Friday, 28 August 2015

The Dancing Floor

Some years ago, I attended a very helpful writing course taught by Lyn Webster Wilde. She isn't only a writer - though I can recommend On The Trail of the Women Warriors and Becoming the Enchanter - she is also a film-maker (she begins Becoming the Enchanter with a scene where she's trying to film in Liverpool, and has to find a way to deal with some cheeky kids).
Becoming the Enchanter is a book steeped in the mythology of the Mabinogion, the collection of Welsh myths and legends which are pretty much all that survive of pre-Christian religion in Britain, and she's returned to these myths to write and direct a film called The Dancing Floor.

So far, she's made a fifteen minute pilot film, which will be shown at Hay Castle on Wednesday 9th September. The evening starts at 7pm and there will also be storytelling from Seiriol Tomos and Wayland Boulanger. Seiriol Tomos also appears in the film, along with Isha Gurung (aged 8, from Mount Street School in Brecon) who plays young Sita, the half-Welsh, half-Indian heroine of the film. Renu Brindle from Bristol plays the adult Sita.
There's a lot of local involvement in the project - Dylan Fowler and Gill Stevens, from Abergavenny, are writing the music, and will be performing live at the Castle. Richard Greatrex, who lives in Hay and who shot Shakespeare in Love, is director of photography, and Jasper Fforde, local novelist, has been helping him. Filming so far has taken place around Brechfa Pool, where Lyn Webster Wilde lives, and at Erwood's Ciliau House.
They are, of course, hoping to raise money to make the rest of the film. They are trying to raise £40,000 through the crowd-funding website Indiegogo. They also want to find extras to appear in the film - primary school children to do some dancing, adults to appear at a funeral, a pub scene, and a dance scene at the climax of the film.

They can be contacted at

It looks as if it's going to be a magical evening.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Meet the Brewer

Beer Revolution are now selling beer to drink on the premises, as well as in bottles to take away, and they've made the upstairs area into quite a smart little bar.
And I think it's great that Hay has its own brewery now! The beer is good, too - I try to get a bottle when I see it (either at the Wholefood shop or Beer Revolution).

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Testing the Water

"Think of it as having won the lottery!" said the man from Welsh Water. He'd been given a random address in Hay to call on to test the quality of the water, and when he found that no-one was in there, he started to knock on doors along the street. I'd just come home for lunch, so I got to have my water tested.
My taps have never been so clean! He made sure they were as sterile as possible before he took the samples - and said that it was no reflection on my cleaning standards! They have a tap where he works that they only use to take samples, and they sterilise that every time, too.
I was most impressed with the thorough job he did - and it was an interesting insight into the work that goes on "behind the scenes" to make sure the water that comes out of our taps is of the highest possible quality.

Monday, 24 August 2015

A Family Visit

My sister and her family came over for the day. They'd been camping at Eastnor Castle, and decided it wasn't that much further to come to see me. Young James spent the journey acting as navigator, doing the "pace notes" like they do in a rally. He was quite disappointed that he had to wait until he was fourteen before he could do it in a proper car rally!

It was lovely to show them around.
We had lunch at The Old Electric Shop - Buddha bowls and guacamole on toast, with Vintage lemonade or coffee, with an extra plate for my nephew, who wasn't quite up to eating a full portion.
Then we went up to Salem Chapel to see the model railway, and the chap on duty gave us all sorts of details about how he made the trees (grape stalks with green stuff glued onto them) and how much the engines had cost, and how he'd adapted carriages so they didn't jump off the rails. He was very pleased that one of the local electricians had been in that morning, to fit new light bulbs for free. They've been getting quite a bit of help like that, which they very much appreciate. They were working on the electrical system for the points while we were there - they could hear the mechanism clicking, but the points weren't changing, so they weren't sure what had gone wrong.
Later in the afternoon we went down by the river, near the canoe landing stage (the car was parked down there), and were able to point out where the railway line had been, and the bridge, and the cottages that are on the model.
We went past the Buttermarket, too - I'd been in the morning, before they came, and seen the photos of the Woodland Group doing work on the riverside path, and the pictures of the steps that they want to renovate next. They also had examples of the tools they use, and of course Alan Powell's sign made out of twigs. Also there were the Lions and other local charities, with the usual range of bric-a-brac and clothes to sell, and a tombola stall.
We had sweet pastries, too, from the lady in the Cheesemarket - this week she wasn't surrounded by wasps like she had been the previous, more sunny, Saturday (she has nerves of steel!).
We went in the camping shop on Castle Street, too - now young James is in the Cubs, he's doing a lot of camping and canoeing, and has his silver swimming badge for survival and swimming a mile (the one where you start off by jumping in the pool fully clothed)! I never even got a 10 metre badge!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Hay Ho for Another Year

