Tuesday, 28 March 2017

HOWLS Gets Organised!

The Hay-on-Wye Library Supporters meeting last night, in the Library, was for the people who wanted to start getting things organised into proper sub-committees.
First, the good news - funding for the Library has been retained for the coming year, thanks to a one off payment from Hay Festival to HOWLS (the money to be used as they see fit) and an agreement with Powys County Council.
But - this is only a stop gap measure. By the end of the year, HOWLS needs to have come up with a plan to keep the library on a more long term basis.
At the moment, Powys County Council is in "purdah", meaning that they will not deal with anything prior to the election on May 4th. After May 4th, the make up of the Council may have changed considerably - the Leader, Barry Thomas, is stepping down, and so is the holder of the finance portfolio. With new people in those positions, it will probably be worth approaching them to get them to re-consider the PCC policy on branch libraries. However, the fact remains, as Kirsty Williams pointed out, that the Council still has no money, and has to cut something to balance the books.
Some libraries have already come to a compromise agreement with the Council - as Kirsty Williams said, each community is different, and different solutions can work for them. Asked how this would affect a county wide policy on libraries, she said that she thought it could still work well, even with different ways of working in different libraries. Llanwrtyd Wells, for instance, has gone for a mostly volunteer model, with some professional help.
What Hay needs is a solution which works for Hay.
One problem is that it is very difficult to get firm figures from the Council showing exactly how much it costs to run the building. So far, they've given four different answers. Kirsty Williams said that she would look into it, and see if she could pin them down on a definitive answer. Without proper figures, it's very hard to work out a budget!
Another problem is that Hay Library serves surrounding communities as well as Hay residents - and as Hay is on the border, some of those communities are in Herefordshire, so they have no democratic say in what Powys does. However, on the Powys side of the border, HOWLS are encouraging people in Llanigon and Glasbury and other local villages to talk to their candidates about the importance of libraries.
At the moment, HOWLS are in the process of opening a bank account ("if you can find a bank that's still open" was the comment from the audience). One possibility here is that Nat West have been talking about having a community banker in Hay once a week when their branch closes down, and they need an office to work out of. It could be possible for them to work out of the library, which would give the library income from renting them the space.
Rev Charlesworth said that a great help in the fight to keep Gwernyfed School open was the existance of Estyn, the schools body, which was on the side of the campaigners. There is no equivalent for libraries, and though there is the Libraries Act and Welsh Assembly standards, it is difficult to hold County Councils to those standards.
One possibility is to make the argument that libraries are useful across other parts of the Council budget - as Jayne said, libraries are the secret social service. They provide a place for social interaction for people who are isolated, such as the elderly or parents with young children, for free. One argument to make could be that closing the Library would cost the Council more than keeping it open, because of these hidden benefits of social cohesion and helping with problems of isolation, as well as other advice that can be gained at the library. There's a good argument to be made for involving health visitors in local libraries, for instance. The first two years of a child's life are extremely important for the long term outcomes for the child, and the library is a good place to see toddlers as they are brought in for their first picture books. It was emphasised that this is not a case of poor people not knowing how to be good parents - professional women who have their first baby can find it's a culture shock as well (as my sister discovered when she had her first child).
Kirsty Williams pointed out the similarities with the Day Care Centres that she has been trying to keep open - the Council had not considered the cost of closing them due to people who were being supported by the Day Care Centres then needing residential care, or the impact on the carers who also needed their needs to be taken into account.

This weekend is the 40th Anniversary of Hay Independence Celebrations, and there was some discussion of HOWLS marching in the parade - though they have left it a little late to make a banner and wolf masks!

The meeting then broke up into different small groups, and I found myself with the Publicity sub-committee. We successfully devised a slogan for the on-going campaign: Giving Hay Library a Future, and decided that we would wait until after the Independence Celebrations to issue a press release about the library funding for the coming year.

And on the way home, still chatting, we thought of an event we could hold in the future. Ian Finlayson was planning to have a Soapbox for anyone to give speeches from for the Independence Celebrations (borrowing the Kilvert's Soapbox for the occasion) but decided against it, because so many other things will be going on (mostly Circus-related) in the square. However, the Soapbox would be very useful for a group of people to do readings from library books, and it would be very simple to organise....

Monday, 27 March 2017

Growing Business, Shrinking Banks

Good news for Geraldine, who took over Gibbons Butchers from her father Chris five years ago. The business has been increasing trade, and they are now ready to expand. They will be moving to new premises on Castle Street, with space to expand their range of products, and add deli and bakery sections, and they are planning to be open in March 2018. They intend to employ another four people. The meat has always been very good there (Chris Gibbons used to be a judge at the Royal Welsh Showground), and Geraldine has added pies and baked goods to the range. Chris Gibbons opened the butchers in 1984, with one member of staff.

They were able to do this with a business loan from the Nat West - which is ironic, as the local branch of the bank is going to be closed in October, leaving Barclays as the only bank in town with a face to face service and ATM - and they're only open three days a week now.
NatWest customers will be able to do some transactions via the Post Office. The management also said that they were intending to have a mobile bank in Hay for one day a week - for an hour, when they met with County Councillors Gareth Ratcliffe and James Gibson-Watt, Kirsty Williams AM and Fiona Howard (who is mayor this year).

