Blog posts by year and month July 2012

Posts (64)

  1. The Wales Millennium Centre is one week away from the start of its début tour of Wales with its first full production, the Welsh-language Ma Bili'n Bwrw'r Bronco. Produced in collaboration with Theatr na n'Óg, Ma Bili'n Bwrw'r Bronco (Bili does a Bronco) is the Centre's adaptation of Douglas Maxwell's Decky Does a Bronco, which was first performed by Scottish theatre company Grid Iron in 2000. It later proved a huge hit at the Edinburgh Festival. In this Welsh adaptation the play is set in a playground on a housing estate in the Swansea valley. Five young boys spend the summer of 1983 acting out their dreams and fears in their local park, play fighting and performing their new obsession, bronco-ing: standing on a swing seat and riding it as high as you can before kicking the seat over the bars. Yet the boys' playful bickering is cut short by an unimaginable event during the play, and their lives change forever. A rehearsal shot for Ma Bili'n Bwrw'r Bronco. Photo: Farrow's Creative Ma Bili'n Bwrw'r Bronco is adapted by Jeremi Cockram and directed by Geinor Styles. It stars Carwyn Jones, Chris Kinahan, Dafydd Rhys Evans, Gareth Bale, Iestyn Arwel, Osian Rhys, Rhys Downing and Sion Ifans. The play will open at The Marl, Grangetown in Cardiff on 31 July and tour across the country in August. Surtitled performances will take place in Cardiff on Thursday 2 August at 7.30pm and on Saturday 4 August at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. For more information visit the Wales Millennium Centre website, wmc.org.uk.

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  2. It's a glorious day at the Royal Welsh Show with hardly a cloud in the sky and unbroken sunshine. Temperatures this afternoon soared to 26 Celsius, 79 Fahrenheit in the shade, making it the hottest day at the show since July 2008 - and the hottest day of the summer so far! The sun is very st...

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  3. Shenzhen would be our final base of the tour with one concert in Shenzhen itself, and one in Guangzhou, China's third largest city. Stepping out of the airport in Shenzhen, it felt as though both the heat and humidity had upped a notch. However, the sky seemed much clearer than it had done in Beijing or Shanghai. I found the overcast sky of Beijing quite oppressive, and it was nice to actually see blue above you. Despite having almost bathed in DEET, I had somehow picked up an irritatingly large number of insect bites somewhere between the Shanghai hotel and the coach from Shenzhen airport (Irish blood would appear to be a rare delicacy for mozzies and every other biting thing), and so it was that I spent the journey trying not to scratch my legs like a crazy person. On arrival at the hotel I was rather consoled by the outdoor pool. Outside the Shenzhen concert hall, a group of us girls were stopped by a young girl and her mother who were attending the concert. It transpired that she was studying bass at a local music school and she was very excited to meet Claire from our bass section. We even had our photos taken - it was a bit like being papped, but nicer. The journey from Shenzhen to Guangzhou was an arduous one. On the route to Tianjin, the countryside was notable for the seemingly unending urban expansion evident on the outskirts of cities, with miles of new build high rise flats stretching as far as the eye could see. Each night, we played two encore pieces. The first was one of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance marches, and the second a traditional Chinese song called My Motherland, arranged by Qigang Chen. The delighted reaction of the audiences each night to this piece was quite overwhelming - shouting and cheering, clapping and squealing. It had been a really wonderful tour. Although the immigration queue crossing over to Hong Kong, which was in excess of an hour, was a definite low, and threw into sharp relief the difference in attitude between the British and every other nationality when it comes to queuing, the humour and camaraderie of one's colleagues make the high points of touring much more memorable. Arriving in Heathrow at 5am, it was pleasant to walk outside (after an anxious few moments when it seemed my luggage had disappeared), and to feel a gentle coolness on the skin. There may be no pork dumplings for breakfast today, but at least I won't break into a profuse glow of perspiration with the slightest movement! However, all that heat and humidity has been good training - this week we begin preparations to face the microclimate of the Royal Albert Hall, in our first Prom on Thursday! The orchestra will be performing at the Royal Albert Hall on Thursday 26 July as part of the BBC Proms 2012; you can hear them live on BBC Radio 3 from 7pm.

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  4. I'm at the Royal Welsh Show for the next couple of days and after all the wet weather and floods, summer has finally arrived. The sun is shining today and there is more sunshine to come. Tomorrow is likely to be the sunniest and warmest day of the week in Llanelwedd with temperatures in the shad...