I'm glad to hear that the Sunday Hay Ho bus will be continuing for another year (with minor variations in the timetable). My mum is coming to stay in a few weeks - she will be catching a plane on the Saturday night, and making her way to Hay from Manchester on the Sunday - thanks to the vagaries of Sunday travel on public transport in the UK, she'll spend longer waiting at Manchester Picadilly for the train to Hereford than she will actually travelling anywhere. So it's good news that there will be a bus from Hereford to Hay at the end of the journey, rather than a £50 taxi ride.

This is what they say on the Hay Ho Facebook page:

"The good news is that we have secured Hay Ho! for another year. There will be a few small revisions to the timetable. The bus will now leave Hereford Railway Station at 1015,1315 and 1615 to allow better connections with other incoming buses at Hereford. It will return from Hay-on-Wye (beneath Castle) at 1125,1455 and 1725. The new timetable will start on Sunday September 6th.

To kick off the second year of operation we will be holding our first annual gathering at 1130 at the Swan Hotel, Church Street, Hay-on-Wye on Sunday September 6th.

We’ll discuss the future of the service and how it can be improved in the coming months. The meeting will last about an hour and complimentary tea and coffee will be served."

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Small Business Saturday

St Michael's Hospice shop (the Hospice itself is in Herefordshire), and Russell, Baldwin and Bright estate agents.

And that's it! The last two businesses on my route round Hay! I may have missed one or two on the way, but I've tried to include everybody since I started this project in January 2012.
Of course, as I've gone round, old businesses have closed and new businesses have appeared, so I'll still be going round with my camera to find the ones I missed first time round.

However, I'm taking a break from small businesses for a while, and next week I'll be starting a new, and much shorter, project, taking photos of all the places of worship in Hay.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Woodland Group

I went to see Alan Powell in his workshop the other day. He'd kindly lent me some photos he'd taken of the VJ Commemoration - he was right in the thick of the action, and got good photos of the Swansea Pipe Band, and the Chelsea pensioners, and inside the armoured car, and so on.
He was working on a sign, gluing pieces of twig to a board to spell out Woodland Group - he said he'd put leaves and things round it as well. He's one of the prime movers of the Woodland Group, and they'll be in the Buttermarket tomorrow talking about what they do - and how people can help.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Didgeridoos at Baskerville Hall

It's been a good summer for the acoustic evenings at Baskerville Hall. I've been going over every Wednesday evening, thanks to Brian from Belle Books, and really enjoying myself singing and listening to all the really good musicians who go there.
Normally, we sit in Moriarty's Bar, but a couple of weeks ago the bar filled up and filled up until we were practically playing Sardines - so we moved round to the ballroom on the other side of the bar.
We filled the ballroom.
"I've created a monster!" Bob (who organises the evenings) said. Someone counted seventy people that night, of whom about twenty were performers.
Before we moved round, Huw Parsons performed a poem - but before he got to the poem, he said he needed to introduce it properly. It was about adders, and he just happened to have a couple of examples with him. Young Jamie, who plays accordian and flute, got a pair of heavy duty gloves on and brought in a couple of carrier bags, carefully clipped together with clothes pegs at the top. Huw put on the gloves, and delved into the first bag. "This is a grass snake...." And he pulled out a cuddly snake draught excluder.
"And this one's a bit more lively - this is the adder...." And he pulled out one of those wooden segmented toys that wriggles about when you move it.
Everybody enjoyed that - and the poem afterwards. Later Huw said that he'd tried the same thing at the Globe, and nobody had laughed.
I recited a poem by Wendy Cope, about vegetarians, during the evening, and by the end of the evening a French couple at the next table had written a poem about meat-eaters which they performed!

