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Help for homeless people in Swansea this Christmas

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Measures are being put in place to help homeless people across Swansea through the holiday season.

Swansea Council is working hard with partners to ensure that all will be fed, can have a roof over their head and will be helped in other ways.

The Swansea Together food delivery and takeaway service plans to cater for all those in temporary accommodation or sleeping rough through Christmas week.

The aim is to ensure that those unable to collect meals on any day – including December 25 – will receive a delivery.

Swansea Together is an emergency network of volunteer groups, agencies, healthcare professionals and council departments that provide regular support for the vulnerably-housed in our city, and particularly the homeless.

It sees food prepared and distributed safely seven days a week. The Matthew’s House charity is a driving force in this network, with the council a key partner.

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The council is also helping to distribute clothes to the homeless. The distribution is being coordinated by the charity Zac’s Place which seeks donations of only new socks and underwear as the Swansea public have generously donated a sufficient quantity of other clothes items.

Additionally, the council is working with Zac’s Place to arrange for other important supplies to be delivered by volunteers to homeless people in B&B accommodation during Christmas week. A number of people are currently in this accommodation.

The deliveries, part funded by the council, could include gift vouchers for high street food retailers and items donated by the public. Christmas cards will be sent from partner organisations that have supported the individuals this year. Tenants of the council’s supported housing projects have already received similar supplies.

Andrea Lewis, Swansea Council’s cabinet member for homes, energy and service transformation and joint deputy leader, said: “People in our communities who are homeless through no fault of their own – or who are living in temporary accommodation – will be very much in our thoughts this Christmas.

“We want to ensure that they will be fed, can have a roof over their head and will be helped in other ways.”

Alyson Pugh, cabinet member for supporting communities, said: “We’ve worked hard all year to get people off the street and to give them a roof over their heads. This work will not stop now.

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“We’re thankful to partners who are working with us to ensure that there is help for the homeless this Christmas.”

Homelessness and rough sleeping in Swansea is being drastically reduced thanks to ongoing efforts by the council and partners.

Concerns about a rise in figures when the pandemic hit were met with a pledge by the council to do all it could to prevent people becoming homeless.

A survey of rough sleeping has shown that up to five people are rough sleeping each night at present, compared to 2019 when figures were around 18-20.

Despite the impact on services since the start of the pandemic and the lockdown in March, the council and partners have continued to prepare empty properties for those needing homes.

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Latest figures show that more than 200 households have left temporary accommodation for more secure safe housing since March.

Thom Lynch, of Matthew’s House, said: “We have been blown away by the partnership support this year whilst coordinating Swansea Together.

“We hope for it to continue and strengthen as we do our best to remember the vulnerably-housed in our city.

“We will continue this support all through Christmas, with support from truly wonderful partners.

“We thank everyone who has supported Matthew’s House and Swansea Together this year, your kindness for our community is inspiring!”

Sean Stillman, of Zac’s Place, said: “Our shared efforts continue to be effective and thrive in the city due to the generosity of the community we are part of – I thank supporters so much for this.

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“One of the ways we can be most effective in offering the best support we can is to receive donated items that are needed right now.

“This Christmas, we need new underwear, new socks and vouchers that can be used in shops that sell toiletries, clothes, food or takeaways.

“People who’d like to donate this Christmas are asked bring in these items only. Our team of volunteers will be pleased to receive them. I thank people across our communities so much for their support – it is appreciated by those who benefit.”

Those wishing to donate new socks, new underwear or food shop vouchers should contact Matthew’s House – friends@matthewshouse.org.uk, 07708115903 – or drop them off at the Zac’s Place van in George Street on either December 21 (7-8pm) or December 28 (1.30-2pm). No other clothes, toiletries or food can be accepted at this time. Covid-safe procedures mean that guests cannot enter the building.

Meanwhile, the annual Together for Christmas event hosted by JR Events at the Brangwyn Hall and supported by the council can’t go ahead this year due to pandemic restrictions.

