Wednesday 22 May 2013, 16:47
This year, 2013, is the centenary of the Senghenydd Mining Disaster, a tragedy that claimed the lives of 436 men. It was the largest - I hesitate to say "greatest" - mining disaster to ever occur in this country. But mining was always a hazardous occupation and the history of Wales is littered with events of almost similar magnitude.
The Gresford Disaster of 22 September 1934 was one such case. The Gresford Colliery sat just north of Wrexham, the original shaft being sunk in 1908. By 1911 the pit, owned and run by the Westminster and United Collieries Group, was ready to be opened.
There were two shafts: the Dennis, named after the mine owners, who were the principal landowners in the area; and the Martin. The Dennis shaft reached a depth of approximately 2,264 feet, while the Martin was just a few feet shorter. Together, they were the deepest mining shafts in the whole of Denbighshire.
It was unfortunate that the Dennis shaft was very prone to fire damp. Working conditions in the Dennis were always poor, the air being constantly hot and humid. Ventilation was also bad and while there had been a degree of mechanisation, because of the conditions underground some of the coal was still...
Tuesday 21 May 2013, 15:44
Sleeping on a tour bus that is weaving and bumping its way down the I93 is an acquired skill. I'm tossed and turned and sleep vaguely through the night.
Any moment of wakefulness where you remember you're asleep in a bunk (or a 'fart coffin' as I have christened mine) that happens to be travelling 60mph in the direction your feet are pointing, brings with it a real paranoia that you're going to end up squashed against the partition, with the top of your spine telescoping out of the back of your skull.
As you can see, I wasn't very good at distracting myself.The Joy Formidable's tour bus
My fitful sleep is further disturbed by vibrations from my phone. Finding anything in a fart coffin is a challenge. Well, it is if you haven't spotted the handy pouch for storing essential whatnot on the bunk wall.
It takes me 10 minutes to find my phone. I'm a little frantic because it's 7am over here, which makes it 2am in the UK. If someone is trying to call me, it must be something serious. Or a drunk mate. I have quite a few drunk mates.
When I finally retrieve the phone - and my glasses - I see that my mum has phoned. My heart starts beating quicker: if my mum's phoning, in the middle of the night...
Tuesday 21 May 2013, 14:54
Football's own Tower Colliery: that was how producer Craig Withycombe and I sold the idea to the BBC Cymru Wales programme commissioners about making a documentary on Swansea City's incredible rise from the bottom of the football league to the Premier League in the space of a decade.
It may sound melodramatic but the Swans' success is a tale which is so inspiring, they're talking about a Hollywood film being made about it!
Of course, the football side to the story is rags to riches stuff in itself - club goes from near bankruptcy to the top league - but what we found when making the programme is that that tells only half the tale. And that also, in truth, this is a human interest story and an emotional rollercoaster ride for anyone with a nodding acquaintance with the club.
In 2001, a group of local people and the newly-formed Swansea City Supporters Trust joined forces to wrestle control of their beloved club from an owner whose decision to cut costs by sacking players was met by widespread dismay in Wales' second city and, for that matter, the wider football community.
Suffice to say quite a bit of progress has been made since the days of the unpopular Tony Petty. And it's all down to...
Tuesday 21 May 2013, 12:57
A new play about Wales' answer to Edith Piaf opened last week at Sherman Cymru and has so far received standing ovations from audiences.
Say It With Flowers captures the heady highs and downtrodden lows of the great singer Dorothy Squires. It features Ruth Madoc as the singer later in life and Gillian Kirkpatrick as the young Squires.Ruth Madoc and Gillian Kirkpatrick in Say It With Flowers. Photo: Toby Farrow
I caught up with Ruth following the first performances, and while she was still reeling from the death of her fellow Hi-de-Hi! actor and best man at her wedding, Paul Shane.
She told me...
Monday 20 May 2013, 16:11
I was away from the weather desk last week braving the elements and filming for a new series of Weatherman Walking. We went to Cyfarthfa Castle in Merthyr Tydfil and then headed west to Carreg Cennen Castle in Carmarthenshire.
The weather was very mixed with heavy rain, sunshine, hail and cold winds, so the thermals and waterproofs both came in handy. There was even a little snow on the Brecon Beacons and some flooding in Carmarthenshire.
Ray Garner, who runs a weather station at Llanfynydd, recorded over 72mm of rain in 24 hours on 14/15 May making it the wettest May day there since 1996. The previous...
Monday 20 May 2013, 12:33
There are some stories that people contact X-Ray about that we immediately know we have to try to film. This was definitely one of them.
Jean Davies was retiring from Neath Port Talbot council after 35 years. She loves The Beatles. So her team decided a trip to Liverpool would be the perfect way to give Jean the send-off she deserved. Colleagues spent months organising the weekend of a lifetime.
Now since X-Ray is involved - you've probably guessed - it didn't go according to plan.
Assistant producer Helen Ainsworth - our own Sergeant Pepper - was on the story and working on a Beatles-style treatment...
Monday 20 May 2013, 11:52
It was during Radio 3's recent celebration of the piano that I had my first experience of playing Graham Fitkin's music when we performed Circuit for two pianos and orchestra with soloists Kathryn Stott and Noriko Ogawa, for whom the work was originally composed back in 2002.
Incidentally, I hope Radio 3 know I am eagerly awaiting the viola celebration.
I was immediately struck by the vibrancy and drive of Fitkin's music, and looked forward to the opportunity to play more. I did not have long to wait as our second Vale of Glamorgan concert would feature works by the composer.
We opened the concert...
Monday 20 May 2013, 11:14
From this week, visitors to the Arcadecardiff gallery in Cardiff's Queens Arcade will be greeted by an interactive digital wonderland where anything is possible.
Bizarre creatures including cockatoo squids, sea squirts and squidlets will grow and transform against a futuristic experimental backdrop created through a range of ever-changing art projects.The Animacules - pond life that swims towards the light. Photo: Genetic Moo
Microworld: Arcadia is the brainchild of the digital art collective Genetic Moo, and will feature light projections, robots, electronic sounds and live music.
Each of these...
Sunday 19 May 2013, 08:31
The date 19 May is not one that immediately springs to mind but on that day in 1935 the remarkable TE Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia as he is better known, died in a motorcycle accident in Dorset.
Most people know about Lawrence's remarkable life and career in the desert during the First World War. His death and the circumstances leading up to it are not so familiar.
Thomas Edward Lawrence was born on 16 August 1888 in Tremadog, north Wales. His family was not Welsh but, having been born here, Lawrence qualifies as a Welshman and during his short life he did have an affinity with the country. He was...
Friday 17 May 2013, 17:09
I've seen a few awe inspiring vistas. Most of them - Nant Ffrancon, the Alps, the Loire Valley - were created by geological forces. The Manhattan skyline quickens my pulse like no other, and it's man-made.
As my cab crosses the Brooklyn Bridge, whatever jet lag I'm experiencing dissipates into a bright New York afternoon. I'm thrumming with excitement. The sight of these incredible towers of steel and glass, defying gravity and flattening the mundane, makes me believe that anything is possible.
I'm in The City. That's 'The City' - definitive article, capital letters - and I'm here to see the finest...