Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Marinas: Revenue at any cost

“North Wales is missing out on millions of pounds of inward investment because our marinas can’t keep up with demand from boat owners”, reports Hywel Trewyn in today’s Daily Post.

Oh, so a few hundred people (mostly) from Manchester, Liverpool and Cheshire are missing out on the chance to move here to enjoy their summer holidays, not learn the language and raise house prices? Big deal.

It’s laughable that Dr Jones-Evans, who wrote an economic report for Gwynedd Council on the feasibility of extending Hafan Pwllheli, believes that “200 people moving to live in Pwllheli would not be catastrophic and that they would learn Welsh”. Yes, a small percentage probably would, but most wouldn‘t, if past experience is anything to go by.

Dafydd Sam Jones thinks that “expansion of marinas should not be detrimental to the Welsh language”. But he would say wouldn‘t he; he’s part of the Anglesey Port Company!

He continues, “If you don’t have work, there will be no language. What we want is to keep people here on Anglesey and create well-paid jobs for our young people”.

Hold on, let’s get this in perspective. How would a few well-paid jobs - and it would only be a few - help the Welsh language when you consider the fact that a few hundred non-Welsh speakers would be moving into the area?

I do agree that expanding the marinas would probably inject some much-needed revenue to an impoverished area - but at what cost to Welsh culture?

Go back to the drawing-board lads, surely you can think of other ways of creating employment and revenue. Short-term financial gain at the detriment of our language and culture is not the answer.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Hafod Protests Continue

Recent photographs of the protests at Hafod Quarry, near Wrecsam, can be seen on the Indy Media website.

"More support is needed for this campaign, both at the Quarry and at the offices and waste transfer sites of Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority & Mersey Waste Holdings Ltd. Pressure needs also to be brought on the councillors of Liverpool, Sefton, Wirral, Knowsley and St Helen's who sit on the board of the company," say the protesters.

Another valuable source of information on the Hafod protests is Seren's blog:
If anyone knows of more news sources, articles, photographs, notices, etc, let me know.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Dan Y Cownter 2: A Review

Not one to miss out on a freebie, when I heard that Dan Y Cownter were offering a free CD of contemporary Welsh-language music I felt compelled to take up their offer. Admittedly, these are my first tentative steps into the Welsh-language music scene. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to take the leap but I’m very glad I did. Here’s a breakdown of the tracks and what I thought of them. Anyone who’d like to receive a copy should contact post@danycownter.com

Radio Luxembourg - Pwer y Fflwer - 4/5
A fast-tempo, punchy opening track which launches straight into the main riff. Almost punk sounding, this track would sound superb live. Watch out for the chorus, it‘s brilliant.

Swci Boscawen - Adar y Nefoedd - 5/5
Soft, echo-laden pianos (think The Smashing Pumpkins’s “Adore” album) and angelic vocals dominate the verses. An infectious chorus and a quickening piano riff really uplifts the song, especially towards the end when the electronic beat kicks in and rumbles along like a juggernaut. Brilliant.

Mim Twm Llai - Rhosyn Rhwng Fy Nannedd - 3/5
Hip-hop vocals over jazz-like guitars, bass and drums. The minimalist, stripped-down sound would sound great live. (Check out their blog at http://mimtwmllai.blogspot.com/)

Genod Droog - Breuddwyd Oer - 4/5
This track would fit nicely onto any Groove Armada or Air album. Very laid back with trumpets, synth sounds, wah-wah guitars, and a soft humming bass all seamlessly drifting in and out of focus.

Stitches - Dan Dô - 5/5
Haunting Dave Grohl-like vocals perfectly compliment the down-tuned guitars, distorted electronic beats, and samples. The sound is almost heavy and centres around a simple rock riff. Cool as hell.

Richard James - Tir a Môr - 3/5
An unusual track with a strange acoustic guitar riff and dreamy vocals which sound like they‘ve come from outer space. Interesting but not brilliant.

Sibrydion - Blithdraphlith - 2/5
Catchy, loveable and annoying at the same time. The cheesy hooks make it a song you love to hate, which, unfortunately, means it’ll be playing in your head several days later. After 20 seconds I always find myself reaching for the forward button.

Y Diwygian - Mewn Can Mlynedd - 5/5
In total contrast, this trip-hop style track sounds like it was made for a DJ Krush album. Soulful female vocals contrast perfectly against the head-bobbing beats and low-end hip-hop rapping. Slick and stylish, this one would sound perfect in the dark, rainy nights of winter.

Ryan Kift - Gola Ola - 4/5
The heavily layered guitar sounds gives this slow tempo track an interesting edge. Catchy, heart-felt vocals with a great melody that you can’t fail to sing along with.

Acid Casuals - Y Ferch ar y Cei yn Rio - 4/5
Another slow, dreamy track, containing a single vocal hook which drifts you off into a relaxed and happy state of mind. A nice way to end the collection.