So, the following week, we were back in the bar, which was comfortably full, and this Wednesday we arrived just in time for the decision to move to the ballroom again. This time we filled up two thirds of the ballroom, with a black curtain across the back. The bar was full partly because the Hall is hosting the annual Didgeridoo Festival at the weekend, and some of the people who were organising it came through for the evening. They played too - one of them had a big, black didgeridoo that looked like the Doomsday Machine from an episode of Classic Star Trek (it ate planets!), and the sound was incredible! The whole weekend costs £65, with camping, and day tickets are still available for £30.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Model Railway

I went up from the Buttermarket on Saturday to Salem Chapel - the old school room at the side of the chapel, which was an art gallery for a while, is now filled corner to corner with the model railway layout showing Hay Station as it was, and the buildings around it. I can't remember who built it originally, but it languished in a shed or attic for years, and is now being lovingly restored. They've even built a model of the old gasworks (now houses) though the space on the model is a bit smaller than the actual size of the gasworks.
While I was there they were running the model chemical train, which took ammonia through Hay - it was a waste product at a chemical works somewhere in South Wales, and was taken up to another factory to be made into fertiliser.
The enthusiasts who are running the layout are also collecting local railway memorabilia. They even have a bit of the original horse-drawn tramway track. Made out of wrought iron, it provided a guide for the wheels of the cart/carriage, and could only be about a yard long - any longer and the iron would crack under the weight of the cart.
The Model Railway will be open every Wednesday and on the first and third Saturdays of the month between 10.30am and 12.30am, and then again from 2.30pm to 4.30pm.

They can be reached at


Monday, 17 August 2015

Saturday in the Buttermarket

It was community groups in the Buttermarket on Saturday.
Fairtrade Hay was there, selling Fairtrade olive oil and chocolate and fruit juice and so on, from the Wholefood shop, and some of the Egyptian patchwork they had left. I got a spectacle case, done in what I think is called a Flying Geese pattern - there were laptop cases made out of old men's ties, too, which looked rather good.
The Timbuktu people were there, too, with interesting facts about Timbuktu, and showing some of the things that have been achieved through the twinning with Hay.

And the History Group were there, with pictures of Old Hay, including groups of soldiers. Several local books were on sale, including the recent publication about the soldiers of the First World War, and others about the pubs and Major Armstrong. I bought a ticket for one of the talks which will be taking place over the History Weekend, featuring the Agincourt celebrations. A chap from Leeds Armoury, Bob Woosnam-Savage, is coming to the Castle to talk about the "vasty fields of ... Ireland" - the making of Olivier's Henry V, after the screening of Olivier's Henry V at the Bookshop Cinema on the Friday evening - that'll be on the 11th September, at 8pm in the Castle, with things happening in the Castle grounds all day on the Saturday, a parade round town, including horses from Cavalry of Heroes, who will also be staging a knightly swordfight. There will be morris dancers, and the Village Quire singing a variety of songs, including the Agincourt Carol.
I'll be there in medieval costume doing spinning and weaving and talking about arrows on the Saturday - it should be a fun day. Professor Anne Curry, renowned expert on Agincourt, will be giving a talk in the Castle on the Saturday evening and the Sunday evening, and there will be a calligraphy workshop, and all sorts of other things going on, like woodturning, and a workshop for making shields, swords and tabards.
Hay Theatre Company will be putting on their own version of Henry V in the Castle grounds, and there will be theatre workshops for 7 - 11 year olds and "senior youth".
All that and a pop-up museum, too!
Tickets are available from

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Local Kickstarter Project Needs Support

Huw Parsons, local poet and writer of local books such as Planet Hay, has a new project he's working on, as part of a group called Birds of a Feather. It's called The Big Freeze, inspired by the very cold winter we had in 2010. The idea is to have Huw's poetry read in regional accents right up through the United Kingdom.
Brian of Belle Books has already been recorded in his native North Eastern accent (he was born in Wallsend), and there's one celebrity voice on the CD, also from the North East - Sting!
However, Huw needs funding to travel to other parts of the country to record local regional voices. On his Kickstarter website, it's possible to listen to some of the recordings that have already been made, as a flavour of what the whole CD will sound like when it's completed. There are only 23 days left for the Kickstarter to run, and the link is:

