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West Wales restaurateur Simon Wright appointed UWTSD Professor of Practice

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Simon Wright, restaurateur, broadcaster, food writer, and consultant has been appointed to the role of Professor of Practice by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).

The title of Professor of Practice is awarded to acknowledge an individual’s academic and/or professional distinction in a field which is aligned to the University’s mission and strategic direction. Professor Simon Wright’s expertise will be pivotal in assisting the University to develop initiatives which aim to deliver economic, social and cultural growth linked to local food and hospitality, sustainability, agriculture and rural entrepreneurship.

Professor Wright is a renowned champion of Welsh food and drink produce, sustainable agriculture and the hospitality industry.  He has managed restaurants in Carmarthenshire for over 30 years and has developed a career as a broadcaster participating in a range of TV and radio programmes, including for the BBC and Channel 4.  He was the restaurant consultant for Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares in the UK and Europe for 10 years, as well as a restaurant inspector for the AA’s Restaurant Guide.  In 2010 he was named the Local Food Ambassador for Wales and was awarded the Wales True Taste Champion Award in the Welsh Government’s annual awards for his “dedication and devotion to Welsh food and drink”.

Simon has served on the Welsh Government Food and Farming Sector Panel and has been active for many years in contributing to food policy at all levels of government including the Food Strategy for Wales and the Food Tourism Action Plan. Most recently he has been working with Coleg Sir Gâr on designing further education courses based on sustainable and local food production and with Carmarthenshire County Council in radical efforts aimed at putting local food on the public plate.

He recently co-founded the Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective as a response to the challenges facing the sector from Covid-19. The collective now has more than 300 supporting businesses across Wales and is actively engaged with Welsh Government on strategies for the survival and recovery of the sector.

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Simon Wright, who also has a background in Town and Country Planning, said on his appointment: “I’m pleased to have this opportunity to play a role in supporting the University’s ambitions for sustainable regeneration in West Wales based around the rural economy and particularly the food and hospitality industries. There has never been a more crucial and acute time for these issues to be addressed. My passion is local food and all that comes with it – community, landscape, agriculture – and I’m delighted to have this opportunity and to be able to play a part in shaping the future of food and farming in West Wales and further afield”.

Professor Wright will be part of the team delivering Canolfan Tir Glas, a major development for the University’s Lampeter Campus. Its aim is to promote the local food industry, local sustainability, resilience, and enterprise within a rural context. Working closely with Ceredigion County Council and a range of local organisations, the initiative will strengthen the economic infrastructure of Lampeter and the surrounding area. 

A core part of the scheme is the collaboration with food retailer Aldi to develop a food village on part of the University’s Pontfaen fields, as well as a food and hospitality training centre within the town. The development also includes the creation of a Rural Enterprise Hub and a University of Gastronomy on the University’s campus itself. Professor Wright will assist in the development of the Lampeter training restaurant as a commercial outlet for local and regional food and drink producers, assisting in the development of local food supply chains and primary and secondary food manufacturing in the region.

In addition, he will support research and enterprise, as well as curriculum development at all levels across the UWTSD Group, which includes Coleg Sir Gâr and Coleg Ceredigion as constituent colleges.

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Barry Liles, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Skills and Lifelong Learning and Head of the Wales Institute for Science and Arts said: “I’m pleased to welcome Simon Wright as a Professor of Practice to the University. The University will benefit from his expertise and experience in the food and hospitality industries, and in particular, the needs and demands for these industries in the rural communities of West Wales. We are developing an exciting curriculum, as well as research and enterprise initiatives to ensure that this crucial sector is supported by a highly skilled workforce as well as having access to the University’s expertise, technology and innovation, particularly post COVID”.

Gwilym Dyfri Jones, Provost of the Lampeter Campus who is leading on the development of Canolfan Tir Glas said: “I’m delighted that Simon Wright will be lending his expertise to the development of Canolfan Tir Glas. This initiative is underpinned by economic regeneration, with the aim of creating new jobs, attracting many more visitors to the town and increasing the number of further and higher education students studying in Lampeter.  His insight and leadership on aspects of the project will be invaluable.”

Professor Medwin Hughes, DL, Vice-Chancellor added: “Simon Wright’s appointment as a Professor of Practice is central to the University’s strategy for developing provision in Lampeter that is linked to regional needs and government sector priority areas. The development of such provision aims to support the recovery and resilience of our communities, post pandemic, through knowledge transfer, research innovation, workforce development and by providing a ready pipeline of skilled, digitally literate students and graduates, in partnership with employers.  The food, farming and hospitality industries are the mainstays of those communities in West Wales and Professor Wright’s experience in advising government policy and working in these areas over the past 30 years makes him a great asset to the University.  I’m pleased to welcome him to the UWTSD community”.

(Lead image: UWTSD)

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Llanelli

West Wales car dealership to double in size

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Dafen-based Llanelli Motor Company have broken ground on a new development that will see their forecourt double in size over the coming months.

Led by Managing Director Ian Jonathan, the two-phase project will see the independent car dealership increase the number of used vehicles it has on sale to over 400 by January 2023.

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“It’s certainly an exciting period for the business,” said Ian, “and with the significant changes to the used car market, we felt now was the right time to start the project, which has been in the pipeline for over five years.”

Although the business was potentially looking at 2020 as a start date for the developments, the Coronavirus Pandemic put the brakes on the project.

