Blog posts by year and month November 2011

Posts (103)

  1. This is the 23rd Welsh Winter Fair which originally began as a one-day event but has grown steadily into two days of competing, and is steadily staking its place as one of Europe's main prime stock shows. There's a great festive atmosphere here with Christmas trees and decorations on every c...

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  2. Ken Russell, the outrageous talent who defied the critics, has died, aged 84. During his career, he became known for his controversial films including 1969's Women In Love, which featured Oliver Reed and Alan Bates wrestling nude. He also directed the infamous religious drama The Devils (1...

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  3. As you may already know, severe gales and rough seas over the weekend caused a cargo ship to capsize off the Llyn Peninsula during the early hours of Sunday. Things have since calmed down but the wind is now increasing again with more disturbed weather on the way. A sharp trough of low pressure will bring heavy rain and strong to severe gale force winds tomorrow. The Met Office has issued a yellow wind warning for south west and north west Wales. Gusts around 60mph or more are expected in the north west and the south west along with some with very rough seas and as well as the strong winds tomorrow, a spell of heavy rain will move west to east across Wales. Some torrential rain is likely in places lasting for around 2 or 3 hours, however, the rain will be followed by clearer, drier weather by the evening with blustery showers. It will also turn colder with temperatures dropping once the rain clears. So, some very unsettled weather to come over the next 24 hours. Take extra care if you are travelling.

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  4. As a string player you generally always play as part of a section. That is, you are one small cog in a much larger machine. Each member of the section has to blend, in terms of intonation, use of the bow, dynamic and colour of sound, in order to ensure the section has a good, well rounded ensemble sound. This is all fine and good, and also, fairly obvious, but the upshot of playing in a symphony orchestra is that a lot of the time, as a string player, you can't really hear yourself all that terribly well! It is only now that I have really realised the importance of all the technical exercises one is forced to endure in college and while starting out with an instrument. While you are a student, locked in a practice room wondering if it's too early to have a Gregg's pizza bread slice (what? what do you mean that was just me?), the thought of trawling through pages upon pages of Sevcik bowing exercises is about as appealing as the thought of sitting through a three hour tutorial on Schenkerian analysis. The thing is, you really do need to have the complete arsenal of bowing techniques at your disposal and you need to be able to produce any required of you at a moment's notice. It's the same with scales. When I was younger, I hated them with a passion. They were boring and the tunes were where the action was at. In all honesty, I simply could not see the point of them and did my best to avoid them at every opportunity. The fact is, my playing did not improve until I really knuckled down and started paying real attention to my intonation. Even the seemingly stupid scales, like ones in harmonics, are important, because a surprising amount of music, in particular, new music, utilises this technique and there is nothing worse than feeling you aren't quite hitting the right notes! When you are in the middle of the orchestra you need to be able to rely upon your ability to hit a note, even when you can't really hear yourself. When I was in youth orchestra, we had a wonderful viola tutor called Michael Cookson. I remember him taking our little viola section for coffee after rehearsal one day, and as he was regaling us with tales from his career and the musical world 'back in the day', he told us a saying that I have heard many times since: "If you don't practice for one day, you will notice, if you don't practice for one week your desk partner will notice, but if you don't practice for a month everyone notices." I, and I know a lot of my colleagues, try to do a little maintenance practice each day. We have so much music to get through every month, I feel like I spend a lot of my time listening to works I'm not familiar with and learning a squillion notes, and it would be so easy to neglect technique. For me, it is important to not just keep technique sharp, but to continue trying to improve it. I like to be able to enjoy the music I play, not stress about whether my staccato has gone flabby or if my intonation is wonky. I have learnt to love scales and technical work. Well, maybe not love. In a way, they're like foul tasting medicine - pretty grim at the time, but ultimately, very good for you.

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  5. I was only blogging about this last week and wondering when we were going to see more starling 'murmurations' happening in Wales when this News online story appeared about the Llanelli Wetland Centre. The reserve believe that around 100,000 starlings have recently arrived to roost there over winter. Safety in numbers, helps keep the birds safe from predators such as owls and peregrines and the way the reed beds have been cut make an ideal habitat for roosting birds. I recently saw a few thousand starlings flying over Kenfig Reserve, so wonder if these birds were making their way over to Llanelli? Apparently if you want to see the starlings in action then the best time to visit is around 3.30pm each day. Find out more about this story and watch a video clip on News online. I was just searching online for information about crows doing a similar thing (as I have a huge flock living opposite my house that put on a spectacular show at dawn and dusk) when I stumbled across this jaw dropping video clip of starlings flying over the Shannon River in Ireland. It is probably the best footage I have ever seen of this phenomenon. Incidentally, a large flock of crows however is called a 'murder', not so glamorous but equally impressive if you've ever seen them in action. So, have you spotted any large starling flocks yet? If so, let me know and leave a comment below and we can try and work out where the best ones are currently happening in Wales.