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Small Business Saturday

The solicitor's office on Castle Street, next door to Athene English's shop.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Day out in Brecon

I haven't been shopping in Brecon for some time, but I fancied a change the other day and took the bus.
I met several people that I knew from Hay. One lady was sitting in the sun outside the underwear shop in the side alley opposite the church, where she was helping her daughter out, and at the bookshop I got chatting to one of the assistants who recognised me. I've bought books from the tables outside before, but I don't think I've ever been inside the bookshop - I hadn't realised what a rabbit warren it is!
The man with the tool stall was on the market, as well (we used to chat when he came to the Buttermarket). He also runs the militaria fairs in the market hall there.
I found that there are rather fewer charity shops than there used to be - the Air Ambulance shop is gone, though the Cat's Protection shop is still there - I used to get some quite good clothes from there.
I went for an apple slice at St Mary's Bakery, which does lovely cakes and pasties. I got my bread from there, too. It's a long established family bakery, and well worth supporting.
I usually treat myself to a half when I've finished shopping, so I went down to the Boar's Head at the bottom of the hill with the library on it. It seems that the pub changed hands about a year ago, but the new owners are committed to serving a variety of real ales. I tried the Twisted Sister, from Robinsons, which they said they were very pleased with, and would be getting again.

So, it was a pleasant day out, but I don't think there's much there to tempt me back very often.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Latest News from Transition Hay

I missed the work party on Sunday, being at work, but they met under Hay Bridge for some work along the river bank with the Woodland Group.

On Saturday 22nd August, they will be on a stall in the Buttermarket raising awareness of the Woodland Group - and that evening, down in the picnic area by the bridge, they will be holding a barbeque for Woodland Group members (weather permitting!)

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Evesham Medieval Festival

This is where I was at the weekend, doing Living History with Drudion - one of many re-enactment societies that was there. It was a big show.
One of the societies there was just starting out - I think they were called something like Vanguard of Chivalry? - so a group of them were going round all the other societies to see if they had any soft kit (shirts, tunics, trousers, dresses and so on) for sale. We didn't have anything spare, but we saw them later and they'd managed to find something to fit everyone. They did buy a falchion - an archer's sword - from Drudion, though, and expressed an interest in the bows that our group had for sale.
There were quite a few traders there, too, some from overseas, like the Fairbow archery stall from the Netherlands. I dashed over there before the show had properly opened to the public, and asked if they were open. "If it is light, I am open," the Dutch chap said, and sold me a hand forged hunting arrowhead to add to my collection.
There was a rather good bar there, too, the outdoor events branch of the Fleece at Bretforton, which is one of the most wonderful pubs in England, and is owned by the National Trust. It's the typical American tourist's dream of what an English country pub should be like, with an impressive collection of pewter, and ancient settles, and a fine selection of beers and ciders. The beer for the weekend included Wye Valley and Butty Bach, which I can get any time, so I went for the Hobgoblin. There was also a selection of good ciders, from Thatchers and Hogan's.

The occasion for the show was the 750th anniversary of the death of Simon de Montfort, who is buried in Evesham. After a battle that was more in the nature of a massacre, he was killed and mutilated, and his head cut off and stuck on a pole - Prince Edward, later Edward I, led the Royalist troops for his father Henry III (who basically wandered round the battle field saying "Don't kill me!"), re-asserting Royal control after the Barons had made an attempt at improving democracy by broadening parliamentary representation beyond the Barons, with representatives from each county of England and many important towns.
Drudion were there, as Welsh mercenaries, because Simon made a treaty with Llewelyn ap Gruffudd of Gwynnedd - not far from Hay at Pipton Castle in Glasbury (there's hardly anything left there now - just a small mound by the river). So we were wearing white crosses on our clothing to show we were on Simon's side.
There was a parade through town to mark the start of the show, leading to the laying of a wreath at Simon de Montfort's tomb. I didn't see it myself, but I spoke to a member of the public later who had seen it, and the speech afterwards, with the Lord's Prayer in Latin. She said she had been quite moved by the idea of people still praying for him 750 years after his death, and still remembering what he had been trying to achieve.