However, since the easing of lockdown restrictions and the delay in obtaining new vehicles, the used car market has seen an unprecedented spike in demand.

Dafen based Llanelli Motor Company is planning to double in size
The company have broken ground on an expansion that will see over 400 cars on sale by the end of January 2023

“The last 12 months have been exceptionally busy,” continued Ian.

“No sooner are we finalising our 140-point safety check on vehicles before placing them on the forecourt, than they are being purchased within a matter of days”.

With the ability to stock 150 nearly new vehicles of all makes and models at the moment, the 1-acre expansion will increase this to 250 by September before more than doubling it to 400 by the spring of 2023.

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In order to facilitate this growth, the company will also be entering a recruitment phase and looking to employ at least 10 new members of staff across its sales, workshop and admin teams as well as taking on new apprenticeships.

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Transport for Wales

New trains for Wales and Borders services go on show

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Brand new trains that aim to transform services across Wales and the English borders have been on show today at Chester railway station.

Assembled by CAF at their factory in Newport, the first Class 197 train with its ‘Made in Wales’ tag was revealed to the public today (Friday 1 July), offering a taste of what’s to come for customers in the next few months.

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TfW are spending £800 million on new trains throughout their network and the Class 197 will be the first of the brand-new stock to enter service in North Wales before the end of this year.

Providing an increase in capacity, reduced emissions and enhanced comfort onboard, these trains will allow TfW to run faster and more frequent services to key routes including services in South West Wales – Manchester to Milford Haven, Cardiff to Fishguard and Swansea to Pembroke Dock.

Offering leather seats, modern air conditioning systems, wider doors and customer information screens, the new trains will transform the customer experience. They’ve also been fitted with electronic charging points and disability features for those with limited mobility.

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change with responsibility for Transport, Lee Waters said: “I am pleased to welcome the new Class 197 trains to the rail network. These new vehicles represent a real transformational improvement on the trains that they will be replacing, providing comfortable and frequent services, encouraging people to leave their cars behind and move onto a more sustainable form of transport.”

Alexia Course, TfW’s Director of Transport Operations, said: “At Transport for Wales we’re continually moving forward with our transformational plans to improve public transport for the people of Wales and the borders.

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“The Class 197s on show at Chester railway station today will be an important part of the transformation of the Wales and Borders network, and when they enter service, they will enable us to run more services and carry more customers in comfort.

“The construction of our new trains has been four years in the making, and customers and colleagues are incredibly excited to welcome passengers onto them from later this year.

“It’s also important to recognise that these trains have been made in Wales at the CAF factory in Newport and the building of them has provided jobs and supported the local economy”.

Richard Garner, UK Director CAF said: “CAF is thrilled that the first of our Class 197 trains for the Wales and Borders network has been officially launched.

“We are immensely proud of our key role in delivering Transport for Wales’ vision to transform rail travel for passengers.

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“The manufacture of our trains is taking place at our state-of-the-art facility in Newport, South Wales. We see ourselves as a local manufacturer, supporting highly skilled jobs and bringing employment opportunities to the local area whilst focusing on sustainability issues and addressing the needs of the Welsh economy.

Our trains are being built in Wales to serve the Welsh communities”

(Lead image: Transport for Wales)

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Books & Literature

Carmarthenshire author’s Carmarthen Crime series hits the bookshelves

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Ferryside author John Nicholl is celebrating the re-release of his Carmarthenshire-based detective books as the Carmarthen Crime Series.

His new publisher, Boldwood Books – winner of Publisher of the Year in the 2022 Independent Publishing Awards – has repackaged the four books with a strong emphasis on the Carmarthenshire setting and covers depicting local locations including Carmarthen, Dryslwyn Castle and the Tywi Estuary.

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The first two books, The Carmarthen Murders and The Tywi Estuary Killings, are on sale now, with the other two – The Castle Beach Murders and The Dryslwyn Castle Killings to follow soon.

The books focus on DI Gareth Gravel, an accomplished, old-school policeman affectionately known as Grav, who feels out of step with the modern world as he approaches retirement.

“Grav is something of a legend within the West Wales Police Force, liked and respected by the rank and file but not so much by the top brass due to his sharp tongue and a willingness to bend the rules to get results,” says Nicholl, who lives in Ferryside.

“Grav is overweight, loves rugby, drinks too much, particularly since the loss of his wife, and is struggling with chronic health issues. The job matters to him, victims matter to him, and he often goes the extra mile to protect the vulnerable victims of crime, particularly women and children, who he has a strong inclination to protect.”

The books draw on Nicholl’s own experience as a police officer and then as a child protection officer in Carmarthenshire. He started writing fiction after his psychologist recommended it as a way to process traumas he had witnessed during his career, which left him with PTSD.

He self-published his first book and it became an online bestseller; he went on to get signed by a publisher and now has 11 bestsellers behind him. His focus is on crime and the darker side of human nature, with a strong empathy for victims of abuse.

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“The four-book Carmarthen Crime Series, while fictional, draws on my real-life experiences as a police officer and child protection social worker,” he says. “I hope this gives the stories a gritty realism readers will enjoy.”

He adds that he is delighted to see the books republished as the Carmarthen Crime series.

“I grew up, live and write in west Wales, and so I’m delighted my publisher has given the books a strong Welsh identity, with stunning covers featuring some of the beautiful locations I know so very well,” he says.

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