Wales

James Roberts

Blog posts in total 21

Posts

  1. The sixth Sŵn festival hit Cardiff at the weekend and with it came a better than ever mix of artists spanning every imaginable genre.

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  2. Half a century ago the future of transport appeared on a beach in north Wales. The hovercraft service from Rhyl to Moreton beach, Merseyside - the first of its kind in the world - was unleashed to masses of enthralled onlookers. This was the way forward - or so it seemed. The Vickers-Armstr...

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  3. For just over a century a 2.5 mile oval of tarmac, bricks and metal has provided one of the world's paramount sporting spectacles. Many a British driver has encountered speed, danger, death and riches at the Indianapolis 500, and 80 years ago a driver from north Wales met his end there. Or d...

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  4. Comedian Elis James is one of the most promising emerging acts on the Welsh comedy scene at the moment - although 'emerging' may be the wrong adjective, as he's become such a familiar voice on BBC Radio Wales of late. Elis has enjoyed recent success with Pantheon Of Heroes, a mixture of sketch show and stand-up that was co-written with fellow comedian Ben Partridge. He also regularly collaborates with Chris Corcoran for the theatre show The Committee Meeting and on Social Club FM, again for Radio Wales. I caught up with Elis ahead of his stints at the Machynlleth Comedy Festival this weekend, and the forthcoming Edinburgh Fringe, and threw a couple of questions his way. Elis James at the 2011 Machynlleth Comedy Festival. Photo: Ed Moore, Edshots How is life at The Social Club? The Social Club currently has one customer, who is drinking tap water and using the radiators to dry his anorak but Rex used to babysit him in the 40s so he doesn't mind. Rex is very well - he's just finished cleaning out the lines and is about the change the gearbox on the club minibus, before tarmacking the drive and duplicating some ledger books from 1967 "just in case". How did 2011 go for you? Highlights and lowlights? The highlight was getting Pantheon Of Heroes and Social Club FM commissioned by Radio Wales and being asked to go on Eight Out Of Ten Cats, the lowlights were having my body described as "laughable" when I took my top off on a stag do in Liverpool and getting a new coat stolen from a nightclub. Elis James with Pantheon of Heroes collaborators Ben Partridge and Nadia Kamil You'll be making a return to the Edinburgh Festival this summer. Do you feel like part of the furniture? I've actually taken shows to Edinburgh every year since 2008, but with 2,500 shows at the festival and over 20,000 performers, it would be very difficult to describe myself as part of the furniture. I do know Edinburgh very well though; it's one of the few cities that I would recognize instantly if I woke up there having been kicked out of the back of a Transit van. General plans for Edinburgh? Chris Corcoran and I are performing The Committee Meeting every day at the Underbelly at 1.30pm, and then I'm doing a solo stand up show at The Baby Grand in the Pleasance at 7pm. My general plan is to not gain too much weight by drinking real ale at four in the morning - I have a wedding to go to a few weeks after the festival finishes and I won't be able to afford a new suit. With such a successful presence on BBC Wales, is it extra work being a London-based comic, performing in Wales as well to a different audience? A huge amount of travel is a part of what I do, so in the main living in London is slightly more convenient, although working so closely with Chris means I'm in Cardiff all the time anyway. I loved writing for Radio Wales and they're programmes I'm immensely proud of, but the best thing about writing is that you can do it anywhere. My favourite writing session for Pantheons was in Ben Partridge's parents' house, where the session was bookended by us laughing at photos of Ben as a child while his mum made us toast and tried to explain some of his haircuts. You'll be performing in Swansea on May 18. Do you enjoy coming "home" to perform? I love performing gigs in south Wales, especially south west Wales, but not Carmarthen - the last time I did that the venue was flooded with my aunties and uncles which I found very weird. Swansea is perfect because I can still talk about the area I grew up in but it's just far enough from home to stop any second cousins turning up and threatening to dob me in for swearing. That's the first time I've used the phrase 'dob me in' since 1989. It felt good. You are performing at the Mach Comedy Festival this weekend. Tell us a bit about the festival and what we can expect from you. The Machynlleth Comedy Festival is one of my favourite things in the world - it's a truly wonderful line up and the organisers should be proud of it. Elis James performing at Machynlleth in 2011. Photo: Ed Moore, Edshots The atmosphere's great and the audiences are lovely; they understand that most of the comics are gearing up for Edinburgh so don't mind if you take a sneaky peek at your notebook halfway through the performance. My parents went last year and my mum described it as "the best weekend of her life," so you can't say any more than that. Thankfully my girlfriend is more organized than me and has sorted us a B&B, because otherwise I'd be sleeping in the car. I'm about as suited to camping as Hermann Göring was to HR.

