Sunday, 31 January 2016

Mr Babb

Here's Mr Babb, at a rehearsal for the concert held in his honour last night, for his 90th birthday. 50 of his former students turned up to play!
This picture is taken by Billie Charity, a local portrait photographer. I saw it shared from her Facebook page, Billie Charity Photography, and she also has a website at

Transition Towns Meeting about Housing Development

The Transition Towns group are meeting in the back room at Tomatitos on Wednesday evening at 6pm to discuss the Oxford Road development (where the old community centre used to be) and the Gypsy Castle development at the other end of town.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Small Business Saturday

Cafe Hay, now re-opened. It was closed down for a time (yes, another cafe in Hay!)

Friday, 29 January 2016

Save the Bus Services

Hay is in the interesting position of being a Border town. Right on the Border, in fact, which means that we are affected by decisions made in Herefordshire as well as in Powys for all sorts of things. One of those things is the 39 bus route from Hereford to Brecon.
County Councils all over the country are making savage cuts in all sorts of services, because of the government's austerity policies, and one of the services which is fairly easy for them to cut is the subsidy they give to the bus companies to run unprofitable routes. In Powys, Trecastle has lost the bus route altogether, and people have been walking to Sennybridge, along a narrow and quite dangerous lane, to get a bus to do their shopping.
Here in Hay, it took a major campaign, and a lot of committed and dedicated people, to keep half of the Sunday bus route - Hay to Hereford. It's a very useful service for people who want to catch trains on a Sunday, as well as to go walking in the area (groups of walkers go out on the bus fairly regularly). Use the Hay Ho bus!

And now there's a petition from 38 Degrees to ask Herefordshire councillors not to cut the bus subsidy for the county completely - which will hit the poorest in society hardest, and the old, who rely on buses the most.
Since 2010, the bus subsidy has been cut by 49% already. Thirteen services have been lost altogether, with reductions in service on 31 other routes. Buses are a lifeline. If there were no bus service through Hay, it would cost me around £50 to get to Hereford, or back from there when I've been away - I've done it occasionally, coming back from holidays when I've not been able to get to Hereford in time to catch the last bus, but it's not something I could make a habit of!

There's a link to the petition on the Hay Together Facebook page.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Borderlines Film Festival

I've just seen the brochure for this year's Film Festival, which will be happening from Friday 26th February to Sunday 13th March.
It looks as if they've put together another interesting programme, which will be taking place across 26 venues, from Ross-on-Wye to Oswestry, with a lot going on at the Courtyard in Hereford as well as Hay.
This year, they're featuring Romani Cinema - Gypsy, a story from Eastern Slovakia; Jimmy Riviere, about the French Gens de Voyages (or Travellers); and Green Green Grass Beneath, which is about a Romani painter, Ceija Stojka, who survived Auschwitz. The films have been chosen by Romani and were mostly made by Romani directors and with Romani cast members.
In Hay, the cinema in a lorry, Picturehouse Screen Mobile, will be parking in Hay Car Park (I think it was meant to come last year, but there was a breakdown, or some other reason it couldn't get here), and films will be shown at Booth's Cinema and the Parish Hall. All the films shown in Hay will be part of the Festival of British Cinema.
Last year, Father Richard played the organ for the silent film A Cottage on Dartmoor, which was a wonderful film, and this year the earliest film by the director of that film, Anthony Asquith, will be shown. It's called Shooting Stars, set in a movie studio in Cricklewood in the 1920s, made in 1928, so silent, but with a restored sound track.
The compilation of Central Office of Information films - How to Survive the 1940s - sounds fun as well!
A local film is Black Mountain Poets, set in a poets' camping retreat near Hay.
The one I want to see most is The Edge of the World, a 1937 film about the community on the remote island of St Kilda, at the time that they finally were evacuated from their homes.
The new Dad's Army film will be on at Booth's Cinema, as well.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Learning about Stagecraft