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Remembering Lucy Powell, Legendary Landlady

I was sad to hear yesterday of the death of Lucy Powell, legendary landlady of the Three Tuns before the renovations, which were done after the fire which ended Lucy's time there.
In the early days of Hay Festival, the Three Tuns was an essential watering hole for journalists from national newspapers who covered the Festival.
Lucy also claimed that the Great Train Robbers drank there, while in hiding in the area.
I remember belly dancing demonstrations, in the middle of the tiny bar - which also featured in Dandelion Dead, which was filmed in Hay in 1994. Just about the only thing they did to change it for the filming (which was set in 1923) was to take out the 1970s broken games machine.
Tim the Gardener used to play his guitar there.
The film crew with Monty Don drank there when he was filming a series about small towns - and one of them over indulged in the cider and was very ill indeed the next day.
Local characters Sid and Lil used to drink there (Sid worked at Booths Bookshop for many years).
Lucy used to cook her tea over the fire in the bar - now the fireplace in the refurbished bar, but stripped back from the Victorian overmantle that it used to have then.
And she talked to everyone. You couldn't go in there for a quiet drink on your own - you would end up talking to everyone else in the bar. This featured in a memoir about Hay by Paul Collins, Sixpence House, about an American who came to live in Hay, worked for Richard Booth and tried to renovate Half Moon House, which he renamed Sixpence House for the book. He also renamed Lucy - she's "Violet" and the pub becomes "The Hogshead".
I also remember her opening up the room on other side of the building, not usually open to the public, for a slide show by a chap who had just come back from the Arctic. Most of the room was taken up by a big round table, and we were squashed in like sardines wherever we could fit!
Once, Lucy locked herself out, and my ex-husband came to help with a ladder, which I think we borrowed from Rest for the Tired. The bathroom window was open, but Lucy wouldn't let him climb up to let her in - she insisted on climbing up herself, while he steadied the ladder for her. I think she was 76 at the time.
I was told that, in her youth, Lucy was a keen dancer, in the dance hall round the back of the Rose and Crown which is now a gym.
And of course, she played the part of St Lucia several times, at the Three Tuns and at Primrose Farm, with a crown of candles and wearing a white nightie.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Eating Out in Hereford, Hay and Brecon - and New Plans from the Brecon Tap

So, I saw the Young Man onto the train this morning, and now things are getting back to normal.
I don't eat out often, unless I have guests, so last week we indulged ourselves.
We started in Hereford, straight off the train. At the market in the square we saw the Falafel stall which comes to Hay on Thurdsdays, and treated ourselves to freshly prepared falafels - the Young Man reckons they're the best he's ever tasted.
And, having discovered how good the chilli and chips are from the chip shop on Broad Street, on a previous visit, that's what we got for our first evening meal in Hay.
We also sampled the pizzas at the Three Tuns - a large one to share between us - and they were delicious too. On the first visit we tried the vegetarian option with Perl Las cheese, and on the second we had the beef brisket option.
On Tuesday, we went to Brecon - a visit from the Young Man is not complete without a pie and a pint at the Brecon Tap. We thought it was going to be fine and sunny in the morning, so we could have a wander round Brecon and maybe go down to the Regimental Museum - but the weather was so foul in the afternoon we never left the pub! The Brecon Tap had several special pies on, as well as the usual menu, so I went for the Morroccan lamb, and he went for the coq au vin, which you get with two side dishes of your choice. The Young Man was most impressed with the coq au vin, and tasted my Morroccan lamb. He has a colleague from work who is Morroccan, who has occasionally brought food into work to share, and he reckoned the chef had got the taste just right!
We also took the beer carrier with us, so that the Young Man could choose some Gwynt y Ddraig cider to take to his friends in London who appreciate such things (the last time he took some back, one friend said that the contents of the bottle had not touched the sides on the way down his throat!)
While at the Brecon Tap, I noticed a leaflet about a proposed Hay Tap. They are crowd funding now to be able to move into Kilvert's bar with the same sort of range of beers - and the pies - as they are doing in Brecon. It sounds like an interesting project. For more information, call 01874 620800 or email duncan@breconinns.co.uk The website is at www.breconinns.co.uk, where they are talking about the ???? Tap - but on the leaflets, they are clear that they are talking about Hay and Kilverts.
Meanwhile, they have also been celebrating the first birthday of the Brecon Tap.

Friday, 17 March 2017

There will now be a Short Intermission....

I will not be online much for the next week, as my Young Man is coming to visit.
So, here is a picture of some wolfhounds (and their people) seen in Hay last week:

Help From an Unexpected Source for Local Groups

Persimmon Homes seem to be a generous lot - last week there was a report in the Hereford Times that they will be giving £1,000 to Hay School to pay for outings and extra-curricular activities. They have offered this money because Hay School usually makes money from providing car parking for Hay Festival on their grounds for extras for the children, but this year the grounds are taken up with the foundations of the new school building, so they can't do that.

And this week Hay Theatre group are the lucky recipients of a grant of £1,000 from Persimmon too. They're about to run a project in collaboration with HayDay, to help people who suffer from dementia, or who are at risk of developing dementia. HayDay runs a regular cafe for people who suffer from dementia and their carers. Hay Theatre is planning a series of drama workshops for the elderly, in which familiar household objects come to life and tell a story.

Apparently, Persimmon Homes does this sort of thing regularly, as part of their Community Champions scheme - they donate up to £2,000 a month to community groups and good causes in all 29 of their regions.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

New Blood Needed at the Chamber of Commerce

Andrew of Eighteen Rabbit is stepping down as chair of the Chamber of Commerce this year, though he will still be involved. Clare Fry is therefore looking for someone to replace him - and anyone else who would like to be more involved will be welcome, too!