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  6. This day last November saw the beginning of a very cold spell of weather with Arctic winds bringing severe frosts, ice and snow. In fact by the end of November it was colder in Wales than Greenland with plunging temperatures and frozen pipes! But it's a totally different story this year. This weekend will be positively mild in comparison and windy too. In fact The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for strong to gale force winds in north Wales. The reason for the windy weather is low pressure between Scotland and Iceland which will bring some rain and drizzle. However, most of the rain will come during the early hours of Sunday. Tomorrow a few bright or sunny intervals are likely, for example in Flintshire, but generally it will be cloudy. Met Office weather chart for Saturday, 26 November. There will be a little light rain and drizzle at times, especially on higher ground, the Cambrian Mountains and in Snowdonia, but otherwise it should be dry. Temperatures higher than today, 10 to 13 Celsius but windy. The south-westerly wind will be fresh to strong with gales on exposed coasts and hills in the north and gusts of 50 - 60mph. So if you're going walking, it would be best to keep off the hills and mountains and stick to the lower ground. Tomorrow night will be very windy with some drizzle, then rain after midnight. On Sunday, the weather will improve becoming dry and much brighter with some sunshine to look forward to. The west to north westerly wind will slowly ease and it will feel colder with top temperatures between 10 and 12 Celsius. Sunday night into Monday will be dry and cold with a touch of frost. Monday will start dry for the Royal Welsh Winter Fair in Llanelwedd but it won't last because there's more wet and windy weather on the way. There's no sign yet of another big freeze like we had last year but cold snaps are expected in December. I've already been asked if it will be a white Christmas but it's far too early to tell so I will let you know nearer the time! Derek

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  7. The latest pop-up exhibition from Cardiff-based contemporary arts gallery project/ten will make one of the capital city's celebrated Victorian arcades its home from next week. The latest temporary exhibition entitled winter#2 will open, like an advent calendar door, on Thursday 1 December. It will occupy 16 Castle Arcade, currently an empty retail unit in the shopping arcade, for three weeks. Debbie Smyth, No Place Like Home, nail and thread 2011 There will be a selection of work on show by new artists in the gallery's collective including painter Menna Angharad, designer Jess Jones and ceramic artist Natalia Dias. Menna's 'pillow' series is quiet and contemplative, Jess' designs are innovative and functional, while Natalia's award-winning ceramic work is suitably nonconforming, pushing the boundaries of the craft - as you can see in the image below. Natalia Dias, Autumn Hearts, porcelain 2010. Photo: Jon Pountney The exhibition will sprawl over two floors of the retail unit, with a range of media on offer including paintings, prints, sculpture, furniture, textiles and ceramic pieces. winter #2 runs at 16 Castle Arcade in Cardiff from Thursday 1 December to Friday 23 December. See www.project-ten.co.uk for more details, including exhibition times, and to browse more images of work by the artists on show.