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JR Events will consider hosting an event when it is safe to do so in line with future government guidelines.

The firms’s Jessica Rice said: “At JR we love hosting this event and seeing the benefits it brings to vulnerable people in our communities – it’s without doubt our favourite of the year, and something we feel privileged to be able to host.

“We’re sure that people will understand that it has not been possible to hold it this year due to the pandemic. We gave it a great deal of thought before making the difficult decision.

“Now, we’re considering a similar event once the pandemic ends.

“In the meantime, we’re working hard this year to bring some cheer to children on the wards of hospitals in Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. The JR team will be delivering wrapped selection boxes to children who face Christmas Day in hospital.”

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Measures are also being put in place to ensure that there is support for other vulnerable individuals such as tenants of sheltered accommodation across Swansea.

The council wants to ensure that difficulties with loneliness and mental health issues are addressed.


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Dance

Doctors prescribe dance classes to keep patients on their feet

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Over 65s in Swansea Bay are being encouraged to attend dance classes in a bid to keep them on their feet.

Five of the health board’s clusters – groups of GP surgeries working together within a geographical area – are backing the scheme as the exercise to music is proven to aid falls prevention.

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Each class is led by a trained dance teacher with participants encouraged to follow a range of routines, designed to develop their strength and balance, with the option of using a chair for support if their mobility is limited.

The Dance for Health programme is a collaboration between the health board, clusters, local authorities, and Aesop, an arts focused charity.

Alyson Pugh, Programme Manager at Aesop, said: “We are delighted to be working with our partners in the health sector to improve the health and wellbeing of people aged over 65 through the medium of dance.

“During each class participants will move to a variety of music from all around the world. The classes are fun and vibrant, increasing fitness, mobility and strength.

“Afterwards, participants will have a good chance to get to know one another over a cup of tea or coffee. No previous experience is needed, everybody is welcome.”

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So far classes are held in Pontardawe, Morriston, Seven Sisters, Cwmavon and Briton Ferry, Upper Killay, Reynoldston, Mumbles and the Waterfront Museum.

Alyson said: “The health board asked for 12 classes across Swansea Bay and funded the management side while the GP clusters are funding the delivery of the classes. They wanted it to be grass roots up.

“Anyone can walk in but they wanted the main referrals to come from the virtual wards and local area coordinators and social prescribers, a whole community approach.”

Lizzie MacMillan (Image: Swansea Bay HNS)

Dance artist Lizzie MacMillan (left), a development officer for Dance for Health, said: “It’s for older people and people who are struggling a little bit with perhaps balance issues, mobility issues as well, so we are not expecting them to foxtrot along the floor on the first class or anything like that. It builds up over the weeks.

“We start off quite gently, just seeing where everyone is in the class – I like to gauge the class first of all to see if people are having problems with balance or perhaps giddiness or joint problems. I like to get to know each person in the class so that I can look after them and know their capacity for movement.

“We use the chairs quite a lot if someone is unsteady on their feet. They can still do a variation using the chair for support. We also do a standing variation if people are a little fitter or a little bit more able to push themselves further in the class.”

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Over 65s in Swansea Bay are being encouraged to attend dance classes in a bid to keep them on their feet. (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Mike Garner, Cwmtawe Cluster lead, said: “We are delighted to be participating in this programme as it fits in perfectly with our goal of improving well-being and helping people remain fit and healthy.”

One participant, Pauline Anderson, said: “I’ve been to four or five classes. I thought I would try it to see what it’s like and it’s been very good.

“As you get older you become more immobile. I’ve been struggling with my knees and joints, so I have found it helpful.

“I would advise anyone thinking about it to just come along.”

Another participant, Betty Didcock, said: “I try to keep active as much as I can. I used to enjoy dancing when I was younger. I’ve made friends here. If you’re a bit shy, it’s a wonderful place to come to get used to talking to people. I’m a quiet one. I don’t always do it right but I have a go.”

While Amber Davies said: “I thought I’d come along to see what it was like. It’s important to keep busy and remain active. It’s also a good way of meeting new people.”

