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Welsh writers excel in competitions

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Short story competition winner: Diana Powell receives her cheque from PENfro deputy chair Jackie Biggs

WRITERS from west Wales have excelled themselves in this year’s Poetry and Short Story Competitions run by PENfro Book Festival. Against strong contenders from across the UK writers from the area won both contests. 

And others from all over Wales have distinguished themselves by making the shortlists too. “We are delighted that so many fabulous writers from all over Wales, and some from our own area too, have proved themselves so strongly in these two competitions. We are especially pleased for them as they were judged completely anonymously against competition from all over the UK. It’s a great achievement and shows there is some fantastic creative talent in this area,” said competition organiser Jackie Biggs. Winner of the poetry competition is Katherine Stansfield, from Aberystwyth; and the short story competition winner is Diana Powell, from Mathry, Pembrokeshire.

They each win £250. Poetry results: Top prize (£250): Katherine Stansfield, from Aberystwyth, for her poem ‘The woman on my National Library of Wales library card’. Judge Dr Alan Kellermann said: “The winning poem strikes a difficult chord: it’s playful without sacrificing intellect. I was further impressed by the author’s ability to sustain a conceit and to achieve such crisp imagery while resisting the urge to embellish the poem’s diction. It was not only an enjoyable poem, but skilful.” Second prize (£100): ‘Postcard from the Ferris Wheel’, by Rachel Plummer, from Edinburgh. Dr Kellermann said: “It’s refreshing to see an author use form as a way of liberating language, rather than as a road map to the end of a poem.

It’s well-paced and the poem’s sense of longing—which can so easily be wound too tightly—was tuned just right.” Third prize (£75): ‘Divining Her Firstborn’, by Elizabeth Sennitt Clough, from Stretham, Cambridgeshire. Dr Kellermann’s comment: “This was quite a dense poem, but I don’t mind being asked to roll up my sleeves and feel around in a poem’s guts, especially when the effort is rewarded. And if the reader is willing to enter the space between the language and the visual, the reader is suitably rewarded.

A vivid, haunting poem.” A total of eleven poets made the shortlist, one with two poems. The others were: Angela Rigby, Conwy. – ‘Lotus’ Tom Gatehouse, Brecon. – ‘In Bloom’ Maria Isakova Bennett, Liverpool. – ‘Eight Day Chimer’ and ‘i hope you are well’ Natalie Ann Holborow, Swansea. – ‘Victoria Terrace’ Ian Humphreys, Hebden Bridge, West Yorks. – ‘Cruel moon’ Ken Sullivan, Reading – ‘ ‘79’ Stephen Giles, Lutterworth, Leicestershire. – ‘Your Tongue Stud’ Catherine Edmunds, Bishop Auckland, Durham. — ‘a warning’ Short story results First Prize (£250): Diana Powell, from Mathry, Pembrokeshire, for her story, ‘Ingrid Audrey and Jean’. Judge Maria Donovan said: “This is a short story perfectly in tune with itself. From its enigmatic title and first arresting image to the underlying themes of escape and belonging, it always keeps ahead of expectations. Calm, confident and disturbing: a treat to read and re-read.” Second Prize (£100): Shirley Golden, from Ringwood, Hampshire, for ‘The Parapet’ Maria Donovan said: “The subject of the First World War is very much in our minds this year, but it’s difficult to do it justice in a story written so long after the events.

‘The Parapet’ succeeds in making a soldier’s experiences so present and affecting that it brings an uncanny sense of what it might have felt like to be there.” Third Prize (£75): Jo Mazelis for ‘Marco’s Eyes’ Maria Donovan commented: “This is a consistently-voiced firstperson narrative – witty, observant, spiky and spiteful with the spite of hurt. The slowly percolating sense of the character’s pain made this story in the end more poignant than at first seemed possible.” The four others on the shortlist were: ‘Buttercup and Daisy’, by Wendy Smit-Taylor, Moylegrove, Pembrokeshire ‘The Eighth’, Tony Curtis, Barry ‘Oddly Sensitive Human Atoms’, James Doster, Pontyclun ‘Bristol Cream’, Janet Norton, Nottingham

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Porth Cymorth Cynnar supporting residents in Ceredigion

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During this challenging period, Porth Cymorth Cynnar has established a virtual platform to ensure that we are able to keep in touch with vulnerable residents across Ceredigion.

Due to the restrictions introduced to safeguard our communities against COVID-19, many residents are not able to access their usual provision or support such as parent groups or GP Referral Exercise Classes. Instead, we are ensuring that all residents whom are known to our services, and others, are kept in touch with, through regular welfare calls, should they wish.

Around 2000 residents from young people to families to carers, who may require or benefit from regular contact whilst their service is not operating in its usual form, will receive communication from our staff.

To date, almost 2000 welfare calls have been made, and have been well received by people across Ceredigion. Residents have said that it is great that someone is keeping in touch with them, to give them an opportunity to have a weekly phone call and someone to talk to.