Last week, at the acoustic evening at Baskerville Hall, Huw Parsons mentioned that he was going to be teaching a course shortly at the Muse in Brecon and the Globe in Hay. It's called Research, Rhyme and Reaction, and will include learning about stagecraft - how to perform your poetry, or whatever else it might be, more effectively. The course will be in four parts, and will be coming up in March.
Huw was performing some of his poems about Breugel paintings - and waxing lyrical about the museum in Vienna which has the best collection of Breugel paintings in the world. He also brought a book, so we could all see the paintings he was referring to (there's a man in the peasant wedding picture who has three legs! I'd never noticed that before).
We also had a tribute to the Eagles, as a member of the band, Greg Frey, is another musician who has died recently, lots of ukeleles (including a Bob Marley tribute song called No Oven, No Pie), and one song celebrating evenings at the Baskerville, and mentioning several people who were there (including me!).
Our usual compere, Bob, couldn't be there, so he asked me to take over for the night, and I had a great time doing it, starting off the evening with the theme from the Muppet Show (slightly disguised - I didn't want to call the performers Muppets, so it became "musicians at the Baskerville tonight"), Lily the Pink in Latin to follow on from Down at Baskerville Hall (it's on Youtube), and we finished up the evening with Show Me the Way to go Home.
Bob will be back in charge this Wednesday.

Monday, 25 January 2016

St Dwynwen's Day

Unusual Recommendation

A young Muslim couple came into the shop today, and seemed to enjoy looking around. When they were going out, the young man told me why they were here.
They were from Turkey, and last week the Prime Minister of Turkey visited Britain. During his visit, he gave a speech to the Turkish community in London and during the speech, he recommended that students studying here should go to Hay-on-Wye and visit the Cinema Bookshop!
I have no idea how he found out about us, but it's nice to know our fame is so wide-spread!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Happy Birthday, Mr Babb!

Mr Babb is a retired musical conductor, who has been organising concerts at St Mary's Church for several years. Many of the performers have been musicians he's worked with or taught over the years.
And on 30th January, many of the singers and instrumentalists performing at St Mary's will be Mr Babb's former pupils. Tickets are £15, and £5 for under 18s, and the evening starts off at 7.30pm. Proceeds will go to St Mary's Choral Foundation, to enable St Mary's music committee to develop the choir, including young choristers from the age of 8 upwards. It's a way of helping children to enjoy the opportunities he had when he was starting out in his musical career.
The Bach Mass in B Minor will be performed to celebrate Mr Babb's 90th birthday. I think he was going to conduct himself, originally, but has been persuaded to let someone else take that place while he is Guest of Honour.
There's a good piece in the Brecon and Radnor Express about Mr Babb's life.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Small Business Saturday

When I was last taking photos round the Craft Centre, this shop was being used as a picture framing workshop. Now it seems to be mostly selling prints.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Gwernyfed High School Update

So the County Council has a new plan for secondary education in Powys - which is just about the same as the original plan, despite all the protests. Here's what John Fitzgerald, who has been leading the group against the closure of the school, has to say:

"21 Jan 2016 — I have been rather quite of late as we have been waiting to see what the Powys Review would recommend. Now we know. A letter sent to the school today states that:

• To establish a new build 11-16 English -medium secondary school in Brecon, replacing Gwernyfed High School and Brecon High School

Some of the reasons for this draft recommendation are as follows:
- This option will create a critical mass of pupils that meets the Authority’s agreed minimum threshold of 600 pupils at KS3 and KS4
- The option provides an opportunity for learners to have a broader post-16 curriculum in a single location, and removes the need for inter-school/college transport;
- It improves cost-effectiveness and efficiency, also eliminating current maintenance costs on both schools
- The model will reduce overall surplus places

However, we are aware that there will need to be a significant capital development to implement this recommendation, therefore we are proposing an interim recommendation which is:

"- To establish a new English-medium 11 – 16 secondary school that will operate from the current sites of Gwernyfed High School and Brecon High School from September 2017. This would involve the closure of both schools.

In accordance with Stage 2 (vi) of the School Review Process contained within the Schools Transformation Policy 2014, the governing body, head teacher and local member are invited to attend a feedback meeting to be held at 5:00pm on Tuesday 26th January. The purpose of the meeting will be to consider the draft recommendations of the SORP, and to provide a further opportunity for the governing body to present additional evidence. The meeting will be held in the Council Chamber, County Hall, Llandrindod Wells. "

Effectively, it is the same closure plan wrapped up in different words. Effectively the local authority is saying they do not give a damn about the 10 communities which will be effected.

The head and governors have to attend a meeting with the strangely named SORP group (jargon for something) and then will have to decide whether they are prepared to fight or cave in but if they are going to fight they have to stop being to "nice". I am away for three weeks and not sure at the moment what I will be able to do until I am back.