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(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Swansea

Swansea’s popular land train is back – and you can even take your dog for a ride!

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Taking your family for a day out along Swansea prom? Now your four-legged friend can join in the fun too by hitching a ride on the land train!

Officially known as the Swansea Bay Rider, the 72-seater land train runs along Swansea’s prom from Blackpill Lido to Southend Gardens in Mumbles giving passengers an incredible view of Swansea Bay as they travel along.

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Run by Swansea Council, the land train has been a feature of summer holiday trips for many years – whether it’s to soak up the sights in style, or hop on for a relaxing journey after a day of fun in the sun.

But did you know that dogs are allowed on board too?

The council has highlighted the little known fact that four-legged friends are welcome to ride the land train with their owners, as long as they are wearing a lead and are under control.

With more people than ever taking their dog on holiday or on days out, the land train is another fun activity that all the family can enjoy.

The Swansea Bay Rider is also fully accessible to wheelchair users.

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The land train runs every weekend from 23 April to 4 September, and daily during the school holidays between 30 May and 3 June, and again between Friday 15 July and Sunday 4 September.

The 30 minute ride from Blackpill to Southend runs 7 times a day at 10.30am, 11.30am, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm and 5pm from Blackpill.

Return journeys from Southend are at 11am, 12pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm, 4.30pm and 5.30pm.

Can’t get enough of riding the land-train? How about becoming its driver!

Swansea Council are recruiting a land train driver on a zero hours contract for £19,264 per annum (pro-rata). Applications are open until 24 May on the council’s website.

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(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Books & Literature

Author uncovers the lost tale of Swansea fairground legend

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From Swansea Bliz survivor to fairground strongman – an author discovers his grandfather’s fascinating story as The Welsh Hercules.

In the early half of the 20th Century, Jack Lemm was a household name in Wales. As the Strongman star of fairgrounds and Music Hall, he was famed for his feats of strength, wrestling and his dangerous headlining act, The Whirl of Death.

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Times and entertainment trends change, however, and now the once-famous showman is almost forgotten.

For one man, however, the story of the strongman had special meaning. Glaswegian Steven Blockley had always thought that his Great Grandfather deserved to be better known.

“I never actually met Jack,” he says. “I grew up listening to my uncles and aunts telling fascinating stories about all his incredible achievements around the Swansea area and I always knew I wanted to write a book to bring them to a wider audience. As I dug further into his past, however, even I was surprised by what I found.”

Looking into the background of Jack, Steven and co-author David J Thacker uncovered a rich life story and the perfect antidote to our troubled times.

Steven continues, “Jack lived through some harsh years – he was on HMS Lion at the Battle of Jutland in World War 1 and was a survivor of the Swansea Blitz in the Second World War – but his focus was always to put family first and to provide for everyone at home, even if doing so took him away from them.”

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David takes up the story. “Jack came from a Greek family and his given surname was actually Lamnea, but his exploits on stage and at fairs all over the UK, including at Neath, were not always popular, especially with his authoritarian father.

“A lot of the tension in our book comes from that relationship, of a son trying to live up to the ideals of his father.”

The resulting book, The Welsh Hercules, took over a year to research and write but in doing it Steven found a kind of resolution.

“While we were writing the book, I turned 60. At that age, Jack was still doing 40 shows a day at the fairgrounds and even after he retired, he was helping roadworkers outside his house to fix the roads!

“Age really was just a number for him and I think that’s a great attitude to have.”

The Welsh Hercules tells the story of Jack, from his humble beginnings on Swansea Docks through to becoming a renowned boxing coach and fairground star. It takes him through two World Wars, as a survivor of the Battle of Jutland and the Swansea Blitz, and introduces a whole new world of showmen, acrobats and colourful characters.

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But at its heart, Jack’s story is one of family – of the challenges met, the hearts won and the enduring romance of a Showman and his wife.

The Welsh Hercules is available in paperback on Amazon priced at £11.99

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