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  5. Details of the 2012 Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts have announced details of its programme of events. Held throughout the city from 4-20 October, the annual celebration of arts culture brings a range of genres and themes. At Brangwyn Hall there are three high-profile events: On ...

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  6. This week's show is now available via the iPlayer. Please visit the link any time between now and the start of the next programme. Soft-Hearted Scientists' music has been an enduring source of wonder for my ears over the last eight years. They've eschewed every bandwagon that has passed throu...

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  7. Tomorrow writer and broadcaster Paul Morley takes us on a journey to Monmouthshire's famed Rockfield Studios. Making Tracks (BBC Radio 4, 11.30am) examines the history and legacy of Wales' best-known recording facility. Queen Beginning a series on recording studios, Morley starts at a farm that gave birth to some of rock music's finest recordings - everything from Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody to the Stone Roses' eponymous debut album, from Dr. Feelgood's Down By The Jetty to Oasis' (What's The Story) Morning Glory, and even Adam Ant's Kings Of The Wild Frontier. Those trying to explain what part the studio played in creating such musical magic include performers (the veteran Dave Edmunds and the newcomers Iko), technicians (John Leckie and Sean Genockey) and the people who (in some cases, quite literally) built the studio and the business (father and daughter, Kingsley and Lisa Ward). As the money flowing through the music industry continues to dry up - Paul also asks what future there may be for the historic recording studios that helped build the industry in the first place? If you want to find out more about the history of Rockfield, I heartily recommend Jeff Collins' Rock Legends At Rockfield (UWP, 2007). Quoted in the book, Queen's producer Roy Thomas Baker said of the recording in 1975: "I remember Freddie playing me Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time on his piano at his place in London. Then later at Rockfield, with the basics mapped out, he focused on pinning down what was right. He played me the beginning part and said, 'Right, now this is where the opera section comes in' and he'd leave a gap and I'd have to imagine this dramatic opera style segment. "And it just kept changing all the time at Rockfield. It took three weeks to record on a 16-track tape machine and we used 180 overdubs, which was very, very unusual for back then." While not much of the song was actually recorded at Rockfield, it was largely honed and polished there. And a lot of its parent album, A Night At The Opera, was put to tape at the Monmouthshire facility. 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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  8. The ruins of Strata Florida Abbey lie close to the Ceredigion town of Tregaron, deep in rural solemnity and with almost no hint of the importance the place once held. Strata Florida (© Miss Steel, licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.) Little remains of what was once a huge and famous place of worship but there is just enough to enable visitors to feel the presence of a long-gone world and way of life. And with excavation still continuing, who knows what may yet be uncovered? The abbey - Ystrad Fflw in Welsh - was founded in 1164, and the abbey church was consecrated in 1201. The name is a derivation of the Welsh, meaning valley of flowers and of a nearby river, the Fflwr. Founded by monks from Whitland Abbey to the south east, this was a Cistercian House, established when the so-called White Monks were rapidly establishing their power base. The abbey initially came under the patronage of the earls of Pembroke but in the 13th century control passed into the hands of the owners of nearby Dinefwr Castle. As such, the famous Lord Rhys was one of the main patrons of the abbey. The Cistercians were a wealthy order and they quickly acquired farms or holdings - granges as they were known - across the immediate area. These served to bring in extra wealth to what was rapidly becoming a major ecclesiastical site. So important was the abbey at Strata Florida that Llywelyn ap Iorwerth - Llywelyn the Great as he was known - held a council of Welsh princes here, persuading them to acknowledge his son Dafydd as their rightful leader. Of course, once Llywelyn was dead, the princes simply reneged and started quarreling amongst themselves again. It was simply the fact that Llywelyn had chosen to bring them all to Strata Florida that made the occasion - and the place - special. Strata Florida was a military base for King Henry IV during the Owain Glyndwr rebellion; the king expelled any monks who had supported Glyndwr. He then proceeded to plunder the abbey. It was again a military base during campaigns against the Welsh in 1407 and 1415. Strata Florida, like the other abbeys and monasteries of Britain, suffered during Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries, and was dissolved in the 1540s. The refectory and dormitory were converted into a gentleman's house and much of the stone from the other buildings was taken away by local farmers and land owners. The abbey lay, largely forgotten, until the coming of the railway in the 19th century. Then, in what was really an early tourist boom, people flocked to see the ruins and Strata Florida began what was, literally, a second life. By then, of course, it was in a pretty disheveled state. The only substantial structure was the Great West Door to the abbey church but there were enough low walls left intact for people to gain some idea of what the place had once looked like. A series of medieval tiles, complete with decoration, was always popular with visitors, the most famous of these showing a man preening himself and studying his reflection in a mirror - vanity, it seemed, was not just a modern invention. These days the ruins are overseen by Cadw and while there is still an archaeological dig going on, the graveyard is also still operational. Many people opt to be buried in close proximity to the 11 princes of Dinefwr who are also buried here and, of course, to the remains of the famous Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwily, which also lie in the graveyard. According to legend, Dafydd ap Gwilym is buried under a famous oak tree in the graveyard. The tree has withstood tempest and storm, even being hit by lightning on several occasions. Dafydd ap Gwilym sleeps on, regardless. In its day, Strata Florida was a famous place of religion and learning. The Brut y Tywysogion, one of the earliest works of Welsh history, was said to have been compiled there, presumably by one of the abbey monks. Now, the abbey lies desolate and abandoned in a sleepy and quiet part of Wales, its peaceful nature totally belying the immensity of its history.