The school reps have to attend a meeting at the LA on 26 January if you would like to let the County Council know what you think send an email to :"

And here's what the group Save Powys Schools, on Facebook, has to say:

"Powys seem to be going for the total meltdown of education in the county. News filtering out from both the Llandod/Builth secondary schools and Gwernyfed/Brecon indicates that the 'transformation' team are proposing to close all four and set up 'one school on two sites' in both cases from September 2017. This is an 'interim' recommendation while they get together the 'significant capital development' needed for new buildings. So in both cases students could be spending years in a dogs' breakfast of 'one school on two sites' while they wait for the money - of which certainly in the case of Llandod and Builth there is at present not a sniff. Whole cohorts could come and go as they wait.
This is quite apart from the destruction of some perfectly good schools, some (including this writer) would say wonderful ones.
I have asked for information about the amount of money which will be saved and the number of teaching and non-teaching jobs which will be lost.
All of this is driven by cuts, which Powys seem determined to push through while justifying them on wholly spurious 'educational' grounds. Meanwhile people's lives are irreparably damaged and communities left bereft.
Why aren't Powys fighting with us to save our schools instead of attempting to justify this nonsense? We must stick together and defend our schools!"

I was chatting to the chap at Beer Revolution this morning, and he's very concerned. He said that, if Gwernyfed School closes, his family will be seriously thinking of moving away from the area - so that would be one business less in Hay.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Bargain Hunt

... has been filming in Hay today.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Old Money

"What do these numbers mean on the cover?"
The couple asking the question were young, and they had brought a couple of old paperbacks to the counter.
"2/6, and 3/6?" they asked.
And I felt quite old, suddenly.
"That's the price!" I said. "Two shillings and sixpence, and three shillings and sixpence!"

Sunday, 17 January 2016

"You're All Wierdos!"

That's what a colleague of mine said when I started to tell her about the evening at Baskerville Hall last week. I'd been telling her about the tribute to David Bowie that happened early on in the evening. Huw the Poet had written down a few thoughts, entitled On The Day that David Bowie Died, and I sang Life on Mars as my TV theme of the week.
I didn't even start to tell her about Susan's contribution to the evening. She handed round copies of a Breugel painting, The Fall of Icarus, to go with a poem she recited. Poor old Icarus is not, as you might think, the most important part of the painting, but just a tiny pair of legs disappearing into the sea in the middle distance.
"Will there be homework?" Archie asked. And when it was her turn to perform again, she read out Mrs Icarus, by Carol Ann Duffy (Mrs Icarus was not very impressed with her high flying husband).
Bob sang The Wild Welsh Drovers - to a famous Irish tune.
And Mike, or "Mr Stainless Steel" as Brian calls him, because of a song he once sang about the invention of stainless steel in Sheffield, sang several songs about Wainwright, who wrote and illustrated the famous walking books around the fells and the Lake District. Near the end of the evening, he mentioned that he had got together with some friends to make a CD on the theme of Alfred Wainwright's life, and he just happened to have a copy. I'd been enjoying the songs so much that I asked for one, and it is very good, touching on some of the more painful parts of Wainwright's life as well as the hill-walking (his first wife didn't seem to get much enjoyment out of the marriage). Mike has a website at
And Bob Evans' CD Just An Opinion is also still available. He can be contacted on
It's really nice to have CDs performed by people I know!

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Small Business Saturday

This is the part of the craft centre that used to be the Tourist Information office. Now it's an Aladdin's Cave of hippy style and musical instruments and all sorts of interesting stuff. There's even a little caterpillar train going round the ceiling!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Council Meeting - Walking Festival, Honours and Fire Stations

It would appear that the Tourism Group no longer exists - they were the ones who organised the Walking Festivals that happened in October for a couple of years - there was no Festival last year, though. Dave, of the History Group, conducts walks along the old railway line, and is interested in re-starting the Walking Festival this year. He's asked for Council support, which they were happy to give. It'll be interesting to see how this develops.

An official letter has come round to ask local councils if they have any nominations for next year's New Years Honours list. (This is the sort of thing that should go up on the Council website, when it's finally up and running).

