Blog posts by year and month July 2011

Posts (105)

  1. Ffotogallery will put the spotlight on emerging photographic artists living and working in Wales this summer with a new series of exhibitions and events. Entitled Wish You Were Here, the exhibitions will run over the summer months and will take place at Ffotogallery's base in Turner House in P...

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  2. It's 8am on the third day of my first Royal Welsh Show and I'm just about getting a handle on this enormous place. Having successfully avoided condiment-based accidents at breakfast, I drive in across the upper moorlands between Brecon and Builth Wells, accompanied by a lone red kite and a train...

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  3. It's day two of the Royal Welsh 2011 and there's more of a buzz in the air. Officially, attendance figures for yesterday were down by around two thousand on last year, but it definitely feels like there's more people around today. I started out bright and early at 8am in the cattle lines -...

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  4. Bangor-born pianist Gwilym Simcock is one of 12 artists shortlisted for the 2011 Mercury Prize. Simcock's album Good Days At Schloss Elmau is nominated alongside releases from Adele, Elbow, PJ Harvey and Tinie Tempah. Here's the full list: Adele - 21 Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys! Everything Everything - Man Alive Ghostpoet - Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam Gwilym Simcock - Good Days At Schloss Elmau James Blake - James Blake Katy B - On A Mission King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mine Metronomy - The English Riviera PJ Harvey - Let England Shake Tinie Tempah - Disc-Overy Another Welsh connection on this year's shortlist comes with Everything Everything's Man Alive, which was engineered by north Wales-based producer and sometime solo performer David Wrench. Last September, when The xx won the 2010 award, my colleague James McLaren wrote a piece on the Welsh and the Mercury Prize. He found a total of four nominations since 1992: Manic Street Preachers' Everything Must Go in 1996 and This Is My Truth in 1999; Super Furry Animals' Rings Around The World in 2001; and Scritti Politti's White Bread Black Beer in 2006. The Mercury judges have traditionally proved indifferent towards the jazz and classical nominees, leading to accusations of tokenism in the shortlist selections. This year's winner will be announced on 6 September, and we'll wait and see whether Gwilym Simcock fares any better. We wish him well.

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  5. Everyone loves animals' pictures taken with wide-angle lenses don't they? South Park even based an episode around that fact. I have a nice 10-20mm lens and I love it. So what better way to have a saunter round the sheds and see what's waiting for the show ring? This goat was a handsome lady: ...

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  6. There is so much to see and do here at the Royal Welsh that it's difficult to know what to write about but I'm finding the most interesting exhibits by simply wondering around and discovering them quite randomly (for example chainsaw wood carving, sheepdog geese-herding and a giant robot quoting lines from famous movies). Late afternoon on Monday, I bumped into Simon Hedger who was busily hacking up large blocks of wood with a petrol chainsaw and turning them into something wondrous. Simon with one of his wooden creations Simon informed me that he'd been sculpting with wood for many years but had only turned his hand to using a chainsaw over the last five or six years. It was at the Welsh Wood Festival in 2004 that Simon was first introduced to chainsaw carving whilst hand carving a wooden totem. He soon realised he could carve much larger sculptures and also enter carving competitions all over the world and the rest, as they say, is history. Heledd Walters from Swansea, tries out Simon's version of a double bass. It's all quite incredible really when you look at what he's creating: intricate wooden sculptures, miniature wooden tractors, drums, ornate chairs etc and he's not shy about playing his wooden instruments either! A small chainsaw carved wooden tractor. It didn't take too much encouragement for him to blast out a tune on his double-bass hybrid and bang his homemade drum sticks all over a tree-drum installation. James might pop down with his microphone later and record some of Simon's instruments in action. So, if you're passing the axe men display (well worth a look), check out Simon's space opposite and see what he's creating today. The cut and stitches on his head were caused by a falling teepee on day one though and not by his chainsaw!