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  9. For many people living in Wales, childhood was marked by two special events - the children's matinée at the town picture house each Saturday and, a day later, attendance at Sunday school in the local church or chapel. Sunday school was not a Welsh invention but it certainly gained a hold in m...

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  10. Back in April 2012 I received an email from a lady called Kathy in Newport, after appearing on BBC Radio Wales' Jamie & Louise programme. Kathy and her husband Stuart met in Singapore in the 1950s. She was stationed there while working as a telephonist in the WRAF and he was in the RAF. Kathleen Dymond and Stuart MacKay married at Changi in 1959 and their bridesmaid was Kathy's best friend Twylia Worlund. Where are you Twylia? Twylia was an American working in the naval department at the American Embassy. Kathy and Stuart haven't seen or heard from her in over 50 years. As time has passed, address books were lost and different continents crossed. Kathy looked upon Twylia as a sister and was very keen to find out what had happened to her, which is why she asked me for help. Kathy thought Twylia was the same age as her, so born around 1937. She might have been from a small town, in either Wisconsin or Minnesota, and her first name may have been of Welsh origin. But Kathy quickly added that they were far too busy having fun at the time to talk about home or their families! As usual I leapt at the chance, simply assuming that it would be easy with such an unusual name, even though Kathy wasn't too sure about the correct spelling of Worlund. How wrong could I be? Worldwide access on ancestry.co.uk did not throw up any immediately obvious candidates, which can often be the case with American research if you don't know the state and other more specific details. There was also nothing on the family trees posted online or on Genes Reunited. I did find a Twylia Dailey who died in Winsconsin in 1998, but she was born in 1973, which was far too young for our Twylia. So I turned to Google for help and quickly found two very relevant and helpful organisations. First I sent an email to the RAF Changi Association. Alongside their email addresses and rank and trade, they had very helpfully given the dates of when they were based at Changi and I could see that several of the key members had been stationed there between 1957 and 1959, which fitted perfectly with Kathy and Stuart's dates. Their reply was instant and positive: "This is what the RAF Changi Association is all about, trying to connect old comrades with one another, bringing them together and others with reunions," they said. They agreed to post some photos that Kathy had sent me of her 21st birthday held at Changi RAF base in 1958. Kathleen Dymond, Twylia Worlund, Elaine (surname unknown but an American) and Paddy McNamee (later Mitchell) Memories of Singapore organisation offered a similar service and so I jumped at the chance to spread the search for Twylia further. Their site contains many photographs and images contributed by people who lived in Singapore during the 1960s and early 70s, including a section on RAF Changi. But I still can't for the life of me find Twylia and I need help. Perhaps you recognise the other people in the photographs and maybe, just maybe, they can lead us to Twylia. Left to right : Ronald M Mitchell AKA "Mitch", Kathy, "Mo" Mosely and Stuart Mackay. Mo & Mitch were part of the security guard detail at the US Consulate. Please contact me if you know where Twylia is now or if you think you can help in any way. Cat will be joining Jamie and Louise on BBC Radio Wales on Tuesday 24 July 2012 from 9am.

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