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  8. The story of film making in Wales is a long and distinguished one, reaching back to the 1890s when the cinema and the film makers art were in their infancy. The very first film made in the country was a short silent feature on a royal visit to Cardiff, a modest enough beginning from which mighty oaks were to grow. It was with the advent of pioneer film maker and fairground showman William Haggar that things moved on to an altogether higher level. Haggar made over 30 silent movies, many of them documentaries but some pieces of drama, such as the story of arch-criminal Charlie Peace (filmed, largely, at Pembroke Dock), and the defeat of the invading French army at Fishguard in 1797. Haggar began a tradition that reached down the century to achieve fruition in the work of men like Karl Francis with his later Giro City and Ms Rhymney Valley. Films in the Welsh language have also been produced over the years, starting with the 1935 release Y Chwarelwr. The most notable, however, has to be Hedd Wyn, the story of the Welsh poet killed in 1917, six weeks before he won the Chair at the National Eisteddfod. Hedd Wyn was nominated for an Oscar in 1992 and, that same year, won a Bafta for the best foreign language film - recognition indeed, even if the movie was denied the widespread distribution that it undoubtedly deserved. There have been numerous films, by both British and American movie makers, made and set in Wales. The Citadel, released in 1938, is an early example where director King Vidor adapted and shot a Hollywood version of AJ Cronin's book about a doctor in the Welsh valleys. A few years later John Ford came to film How Green Was My Valley. Viewed now, with hindsight and the benefit of both time and distance, the film seems hackneyed and clichéd - with miners singing hymns as they came home from their shifts at the end of the day - but in 1941 it won five Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director. How Green Was My Valley was a sickly-sweet, idealised version of Wales, not dissimilar to Bette Davis' The Corn Is Green which was made at the end of World War Two. Tiger Bay, filmed in 1959 and starring John and Hayley Mills, gave an altogether grittier version of the country. Set in Cardiff's docklands but actually shot in Newport - Tiger Bay itself being considered far too rough and ready - the film caused many later visitors to the area to think that Cardiff also had a massive transporter bridge. Since then there have been many films set in Wales, some of which have achieved immense popularity - the Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor version of Under Milk Wood, for example. The 1972 film may have been halting and unclear but it managed to give a new lease of life to Dylan Thomas' play. More literary movies that have achieved recognition include experiments such as The Edge Of Love and The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain - the title being as intriguing as the film itself. With its rugged mountains and sea cliffs Wales has often been the location for filming, even though the films have actually been set elsewhere. The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman and supposedly set in China was actually made in north Wales. The 1969 Carry On Up The Khyber, set on the north west frontier of India, was also filmed in north Wales, in and around the Llanberis Pass, while in 1968 Peter O'Toole, direct from his success as Lawrence of Arabia, arrived in Pembroke to film The Lion In Winter - the action supposedly taking place in France. One of the most interesting films made in Wales was Moby Dick (1956), starring Gregory Peck. Filmed around the Fishguard area, the movie had a script by Ray Bradbury - his first - and featured a huge man-made white whale. With the filming over the whale broke its moorings and disappeared into the distance, never to be seen again. There have been so many others - Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, An American Werewolf In London - even though it supposedly took place in the West Country - and the latest Harry Potter and Robin Hood films, to name just a few. And, of course, Welsh characters feature quite heavily in many famous films. These range from Richard Burton's flat mate Cliff in Look Back in Anger to Burton's own drunken Welsh poet, MacPhisto, in Candy. No survey of Welsh involvement in the move industry, however brief, can ever ignore Stanley Baker's 1964 epic Zulu. The film, which also starred Ivor Emmanuel, told the story of the South Wales Borderers and their defence of Rorkes Drift during the Zulu War - not entirely accurately but certainly with gusto and lots of Welsh pride. These days Wales has become something of a centre for television drama. Doctor Who and Torchwood regularly use Welsh location shots while Gavin and Stacey did more for the town of Barry than any regeneration programme. One thing is clear, Wales has been, and will continue to be, heavily involved in the major media component of the last 100 or so years - the movie industry. Read film critic and historian David Berry's guide to the Welsh film industry on the BBC Wales Arts website.

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  9. A new photography exhibition at The Cardiff Story provides an intimate insight into the UK's Bangladeshi community. The exhibition consists largely of observational portraits of Bengali women living in Cardiff, London and Sylhet, the region in north east Bangladesh where the majority of the UK's Bangladeshi community originates. The portraits not only give an insight into their private lives and situations but also wider cultural issues of the Bangladeshi community. It is one of the most disadvantaged communities in the UK, suffering from high rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, and it is the older women in the community that typically suffer from ill health. The images have been taken by documentary photographer Vanja Garaj, who is also a lecturer in digital media design at Brunel University. The photographs explore the ideas of migration, nutrition and ageing in a cross-section of Bengali women taken in the three very different cities. Each striking photograph is accompanied by a caption, written by journalist Nick Hunt, that explains a little about the subject's situation, though all the women involved have been given pseudonyms. Cardiff, Wales, UK - Leena, 37, was born in Cardiff, and her family speaks English at home - her children understand the Sylheti dialect, but cannot speak it well. She regularly visits Bangladesh to keep in touch with her family. Garaj told me: "The two-year project involved a number of visits to Cardiff, several sessions in London and two prolonged trips to Bangladesh between January 2010 and September 2011. "The majority of the photographs tell personal stories and provide an insight into the way of life of Bangladeshi women both in the UK and in Bangladesh and some illustrate the complex female-male relationships existing in the Bengali society. "Besides their documentary aspect, the photographs and the exhibition are intended to raise a wider awareness of the issues many Bangladeshi women face in their daily lives." Cardiff, Wales, UK - "Here I have only my children but in Bangladesh I have so many relatives around me," says Lubna, 52, who has been living in the UK for 31 years. "I used to feel like going back home. I was feeling so bad, but slowly everything was OK." Sylhet City, Bangladesh - Most street restaurants in Bangladesh cater for rickshaw drivers and other male workers, and women generally feel uncomfortable to visit these places. Other more upscale food establishments, however, are frequented by both men and women, particularly in urban centres like Dhaka and Sylhet City. The exhibition is part of Project MINA: Migration, Nutrition and Ageing across the Lifecourse in Bangladeshi Families: A Transnational Perspective - a three year research project funded by Economic and Social Research Council UK, under New Dynamics of Ageing Programme. Bangladesh→UK: The Stories of Food, Ageing and Migration, A Photo Exhibition by Vanja Garaj, runs at The Cardiff Story Museum at The Old Library, The Hayes, Cardiff until Thursday 15 December. Browse a photo gallery of some of Garaj's striking images on the BBC Wales News website.

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  10. National Dance Company Wales are about to embark on three-city tour of India, taking in Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi in a collaboration with the Bangalore-based STEM Dance Kampni. NDC Wales will perform in venues across the three cities on the tour, which takes place from tomorrow, 25 November...

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