OVERALL: 4/5 Highly recommended!

Related links

Welsh Music Foundation
Providing support, advice, information and contacts to the Welsh music industry.

Featuring the latest releases of Wales' most exciting and original artists and labels.

Radio Amgen
Promoting experimental and alternative music in Wales.

Sain Wales
Wales's leading record label.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

North East Wales is becoming a dumping ground for Merseyside waste

An urgent message (below) has just arrived from Cymuned concerning a protest against the landfill site at Hafod Quarry in Johnstown, near Wrecsam, being used as a dumping ground for Merseyside waste. The Wrecsam edition of the Evening Leader also covered the story today (Aug 23 2006).

Another group, Balchder Cymru, has set-up a "Stop Mersey Waste" online petition. Martyn Jones, Clwyd South MP, has voiced strong opposition too.

If anyone else has more details of the protests, I'd be happy to publish them.
Between 7 and 8 o'clock this morning, a group of 50 to 100 protestors attempted to stop lorries from Mersey Waste dumping in a Welsh quarry near Wrecsam. More details here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_east/5274302.stm The protestors will be meeting by the entrance to the Hafod site, near Johnstown, Wrecsam, at 7.00 o'clock every morning for the rest of this week. They will picket for an hour, from 7 until 8, in order to attempt to stop the unacceptable decision to let Liverpool dump its waste in North Wales. If you live nearby, please go and support the protestors tomorrow morning. If you don't live in the area, please forward this e-mail to anyone you know who does.
News stories from the BBC:
News stories from the Daily Post:
See also:

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Thousands Back Language Campaign in Rhuthun

Last week Cymdeithas yr Iaith members were visiting towns and cities in South Wales, collecting signatures for their petition calling for a New Welsh Language Act. This week, members will target towns in North Wales - Rhuthun (Mon, 21 Aug), Llangefni (Tue, 22 Aug), Pwllheli (Wed, 23 Aug), Caernarfon (Thu, 24 Aug) and Dolgellau (Fri, 25 Aug). Details of these visits can be found on the Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg website. If you can't make it to any of those, you can declare your support by downloading a bilingual pdf version of the 'New Welsh Language Act Petition' (43k) and sending it to Cymdeithas's office in Aberystwyth.

This news report about a recent visit to Rhuthun came from the
Daily Post (Aug 22, 2006).
Thousands back language campaign
Aug 22 2006
Daily Post

CYMDEITHAS yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) yesterday brought its drive to secure a new Language Act to North Wales.

The Society was in Ruthin to collect signatures for its petition calling for a new Welsh Language Act.

Activists gathered by the town clock for a four-hour session collecting names. The mayor of Ruthin, Councillor Morfudd Jones, and other dignitaries were among those to sign.

The visit to Ruthin is part of an all-Wales campaign with members of the society visiting various towns throughout the country.

Last week Cymdeithas members visited Swansea, Ammanford, Pontypridd, Cardiff, Newport and Aberystwyth.

This week they are in North Wales with Llangefni, Pwllheli, Caernarfon and Dolgellau among their other destinations.

Dewi Snelson, who organised the Ruthin visit, said: "Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg had a very successful week at the National Eisteddfod.

"A truly historical meeting was held at the society's tent on the eisteddfod field where representatives from Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives declared their support for a new Welsh Language Act.

"A very effective demonstration was held against the Labour Party - the only political party in Wales not to show support for the Language Act campaign - and thousands of signatures were collected.

"Cymdeithas also published a draft Welsh Language Measure which gave the campaign further impetus.

"We now have the opportunity to take the campaign to the people of Wales in their local communities."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Glyn Wise: A Welsh Speaking Hero!

Who would of thought it? A young local patriotic welsh speaker - with aspirations of becoming a Welsh teacher and Plaid president, who would ban people buying second homes in Welsh speaking areas, and who'd dethrone Charles as Prince of Wales - would take 2nd place in Channel 4’s Big Brother final?

A lot of people mock Big Brother, and for good reasons. But this series was different. For the first time ever there were two Welsh speakers in the house (it wouldn‘t have worked with just one Welsh speaker, of course) who constantly conversed together in their first language. By doing so, he and fellow housemate Imogen Thomas (from Llanelli) have shown that Cymraeg is a living language to millions across Britain and Ireland. And that doesn't happen very often.

Equally important, Glyn and Imogen have shown what it means to be Welsh. Wales is not just about Cardiff, rugby and the Valleys; it’s also about the language. In fact, it’s probably the language which defines us as a distinct nation more than anything else.

At first they were banned from speaking “in code” but this decision was later reversed, and subtitles were used. Towards the end, even BB was speaking Welsh and Glyn was given the task of teaching Welsh to some of the housemates. For this, the producers of BB are to be congratulated.