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  7. This morning my eccentric and somewhat crude B&B landlord gets up early to feed me a full English at some ungodly hour of the morning. Very kind, I think. Out comes the steaming plate of fat and protein, followed by a vigorously-shaken bottle of ketchup. Unscrewing the top, I am immediately blasted by a glutinous, gelatinous rain of red, sweet gunk. All over my jacket, my trousers, my sweatshirt, his tablecloth and the aged, bowed pastoral print beside me. That my breakfast is also smattered with ketchup is something of a happy accident. After cleaning myself up as best I can (knowing that today I shall become a magnet for wasps, sigh), I resolve to go and visit some animals that have a reputation for being almost as dirty as I am: pigs. Keith Brown of Wales And Borders Pig Breeders Association stands by his stall, in which is a saddleback sow ("I don't think she has a name") and her piglets. "She's not very old," he says, "and those [pointing to the sleeping piglets] are an accident. She was with other sows but her brother got out and got her." He doesn't think the piglets will have any medical complications when I ask - the dangers of very close interbreeding in dogs is common knowledge. I ask him if it's true that pigs are as intelligent as some dogs and he enthuses about the local pig shows his organisation is involved in. Apparently they do obedience and even agility, "but a bit slower than the dogs do it," he says. I grab the dictaphone and ask him about his Royal Welsh: Now it's time to go outside and avoid those wasps.

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  8. The first day at the Royal Welsh is drawing to a close and it's been an excellent start to the show. I headed for the cattle lines first thing this morning where the mighty beef breeds were all being bathed and buffed to perfection. There was a deafening roar of hair dryers as competitors raced around wielding cans of hairspray, brushes and make-up - and its worth remembering that all this was for the cattle and not for themselves! I spoke to an exhibitor who'd travelled down from Yorkshire: "I'm shaking like a leaf," he confessed as nerves got the better of him. I interviewed 23 year old Rhys Millichap from Tonyrefail who was entered in one of the first classes with his British Blue cattle - he'd brought with him a heifer called Davina and a four year old cow called Britney - great names! Rhys saved up his birthday money when he was 16 to buy his first cow and has become something of an ambassador for the breed. I joined his parents ringside to see Rhys placed second with Britney. The nerves disappeared and he was grinning from ear to ear. A proud moment for the family. All morning the 15 pedigree beef breeds competed to become breed champions, then this afternoon all individual champions went head to head to try and win the prestigious title of 'Beef Interbreed Champion'. This year's winner was Du Mandy, a three year old heifer from the Ironstone herd, who'd travelled from Bloxham near Banbury all the way to Builth. I also watched a brand new competition at the show - a 'Retraining the Racehorse' class, where former racehorses are retrained to become show horses. One of the competitors, Rachel Thomas from Bridgend, told me that so many racehorses end up being abandoned or neglected after their racing days are over and that having a competition like this at the Royal Welsh is a great way of raising their profile. Then back to the cattle ring where I met Pat Tantrum who's clocked up an incredible 48 years there as a steward - he told me the Royal Welsh is always like a big birthday party and as the cattle paraded behind him, it struck me how amazing it is that all those huge beef animals can walk calmly around a show-ring. As Pat said, it's a credit to the stockmen and women who prepare and train these animals for months before the show, then lead them so professionally in front of the crowds. The Welsh Black Cattle Society held a ceremony to open their new building overlooking the cattle ring. The building itself is really impressive - just a shame that the kitchen wasn't finished in time, so there was no opportunity to taste Welsh Black beef. I have to say that it didn't feel quite so busy today as it usually is on the first day of the show, so I'll be interested to hear what the attendance figures are like. A bad forecast may have put people off, but I've been reliably informed that it's getting better from now on! Back again for another day at the show tomorrow....

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  9. Ten Welsh theatres have been placed on The Theatres Trust's 2011 Theatre Buildings At Risk register, double the amount of Welsh buildings that made last year's list. According to The Theatres Trust website, there are estimated to be over 180 theatre buildings in Wales, of which 10 are identifi...

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  10. I've always been a sucker for birds of prey. Like thousands of small boys, I got enthused by hawks, falcons and eagles to such an extent that I joined the Young Ornithologists' Club, the 'youth wing', if you will, of the RSPB. So it's still exciting for me to see raptors up close and personal...

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