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  5. This week the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will visit south Wales, as part of her diamond jubilee celebrations. On Thursday she will visit Llandaff Cathedral, previously the scene of a 1960 visit, before making her way to Margam Park and Merthyr. On Friday the royal party will visit Aberfan, ...

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  6. James Callaghan - the only 20th century prime minister to hold the offices of Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary - was born a century ago today. Callaghan became the Labour MP of Cardiff South in 1945. After serving as a junior minister in the Attlee government, he became Chancellor of the Exchequer when Labour returned to power in 1964, overseeing the controversial devaluation of the pound. Following his resignation, Callaghan, or 'Big Jim' took the post of Home Secretary between 1967 and the summer of 1970. Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party Jim Callaghan in Abingdon electioneering for the 1979 General Election. As Home Secretary, Callaghan took over from Roy Jenkins' role and witnessed the ratcheting up of violence in Northern Ireland. During this period, British troops were deployed to protect the minority community. The Portsmouth-born south Wales MP's stint as Foreign Secretary was cut short as Callaghan went for the leadership of the Labour Party following the surprise resignation of Prime Minster Harold Wilson on 16 March 1976. Callaghan, with wide support from his party, defeated Michael Foot. In this BBC News clip from July 1976, Callaghan is on his second day of a visit to south Wales. Here the Prime Minister is searched for contraband as he prepares to enter the west Wales colliery at Betws New Drift Mine that was planned to open in 1978. Throughout his premiership, Callaghan was hampered by a lack of a clear majority. Very early on in his role as Prime Minister he was forced to rely upon the support of the Liberal Party and with the British economy in strife, amid high inflation and rising unemployment, a controversial decision to seek an emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund caused tensions within the party. Between 1976 and 1979, Callaghan's government introduced the Police Act, the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act in 1977 and the Education Act of 1976. The economic turmoil that raged throughout the 1970s culminated in a number of strikes during the winter of 1978-1979. Infamously dubbed The Winter of Discontent the industrial and social strife proved too detrimental for the Labour Government under Callaghan and a motion of no confidence was called by opposition MPs in March 1979. As Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government famously won the 1979 election, Callaghan remained Labour leader for another year before handing over to the man he once defeated in the leadership election, Michael Foot. In 1987, Callaghan was made a life peer and Knight of the Garter. He died on 26 March 2005, on the eve of his 93rd birthday, becoming the longest living former Prime Minister.

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  7. Ten years ago, in the year of Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee, Newport was awarded city status. The 2002 accolade proved third time lucky for the Gwent town after two unsuccessful bids in the 1990s. By becoming a city Newport joined Bangor, Cardiff, Swansea and St Davids as Wales' cities;...

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  8. Monday 5 March is the 35th anniversary of the death of Welsh Formula One driver Tom Pryce. The man from Nantglyn near Ruthin was tipped for F1 championship glory by many of his contemporaries, but at the age of just 27 his life and career were cut short in one of the most bizarre, tragic acciden...

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  9. If Thursday's Sŵn-related larking possessed a wonderful sense of anticipation, then Friday night brought it all together.

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  10. So, once again it's the most puntastic of inner city festivals as Sŵn spreads its tentacles across all sorts of live music venues. This year is the fifth turn for the brainchild of promoter John Rostron and BBC disc jockey Huw Stephens and it is a tonic to see Queen Street, St Mary Street and Ca...

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  11. Forty five years ago the Cold War classic The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, starring Richard Burton, was released. Alongside Claire Bloom and Oskar Werner, Burton played the flawed and manipulated spy Alec Leamas, the "lowest currency of the Cold War" who, in a world of courtrooms and Kalashnik...

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  12. In a recent blog article, we touched upon the role of Welsh pilots in the Battle of Britain. One of the most notable men that faced the might of the German Luftwaffe in 1940 and beyond was Wrexham-born Air Chief Marshall Sir Frederick Rosier. This rare BBC News clip from April 1968 catches u...

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  13. Seventy years ago the tide began to turn against Hitler's plans to invade Britain. By August 1940 the wave of German attacks that had overwhelmed central Europe and France, stalled in the skies over Britain and the English Channel. 13 August is officially designated as Adlertag (Eagle day). O...

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  14. Seventy years ago, Hitler's planned destruction of the Royal Air Force was under way and the initial exchanges of the Battle of Britain already etched into history. As waves of German bombers and fighters attacked airfields and targets in the south east of England, events taking place west of Of...

