinx.”

Hijinx’s success has influenced mainstream theatre and film companies to cast more diversely.

Greta proudly commented: “By making it commonplace to see actors with learning disabilities and/or autism on our stages and screens we are raising the aspirations for learning disabled people generally.”

The Wales Care Awards will be presented at a ceremony at City Hall, Cardiff, on October 21, the evening’s main sponsors being Ontex UK.

The event will once again be hosted by popular tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, best known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads and this year will be streamed live for the first time.

Mario Kreft MBE, Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the aim of the Wales Care Awards was to recognise the unstinting and remarkable dedication of unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.

He said: “The social care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job, it’s a vocation – these are people who go the extra mile for others.

“During the Covid crisis, this fantastic workforce rose magnificently to the challenge, putting their own lives on the line to do everything they possibly could to safeguard the people for whom they provide care.

“Unfortunately, it has taken a global pandemic for many other people to realise how important and how significant our social care workforce is.

“Their incredible contribution was summed up best in the powerful and emotive words of the song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, which was set to the famous tune of Men of Harlech. The message that the diolch should last forever is one that we should never forget.

“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards people need and never recognise the value of people who need care in society.

“All the nominees deserve to be lauded and applauded and it’s a real pleasure to honour the contribution of all the finalists.

“I congratulate all the individuals who have shown outstanding dedication and professionalism. Every one of them should be proud of their achievement.

“They are Wales’s finest.”

Care Awards Wales 2022; Hijinx Theatre ; CEO Sarah Horner and Greta Bettinson Picture Mandy Jones
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