And the Council have also been asked if they would like to hear a presentation about fire stations in South Powys. The councillors thought this was an excellent idea, but they want to write back to ask if the presentation can take place at the fire station, so they can also have a look at what equipment the local fire service has, and what they might need.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Council Meeting - Schools and Hay Tump

Local businesses and groups are being asked to complete an impact assessment to say how they think the loss of Gwernyfed High School would affect them. Rob Golesworthy has approached several business owners in Hay, and was surprised to find that none of them thought it would make much difference to them at all. Rob was pretty sure that closure of the school would impact on his business, but it was very difficult to quantify that.
One of the arguments for keeping the school open (quite apart from its good academic standards) is that the lack of a local secondary school would make professional people less likely to want to re-locate in the area - for instance doctors - as they would be more likely to want to go somewhere they could ensure their children were educated without long distances to travel.

The Warren Trustees are thinking of opening up the area around Hay Tump, close to St Mary's Church, for more use. It was the original site of Hay Castle, before the present castle was built - and probably the site of an incident recounted by Gerald of Wales, when the Archbishop of Canterbury, recruiting for the Crusades, made a speech, which was so well recieved by the local men that they surged forward to take the Cross. Their wives tried to stop them, resulting in the men taking cover inside the castle from their womenfolk!
The Warren Trust are thinking about putting up an information board, and maybe picnic tables. The County Council actually owns the Tump, which may be Grade I listed. This is something the Cheesemarket group might be interested in helping with.

Fiona Howard is retiring for the second time as head teacher of Hay School. She will be leaving in July, and the councillors agreed she would be a hard act to follow.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Friends, Romans, Country children

I found this fascinating article about Hereford's Museum Service on the blog Day of Archaeology today.

Friends, Romans, Country children

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Another Vacancy for a Councillor, and Police Matters.

I got to the Council Chambers a bit late, in time to hear a discussion of the footpath to Clyro. It was suggested that a letter be sent to Clyro Council to ask if they've approached the County Council to get the path re-surfaced at the Clyro end. The councillors were a bit concerned about the blind man who walks the route regularly with his guide dog, and also mentioned that the hedges could be difficult to get past in places, and they were worried about the dog's paws when the clippings weren't cleared away.

And then, I have no idea what the problem is, but Rob Golesworthy started talking about being in a difficult position, and that he'd spent the weekend talking with more than one other councillor about a difficult topic. As he was saying this, carefully not going into specifics, at the other end of the table Trudy was packing up her stuff.
"You'll have my resignation in the morning," she said, and walked out.
Rob seemed quite rattled by that, and handed over the chair of the meeting to Gareth for the rest of the evening.

So there's another vacancy for a councillor.

The rest of the meeting was one of the fastest on record - we were out of the building by half past eight.

By now the Senior Citizen's party will have happened - it was at 1pm, and there had been so many donations of prizes for a raffle/tombola that they thought they might have enough to give a present to everyone there. They were very pleased with the way the community has rallied round.

Meanwhile, the police have sent round an email asking for any hate crimes against Muslims to be reported - not really a problem in this area, I don't think (though there are quite a few Muslims in Hereford). They are also going to be conducting speed checks in places where speeding has been complained about. There's one driver in particular who seems to be a problem - several councillors had either seen him driving dangerously or had reports from members of the public about him. The police have appealed for people to come forward as witnesses so they can take the matter further.
The police have also been made aware of criminal damage down by the riverbank. Two of the pear trees that were planted by the developers on the slope below the new Millbank houses have had the tops cut out of them. The Environment Agency has been down to have a look, and they say not quite enough tree has been taken for it to be classed as illegal felling, but it's certainly criminal damage.

Another tree has been chopped down at the entrance to the old community centre site, where Wales and West Housing Association are still in discussions with the County Council about building affordable housing. There have also been letters sent to the Council raising concerns about flooding on the site, and asking if Powys County Council followed all the guidelines about getting best value for money when disposing of the site. The County Council have said that they did, indeed, follow the guidelines, and they are allowed to accept a lower amount for the land if it is to be used for affordable housing.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Bob Evans at the Muse