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  15. Thirty-five years ago today: the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. A dashing young chap from north Wales sits in his Formula One car at the front of the grid. A Welsh speaker on pole position, a Welsh flag emblazoned on his crash helmet. Thomas Maldwyn Pryce may not be a household name, but he was faster than most; and was one of Wales' greatest sportsmen you never heard of. On this July day in 1975 amidst the girls, the celebrities, Ferrari, McLaren, Lotus, the historic tapestry of James Hunt, Stirling Moss, death-defying speed and derring-do, Tom Pryce, from Nantglyn, near Ruthin in Denbighshire became the only Welshman ever to start from pole position in a Formula One Grand Prix. The unassuming Pryce had previously graduated quickly from being a tractor mechanic in rural Wales to the pinnacle of motor racing. Cutting his teeth in lower formulae he astounded experts and fans the world over with his sideways car control and gentle demeanour out of the car. By 1974 he had graduated to Formula One with the unfancied Token team and, following a brief demotion to Formula Three, a spellbinding performance on the streets of Monte Carlo caught the attention of all the major Formula One teams of the day. He was rewarded with a seat in the Shadow Formula One team, run by fellow Welshman Alan Rees. In his first full season, in 1975, Pryce had already become the only Welshman to win a Formula One race. That it was the non-championship Race of Champions was academic. In his black Shadow, starting from pole position, he slithered on the damp and cold Brands Hatch circuit, the famous, undulating stripe of Kentish tarmac, and beat some of the greatest names in the history of motor racing. This included the likes of Emerson Fittipaldi, Jacky Ickx and Ronnie Peterson. This BBC Wales News video from 1975 catches a rare interview with the shy, introverted Pryce as his star burned brightest. Here he reflects in a typically understated way about his victory at Brands Hatch. The clip also includes some high praise from none other than three-time champion Jackie Stewart. Rival, friend and five-time Grand Prix winner John Watson confirms Tom's reticence towards the jet-setting world of Formula One. "Tom was possessed of a huge talent," remembered Watson, "We spent a bit of time together because we both did Formula Two in 1974 and traveled around a bit together. I remember one time having dinner in Italy, and what Tom wanted was chicken and chips. And there in Italy you had the choice of the most incredible food - but that was all he wanted." With the Ford-powered Shadow, Pryce's potential came to the fore throughout 1975. Despite the odd crash and his car's dubious reliability his pole position achievement on that Saturday in July was something few men have achieved. "He did it with a malfunctioning clutch, and a hitherto unseen smoothness in place of his trademark oversteering style," says journalist David Tremayne, author of The Lost Generation, a thrilling, forensic account of Pryce's career. "The race marked another milestone for Tom: the only time a Welsh driver led a Grand Prix. He ran in the top three initially, as Ferrari's Clay Regazzoni led from Pace, but overtook the Brazilian on the 17th lap and went into the lead on the 19th when Regazzoni slid into the wall at Club Corner. "He stayed there on lap 20, too. But on lap 21 he was the first to encounter an unexpected pool of rain at Becketts. This was deeply ironic, for he had a reputation as a genuine rainmaster. The Shadow twitched and slithered off into the catchfencing, and he was momentarily stunned as a pole struck his helmet. It was a sad end to a wonderful drive. Pryce was one of many to crash that day as the heavens opened, but in the races that followed his stock rose with a podium place in Austria, a fourth in Germany and the following year in 1976, he claimed a third place in Brazil and some promising drives. Things were looking good for 1977, until tragedy struck. Pryce was killed aged just 27 in baffling and tragic circumstances in the 1977 South African Grand Prix, detailed in this BBC News video and elsewhere. As Grand Prix racing is now a safer and affluent world, it will forever be poorer for the absence of one of Wales' greatest and unassuming sportsmen many tipped as a future world champion. Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login. Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

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  16. Seventy years ago the first rumblings of what is today known as the Battle of Britain commenced. By May 1940 German forces had overrun Belgium, the Netherlands and northern France. Hitler's goal was now fixed on destroying Britain's Royal Air Force and the invasion of Great Britain. Many reme...

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  17. Sixty years ago thousands of British servicemen went to war in a far away land. On 25 June 1950 communist-backed North Korean forces invaded South Korea, triggering a global military conflict just five years after the cessation of the Second World War. Following the division of the Korean pen...

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  18. England won their only World Cup in 1966. A 'Russian linesman', from Azerbaijan famously allowed Geoff Hurst's debatable second goal that paved the way for England's historic 4-2 victory over West Germany at Wembley. Wales' national team, despite a deluge of quality players over the years have...

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  19. This Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of an inferno that destroyed one of Wales' most historic landmarks, and at the same time left Anglesey all but cut off from the rest of Wales. Until the fateful night of the 23 May 1970, Robert Stephenson's Britannia Bridge had stood solid, spanning the perilous Menai Straits with its innovative tubular steel construction for some 120 years. Sitting alongside Thomas Telford's pioneering Menai Suspension Bridge, Stephenson's tubular steel construction carried the rail link to Anglesey. It was a vital economic and social lifeline. Photograph of Britannia Bridge, Menai Straits, taken from Church Island by Ian Yule.

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