Mustering for the parade

Another lady I got talking to (half the fun of events like this is the interesting people you get to talk to) was researching family history and had become fascinated with Painscastle - again, not far from Hay. She wanted to know what had been happening there during the time of Humphrey de Bohun, and confessed that she'd like to do re-enactment herself, but she thought she was too old. I told her there was no upper age limit, and if all she could do was sit on a chest and talk about history (and she knew her stuff), she would be welcome to join a society. I told her about the Living History Forum, where British re-enactors of all periods meet online to talk about history and to recruit new members.

Sadly, I couldn't stay for the whole show, so I had to pack up my spinning and weaving display and trundle my wheelie suitcase up through town, still in full kit apart from my head dress, to the railway station to get home. I'm pleased to say that the buses and trains all came when they were supposed to, and I got home safely.

Next month, I'll be at Hay Castle for the Agincourt celebrations.

Monday, 10 August 2015

The Contrast Between North and South

John Fitzgerald issued an update on the efforts to save Gwernyfed School a few days ago.
In his latest letter to Councillor Thomas, he contrasts the treatment of the schools in Montgomeryshire, which are being invited to contribute their thoughts and ideas about the future of secondary education in the area, with the treatment of the staff and pupils at Gwernyfed, who were told with no warning that their school was going to close.
Interestingly enough, the decision-makers of the County Council mostly come from Montgomeryshire. Here's the text of the letter:

Letter to Cllr Barry Thomas

5 August 2015

Dear Cllr Thomas

Re Gwernyfed High School

Thank you for your email acknowledgement to my letter of 30 July. Since writing to you further significant information has come to light which you may wish to consider alongside the content of my last email.

We have now obtained recorded details of the review to be carried out in North Powys (Montgomeryshire) into the future shape of secondary education in that part of the county. In summary it is clear that the first stage of the process includes inviting every school to contribute their thoughts and ideas about the shape of future secondary education in the area. Once the information is collated there would be further discussion with schools BEFORE the local authority designs a secondary education programme for North Powys. This is in line with the Powys transformational education policy approved in the autumn of 2014.

Contrast that process with what happened to Gwernyfed HS. The Head Teacher and Chair of Governors were summoned to a meeting at short notice to be told that their school was to close in August 2017 and pupils to transfer to a new so called Beacons Learning Campus (Brecon HS under a new name) and that they had to inform parents, students, staff and unions within three days before a press release was issued. No pre-planning discussions just a decision to sacrifice a very good school to salvage a failing Brecon HS. Although the new transformational policy was in place at the time the decision to close Gwernyfed HS was taken it was apparently decided by the cabinet to bypass the policy.

Now cast your mind back to 24 March 2015, the paper considered by the cabinet in respect of the Gwernyfed/Brecon decision also stated there would be a review of secondary education in North Powys sometime in the future but because of particular complexities (not spelt out) it would take eight months. When challenged by a reporter from the B&R and representatives of Gwernyfed HS that North Powys appeared to be receiving special treatment, reflecting the wishes of the five Montgomery Cabinet members (five out of eight), you robustly defended your decisions claiming that you would not tolerate special treatment for one part of the county over another (this is on record).

Now that we have the evidence that North Powys are being given very special treatment your statement about not tolerating such actions for one part of the county is at best “hollow”. The question is how did this set of circumstances arise? Was it because Powys County Council, that even by its standards, fell to an even lower level of incompetence? Is it because you had been misled in the information given to you or was it because of collusion between officials and Montgomery Councillors to try to ensure their part of the county had a much better deal than the south. If the first explanation is correct you have a serious management problem. If it is the second possibility, you have different kind of management problem. If it is the third option, then you need to understand there is a name for actions taken by group of councillors to favour one section of the electorate over another, usually for electoral reasons, it’s called “gerrymandering”. It is a criminal offence and convictions carry a jail sentence or a hefty fine or both.