I don't often go into Brecon these days, so I was unfamiliar with The Muse, the music venue where Bob Evans, who runs the Wednesday evening acoustic sessions at Baskerville Hall, was launching his CD Just An Opinion.
Susan invited me and Brian (and Thomasin, who wasn't going to the performance) round for dinner, and we set off in her car. It's not easy finding a place in the dark if you're unfamiliar with the layout of the town, but Brian and I guided her in, and we found a parking space in the car park next to the old Court building.
The Muse was just across the road - it was the original Brecon Museum and later became the storage facility for the newer museum at the end of the road - the one with the pillars which has been renovated recently, and used to be the courthouse. So it's a rather clever name - short for Museum and Music, and invoking the idea of Greek goddesses of inspiration, music and poetry.
Bob was joined on stage by Di Esplin and Alan Cooper, who performed with him on the album. Di was playing cello and what I can only assume to be an electronic clarinet - I've never seen anything quite like it. It looked like something the cantina band in Star Wars might play! Di also played a large recorder, but had a distressing accident before she came on stage with it. She had the mouthpiece in her back pocket when she went to the toilet.... She said she'd washed it out! The perils of live music!
Alan, of course, played fiddle. And Bob played two different guitars and two different drums. I've never heard him amplified before!
It was a lovely evening. For the first half, Bob played through the tracks on the album, and the second half had more with Di and Alan, with a rousing ending of The House of the Rising Sun.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Small Business Saturday

C. Arden, Natural History Bookshop.
Chris Arden used to have a shop on the corner opposite the Blue Boar until he retired. I think his son-in-law took over, and is now trading from home. Where the shop used to be is now a rather nice B&B.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Stitching and Bitching at the Three Tuns

Well, that went well!
We had our first meeting at the Three Tuns this evening, in the downstairs at the back (the bit that was built on after the fire that caused Lucy to close down). The lights were bright enough, the drinks were nice, and nine of us turned up, including a new lady, who seemed to have a good time. We were doing knitting - of socks, jumpers and a snood, crochet - a shawl, and embroidery - a haemoglobin molecule!
So I think this will be our regular venue for the forseeable future!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Kilts in the Castle!

It's coming up to Burns Night, and Clyro School are having another fund raising evening of dancing and whisky to celebrate. It's on Friday 22nd January, starting at 8pm. Tickets are limited to 100, and they are £15 each. There will also be hot food.
Tickets are available from Bartrums and Clyro Petrol Station.
They're still looking for someone who can recite Robert Burns' poetry as the haggis is piped in....

So this is also a reminder that the haggis hunting season has started. This shy little creature is mostly found in Scotland, of course, but some farmed ones have escaped in Wales and are rumoured to have been breeding in the wild. Traps baited with whisky are the most humane way of catching them....

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Community Impact Assessment for Gwernyfed School

I've copied this over from the Hay Together Facebook page - since I'm a bit technically challenged, it's probably better to have a look there for the form itself, or contact the school or County Council directly. The closing date for return of the forms is 11th January:

"Here's the detail courtesy of Rob from Beer Revolution:
Powys County Council is looking at ways to reorganise secondary education in the Gwernyfed catchment. At this stage, all options are being considered with a view to forming a draft proposal in the early part of 2016. As part of this process, Gwernyfed High School has offered to collate and send draft community impact assessments to Powys County Council by 15th January. They have offered to do this work for PCC so they can see what would happen in this geographical area.
For the purpose of the Community Impact Assessments we have to assume there will be no Gwernyfed High School on the site.
Please be clear that PCC are still looking at all options and NO decision has been made.
If you feel your family, community group, club, association, business would be affected by the closure of Gwernyfed High, we would be grateful if you could complete the attached questionnaire - please make your voice heard.
A couple of online news stories help illustrate how businesses, for example, might be affected by the closure of a local school.…/13250204.School_closure_wi…/…/fears-over-new-sch…

Please answer as fully as you can - but if you really can't answer something feel free to skip it.
If you have any queries please contact the school via email at or ring 01497 847445.
Please send completed questionnaires to if possible by 11th January.
Groups are also able to write directly to . Please forward a copy to the school also.
Thanks in advance for your help,"

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Small Business Saturday

Lion Garage, on Forest Road

Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year's Day Treat

I gave myself a good start to 2016 by going to the Bookshop Cinema to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The cinema was full - it was the second showing of the day - and there were a good number of children there. They weren't noisy or distracting, though - they were as caught up in the film as I was.
I'd heard good things about the film, and I wasn't disappointed - and the nice thing was that it was one of those films where people talked to each other as they left the cinema, to share how much they'd enjoyed it.

In 1977, I went to see the very first Star Wars film, in Manchester city centre. It was one of the first times I'd been into the city centre on the bus on my own, and I took my little sister with me. The queue was out of the front door of the cinema and right up the alley round the side, and it was one of the most exciting things I'd ever seen on the big screen. I came out thinking I could fly an X-wing!
The new film took me right back to the seventies.
They Got it Right.