Mrs Jones* (name changed for anonymity) who is 92 and lives alone, is used to receiving regular visits from Ceredigion’s mobile library was identified as benefiting from a weekly phone call, to check how she was doing, now that her usual library service would not be visiting for a while. Porth Cymorth Cynnar aimed to get in touch with Mrs Jones, but did not have a contact number. After tracking down a contact number through the local directory, a member of the Porth y Gymuned team was able to make contact. Luckily Mrs Jones has the support of family and neighbours to collect groceries, but nonetheless was extremely grateful to have someone to talk to, and to check that she is OK. A weekly phone check in has been organised with Mrs Jones, to ensure that she is doing well and to organise if she is in need of anything.

If you, or anyone you know would benefit from the Keeping in Touch Service, please get in touch with our Customer Services team on 01545 570881 or clic@ceredigion.gov.uk who will triage your query to Porth Cymorth Cynnar.

Porth Cymorth Cynnar are also regularly updating resource lists which are available on the Ceredigion County Council website here: http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/coronavirus

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The latest on plastic free Ceredigion

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At its meeting held on 17 March, the Council’s Cabinet received an activity update from the Plastic Free Ceredigion Task and Finish Group, which was set up after full Council approved a motion on 22 February 2018.

Full Council approved the ‘Plastic Free campaigns throughout the County, including Plastic Free Aberporth and Plastic Free Aberystwyth’ motion to ensure that the Council helps to reduce the amount of single use plastics used in our day to day operations.

The motion involved a number of factors including; reducing single-use plastics within Council facilities and offices and encouraging local businesses, organisations, schools and communities to move away from single-use plastics and use sustainable alternatives. Promoting the use of sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics at all Council supported events, supporting beach cleans and any other events which aim to raise awareness of the issues of single-use plastics.

Since 22 February 2018, the Council have removed 5 single-use plastic that were used across the local authority, implemented projects in conjunction with NRW with local primary schools, worked closely with communities throughout Ceredigion and commenced the provision of Water bottle re-fills on request to all visitors to our public facing buildings.

In January 2020, the Schools Service were successful in bidding for funding from the Circular Economy Capital Fund, which allows for the purchasing of milk dispensers which will remove the need for the provision of plastic milk bottles and straws by 1,979 pupils at Foundation and Key Stage 2. This is equivalent to a reduction of 376,010 plastic milk bottles per school year.

Councillor Alun Williams, Member Champion for Sustainability said, “These are initiatives which, together, make a real difference to the amount of single-use plastics going into the waste stream from Council activities. Whilst it’s important that everyone seeks to minimise their use of single-use plastics, it’s particularly important that large organisations like councils take these kinds of actions because they can have a wider effect which, in turn, can lead to industry changing to more sustainable practices. Ceredigion Council is trying to lead the way in showing what’s possible within an organisation.”

This supports one of the Council’s corporate priority of Promoting Environmental and Community Resilience.

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WASPI women help MP take pensions case to House of Commons

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WASPI women have helped Ben Lake, Ceredigion Plaid Cymru MP, to take the case for 1950s women’s pension injustice to Parliament at a packed out Drop-In information session at Westminster on Wednesday 4th March.

“It was a pleasure to co-host this important event, bringing WASPI representatives from across the UK to Westminster to meet MPs of all parties face-to-face,” said Mr Lake. “It gave the WASPI women a chance to share their personal experiences and to show how these unfair pension changes have impacted upon the lives of 1950s women.

Unfortunately, despite being invited, Stephen Crabb MP (also Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee) and Simon Hart MP (also Secretary of State for Wales), failed to attend. Across their Constituencies there are over 10,000 1950s women affected and many were left disappointed that their MPs did not support them at this event.

After the Drop In Session, Ben Lake took the WASPI women around the Houses of Parliament. He was a very knowledgeable guide and told the ladies some interesting stories. They saw some of Prime Minister’s Questions and a House of Lords debate. It really was a day to remember!”

Pembrokeshire WASPI along with multiple 1950s campaign groups from across the UK will travel to London on 21st July for a mass rally to support the appeal for pension justice, at the Supreme Court. For the first time in this 9 year campaign, a coach will depart from Haverfordwest.

A local spokesperson for Pembrokeshire WASPI said “Whilst our WASPI aim is to achieve fair transitional state pension arrangements and compensation for all 1950s women who have been affected by the 1995 and 2011 Acts, we support the Backto60s with their appeal. Over 10,000 women are affected across the two Pembrokeshire constituencies and they want this issue resolved. To date there has been too many words and not enough action. Successive governments have failed to address the injustice done to the 1950s women. At least 82,000 women between the age of 60 and 65 have died since the fight for justice started including members of Pembrokeshire WASPI. Others have been plunged into poverty or are having to work longer in physically demanding jobs which is having an impact on their health. The appeal will see the collective voice of 1950s women groups pulling together for the first time ever to support the Backto60s and to let the Conservative Government know that we are NOT going away. Hopefully the outcome of the appeal will be in the favour of the 3.8 million women affected”.

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