Only you can know which explanation is correct but at the very least you have added a gift to us of another judicial review potential to add to a growing list. There is an old adage that when in a hole “you should stop digging”, sound advice, you really should “stop digging”. Therefore given that your strategy for secondary education is in tatters the best thing you can do is call a halt and abandon the Brecon/Gwernyfed plan, and go back to the drawing board and involving all schools across South Powys. Not the end of the world because there are different transformational options available at a considerably lower cost. In the planning. If you do not then the statement by the education portfolio holder that you will fulfil your statutory obligations in respect of the High Schools at Gwernyfed and Brecon is meaningless as you have so far utterly failed to do so.

You will still need to come and face the “music” as outlined in my earlier letter at both Gwernyfed and Brecon, and I would suggest Builth and Llandrindod as well. Simply responding to my letter of 30 July, or this one, by defending the indefensible simply will not do. If you still have doubts consider my two letters alongside the overwhelming evidence contained in the judicial review submitted to the High Court, your staff must have it, and recognise the decisions taken in respect of Gwernyfed and Brecon has brought the authority into disrepute. The fact that the cabinet withdrew the original plan (but only to find another way to bring it back) demonstrates that you accept the claim of the judicial review application that the authority’s actions were unlawful otherwise would you withdraw it? It really is time for the cabinet to start again and work with all schools across South Powys to design the right kind of secondary education system which puts students, parents, staff, governors and communities at the centre of the deliberations which will enable you to meet your statutory obligations and at a lower cost. Would that not be better than a long term conflict which is the alternative?

Yours sincerely


Sunday, 9 August 2015

Art from Richard Evans and Eugene Fisk

I've been away from Hay for a few days (pictures to follow when I can get the camera to talk to the computer!) - but before I went, I was invited to the opening day of the new art exhibition upstairs at Brook Street Pottery.
The artists both live locally - Richard Evans goes for brightly coloured assemblages of objects, some of them witty, like the penguin on a background of a Penguin book, which was my favourite.
Eugene Fisk usually does portraits, but this time he was exhibiting a series of pen and ink sketches of Hay, which are also collected in a book called Oh Happy Hay! He was signing copies throughout the day. I really liked the picture of the Buttermarket with a Tuareg visitor from Timbuktu in the foreground, and the one of Alan Powell standing outside his carpenter's shop, saluting.
The exhibition is on throughout the summer - and they also sell interesting and beautiful pottery.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Mr Holmes

Off to the Booth's Bookshop Cinema last week to watch Ian McKellan as a 93 year old Sherlock Holmes, keeping bees in his retirement and trying to remember why he retired from detecting. There's also a sub-plot involving a trip to Hiroshima just after the Second World War - which was fascinating to see. I was full of admiration for the way the plot was put together - it's beautifully written and very cleverly done.
The cinema was full (I got the last ticket for the evening), and it was a brilliant evening. Ian McKellan was wonderful, of course, both as 93 year old Holmes and a 60 year old Holmes in flashbacks to his last case, but it wouldn't have worked if the cast surrounding him weren't equally good - particularly the young boy Roger (Milo Parker) and his mother, Holmes' housekeeper, Laura Linney. I was amused to see among the credits that there were two knitters on the production team - presumably one of them knitted the swimsuit that Roger wears in one scene. There were also some rather fine vintage vehicles on show.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Latest News on Gwernyfed School

Here's the text of a letter that has been sent to Cllr Barry Thomas by John Fitzgerald, of the campaign to save Gwernyfed School from closure:

"30 July 2015
Dear Cllr Thomas
Re Gwernyfed High School
Given that you have withdrawn your plan to close Gwernyfed High School in the face of overwhelming legal evidence showing that you have acted unlawfully, and a strong warning from the Welsh Government that you should fulfil your legal obligations before attempting to re-submit your funding application, you should not be surprised that your actions have provoked anger amongst people connected with Gwernyfed HS, caused distress, to students, parents, staff, community groups involved with the school (there are 34) as well threatening to tear the heart out of our communities in the Gwernyfed catchment area.
The result is a complete break in trust between the local authority and everyone connected with Gwernyfed High School; so much so that as things stand at present no one in the catchment area will believe in future anything said by anyone from Powys County Council. That is a dreadful state of affairs that you (and your colleagues) should be ashamed of. The answer to the question is there any way back has to be dealt with before any progress can be made? Well it depends on you and your next actions, but it would a waste of time you proposing anything unless you carry out the following actions:
• As early as possible in the new term (and certainly before the meeting the authority has called with secondary schools on 30 September to discuss post 16 care) you call a public meeting to be held at Gwernyfed HS which anyone connected with the school can attend at a time that would be convenient for, students, parents, staff and community groups.
• Attendance from the local authority must include, yourself, the portfolio holder for education, the CEO and the most senior officer with responsibility for educational management.
• The meeting must start with a full and unequivocal apology from you for the appalling, unlawful behaviour of the local authority towards all connected with the Gwernyfed HS.
• One of your number must make a statement (confirmed in writing and given to the head teacher and chair of governors at the meeting) making clear that discussion about the future of Gwernyfed HS will not only be about closure but include a genuine consideration of all the real options. This means consulting BEFORE designing a plan to obtain information on other valid proposals that are available, not the other way round, unless of course you want to run into more legal action.
• One of your number will give an undertaking to assist Gwernyfed HS and propose tangible help to repair the damage caused by the local authority’s action so that parents can have certainty about their child’s educational future. When the cabinet in 2011 tried a similar stunt it had to back track when it was pointed out none of the costings made sense. However, the school which had been increasing year on year the number on roll suddenly found, because of uncertainty, parents’ were voting with their feet. It’s looking as though the same is going to happen again as a result of your decision. This tells you and us that falling rolls are not a product of falling birth rates but irresponsible decision making by the local authority. Coupled with this will be an assurance that there will be no attempts to intimidate, harass or bully anyone connected with Gwernyfed into a particular decision.
We understand there is a need to go on developing the quality of education across Powys but unless you comply with the above you have no hope of cooperation or support for any plan you bring forward. Put another way you created the problem you find yourself in, you have to clear it up before you and we can move on.
You have some major problems within your authority, not least the dual role of the CEO as both the statutory Director of Education and ultimately having responsibility for Powys County Council’s legal services. How on earth was a plan approved by cabinet that was just a political wheeze to obtain funding to re-build Brecon HS and so full of educational and legal holes it should never have seen the light of day?
It had no educational merit, failing to reflect the Donaldson Report both commissioned and recommendations accepted by the Welsh Government or the recommendations by Dr Stevie Upton, published by the Institute of Welsh Affairs setting out how to use successful schools, like Gwenyfed HS, to help those schools that are failing. Had you implemented any of those recommendations that would have been transformational and negated the need to sacrifice Gwernyfed HS on the altar of rescuing Brecon HS.
Given the legal holes in the proposal that went to cabinet were beyond belief and yet it contained a statement saying there were no legal matters requiring consideration. You did not have to be a lawyer to realise that it contained a clutch of matters that would lead to a series of judicial reviews and incidentally are still pertinent.
There are plenty of local people with expertise who could help sort out the mess you are in but not if Powys CC cannot fulfil the requirements listed above and start to cooperate with those who have an interest in the future of the school.
Lastly if I was connected to Brecon High School I would be asking for a similar meeting because you have badly let down a school in desperate need of help to develop a very different future.
Yours sincerely"

Anyone who agrees with this letter is encouraged to contact Cllr Thomas on or the Education Portfolio Holder on

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Commemorating the War Dead in Hay

I was at work, so I missed the vintage vehicles and replica World War Two hospital, and the speeches and so on - but I did see two Chelsea pensioners in their red coats strolling down Broad Street in the morning, and a big Army truck heading for the square. Later on I could hear snatches of bagpipe music from the Swansea Pipe Band (I recognised The Scottish Soldier as one of the tunes). I was disappointed to miss the Mustang fly by, though. [edited to add that the Mustang seems not to have arrived over Hay after all, which is a shame]
Meanwhile Alan Nicholl's book, Hay at War 1914 to 1918, has been re-stocked in Broad Street Book Centre three times since it was mentioned in the B&R on Wednesday - and they only had three left again this morning!

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Small Business Saturday

Athene English's shop (in the centre of the picture, more or less), which specialises in Welsh blankets and also leather goods. Athene has some of her blankets in the exhibition Spun Gold at Hereford Library at the moment.