To see Glyn’s constant and abounding enthusiasm for Wales, Cymraeg, y Ddraig Goch, and all things Welsh was brilliant. For once I have to agree with Rhodri Morgan: "Your passion and love for our country and language has been an inspiration for other young people and you've certainly put your home town of Blaenau Ffestiniog and Wales on the map.

"Your conversations in the house with Imogen have certainly raised the profile of the Welsh language to a new audience all over the world."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

21st Century Wales: Crap Wages and a Stifling Economy

Denbighshire has the worst wages in Wales according to research by GMB, averaging a mere £20,860 - 74% of the UK average. Apart from Flintshire with an average of over £25,000, the picture is bleak right across North Wales. And although the situation is better in South Wales, not one county in Wales meets the UK average.

But the bad news doesn‘t stop there. A damning report by a political think tank, Reform, claims Wales is in danger of becoming one of Whitehall’s “last colonies”, dependent on state employment and taxpayers cash.

Apparently, public spending accounts for 54% of the Welsh economy. Furthermore, the state employs nearly a quarter of all workers in Wales and the average household derives 18% of its total income from social security benefits.

Cycle of Economic Inactivity - More of the same anyone?

These problems are perpetuating yet more of the same problems. As young people are forced to move out of the area in search of work, Wales loses its most economically active members. This produces a declining population. Businesses also move or are forced to close (especially small businesses). Fewer business start-ups are created and existing businesses are less inclined to invest into the area. All of this means less employment and more people on benefits. And so it goes on.

Another major concern is the reliance on tourism, creating poorly paid jobs for only several months of the year. We live in one of the wettest parts of the country and yet we rely on a tourist industry which demands nice weather? Whoever thought that was a good business idea seriously needs their head testing.

It seems that a lot of money is going into North Wales but relatively little is coming out and we’re in danger of becoming a land of retirement homes, marinas, hotels, and caravan sites. If North Wales’ economy was an animal, it’d be a one trick pony.

Can this economic tide - or rather, drought - be reversed?

I’m no business expert but my guess is that a solution probably lies in the creation of small-to-mid sized companies - preferably the latter - which are economically profitable throughout the year. That’s easier said than done but there seems to be many ’outsiders’ who are earning a decent living by running businesses which offer interesting services and niche products.

Budding business people should consider this letter by G Hughes, recently published in the Daily Post. It concerns the controversial Pwllheli marina expansion proposals but the issues and solutions raised apply throughout North Wales.

Think Outside the Box over Marina

The future of Pwllheli, or indeed of Pen Llŷn and Eifionydd, DOES NOT depend on developing the marinas as we are constantly led to be believed by the Marine Trade Association, and even some of our elected and unelected politicians.

With a combination of knowledge, imagination and entrepreneurship, the Pwllheli harbour area can be developed into other more sustainable activities.

What about a Centre of Excellence for the ever-expanding range of sea sports that are rising in popularity across Wales, such as kayaking, wakeboarding, rowing and diving? A well-equipped facility could act as an incubator for exciting new industries, just like what happened in Llandysul when it became a centre for canoeing, and at the same time provide an affordable, safe and exciting facility for local people.

What about an all weather cultural tourist attraction based on Y Mabinogion or/and Cantre’r Gwaelod, or even investing in kick-starting high-tech aquaculture, producing valuable seafood?

All these activities could be developed by a local trust, similar to Cwmni Tref Caernarfon, run 100% by local people and wholly for the benefit of local people.

Thinking outside the box is not difficult once you take off the marina blinkers.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Government of Wales Act makes us "4th class citizens"

Discontent over the Government of Wales Act continues to rumble in and outside the Welsh Assembly. This letter below by David Thomas, Plaid Assembly Candidate for Montgomeryshire, spells out the absurdity of an Act which leaves all the major decisions in Wales at the mercy of Westminster (from Daily Post, 11 August, 2006).
The Government of Wales Act, passed on 25 July, far from settling the democratic process in Wales “for generations at least if not for ever” (as Peter Hain hopes) should be repealed as soon as possible as it makes us 4th class citizens in our own land.

Both the Northern Ireland Assembly (when it meets) and the Scottish Parliament have far more control over their own affairs than the Welsh Assembly and, given that Westminster, with an in-built majority of 529 English MPs out of a total of 646, virtually functions as an English Parliament that means we in Wales have less responsibility than any legislature in the UK over even the handful of matters which have been devolved to any degree at all.

Take, for example, the building of new nuclear power stations. Both the NI and Scotland Assemblies could refuse planning permission but not we in Wales. In fact the UK government could force one on us and the minister who would currently take the decision on our behalf could be a Scottish MP!

Even laws proposed unanimously by the Welsh Assembly can be blocked in five different ways by Westminster. What sort of democracy is that!

As a matter of natural justice and human rights we in Wales should have the same legislative powers as NI and Scotland.

We deserve to be treated as 1st class not 4th class citizens.