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Welsh Government announces £15.4m fund to help support Wales’ Arts and Culture sectors

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The Welsh Government is making £15.4m available to support the arts and cultural sector in Wales during the ongoing Covid19 pandemic, Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden has announced today

The additional support, as part of the third round of the Welsh Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund, is being made available for the cultural sector in Wales as it continues to be severely impacted by the Covid pandemic.

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The fund will specifically support organisations impacted by the recent alert level 2 measures Ministers have put in place to keep Wales safe, and help control the rapid spread of the new omicron variant.

The Arts Council of Wales will launch its application process for organisations within the arts sector today (12 January). The previously announced winter stability fund has now been merged into the third round of CRF to ensure alignment with the funding support on offer.

Other impacted sectors including music venues, heritage sites, event venues and organisers, independent local museums, community and independent libraries, galleries and independent cinemas who were previously supported via the Welsh Government’s CRF will be contacted by letter during the week commencing 17 January.  The letter will set out how they can access funding support.

There will also be support for eligible business and organisations which have not received support via CRF to date, if they  meet the criteria.  More information will be available on www.Businesswales.gov.wales

Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden, said: “We are fully aware that these impacted sectors continue to face new pressures, which is why we’ve been working with the Arts Council to make this additional funding available as soon as possible.

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“The innovation and resilience which has been demonstrated by the people and organisations which make these sectors so vibrant has been remarkable – we want to ensure that the sector continues to play a part in our recovery from the pandemic and in bringing people together once more.

“The culture sector also plays an important part in our economy and this is yet another step in the support that we are offering to businesses. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve provided over £2.6bn of support to businesses throughout Wales to help them manage their way through difficult circumstances.”

Chairman of the Arts Council of Wales, Phil George, said; “Through this fund the Arts Council will continue to provide essential support to ensure the viability and survival of cultural organisations across Wales who are facing a period of serious financial challenge.

“Working alongside colleagues in Welsh Government, we are determined to ensure that arts and cultural organisations who play a key role in the wellbeing of communities across Wales will be able to bring solace, delight and vision as we struggle with the pandemic and as we recover and rebuild. The need for this support has obviously become even more urgent as a result of the impact of the Omicron variant.”

To be eligible, businesses will have to self-declare that they have experienced a material impact through reduced turnover between December 2021 and February 2022.

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(Lead image: Polly Thomas / Swansea Council)

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Art

‘Pass me my brush, nurse’ – Swansea surgeon turns his hand to painting on TV’s Watercolour Challenge

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A Swansea Bay surgeon will swap the operating theatre for the TV screen later this month when he appears on Channel 5’s Watercolour Challenge.

Mr Shehzad Latif will prove he is equally adept at using a paintbrush as he is a scalpel when he competes against three other amateur artists tasked with capturing four different Welsh landscapes.

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The popular daytime TV programme, presented by Fern Britton, will see the artists given four hours to paint, in watercolour, the same scene or landscape, often with widely different interpretations, before moving onto another location.

Mr Latif is also a talented poet having won praise from the judges in the international Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine for his poem Singleton Hospital at Night and a poem on spina bifida, inspired by his son who has the condition.

He said: “I do watercolours and pastels, mainly landscapes, with Rhossili being my favourite place to paint.

“It really is one of the most beautiful spots. The other place I have become really found of is the Lougher Estuary, it has beautiful skies.”

The programme is due to air on 31 January. Mr Latif explained he became involved after receiving an email from a friend in the Arts Society of South Wales asking for volunteers wanting to apply for the programme.

He decided to apply and sent some off some of his paintings to the programme-makers.

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“One of the producers got in touch via Zoom and said she really liked my work but it would be up to the judges.

“Six weeks later I had an email saying, congratulations, you have been chosen as one of the four contestants.

“The first two sessions took place in Crickhowell, on the Glanusk Estate. It was a beautiful location looking across towards Pen y Fan. Then we moved on to St Donats, near Llantwit Major, before finishing off in the heritage park in the Rhondda.

“As is typical in Wales, we had the whole gamut of the four seasons within two hours.

“The first day was nice and warm, beautiful sunshine, and then one hour into the contest I saw the clouds approach and then we had the wind, the hail and the rain.

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“It was fun running from one place to another, trying to save our work.”

Mr Latif, who is based in Morriston Hospital and specialises in abdominal wall reconstruction, said he really enjoyed the experience.

“I learnt a lot. From the runners to the cameramen, and from Fern to the judges, the whole production team were remarkable.

“It was an interesting format, we were just told to paint and the judges came around towards the end and selected the winner of that programme. I believe the viewers will be asked to select the overall winner of the series.”

But even if he wins the competition there is no danger of his giving up the day job.

“I love my job too much to take up painting full time.”

Mr Latif,  a member of the Swansea Arts Society who has previously displayed his work in Singleton Hospital, is selling some of his work to raise money for a charity close to his heart.

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He said: “As a member of the British Obesity Metabolic Society of Surgeons, for whom I am also poet in residence, I always turn up armed with my poems and paintings. The members really look forward to it.

“And some of my paintings are going to be sold on the Obesity UK Society’s website to raise money for the charity.”

(All images: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Carmarthenshire

Sky TV’s ‘A Discovery of Witches’ filmed at Aberglasney Gardens

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The romantic, fantasy drama TV series ‘A Discovery of Witches’ has just returned to our screens for season three and those with a keen eye watching the weekly episodes on Sky Max will have spotted that one of the locations is Aberglasney Gardens in Carmarthenshire. 

The series, produced by production company, Bad Wolf, is based upon the best-selling novels by Deborah Harkness which portrays a mysterious world that humans share with the declining species of witches, vampires and demons.  

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Diana Bishop, an Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont are caught up in a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript. Their journey takes them through time and to locations across the world – but many were actually right here in Wales. 

Gareth Skelding, Location Manager for Season one and two of A Discovery of Witches, said, “The medieval Aberglasney House and Gardens in Carmarthenshire boasts one of the finest gardens in Wales, part of which served as the gardens for Sept-Tours, the fictional family home of the de Clermont family. It’s a really versatile location for a set which I have also used to shoot scenes for Da Vinci’s Demons. Sept-Tours features in seasons two and three as well as season one and it was great to come back. Gardens, little temples and cloisters from Aberglasney all make an appearance. It’s a sweet little place, the people are amazing.” 

Filming at Aberglasney House and Gardens.

The eight-episode first series of A Discovery of Witches was aired on Sky One in 2018. The ten-episode second series was released in its entirety in January 2021 and aired weekly on Sky One. The third and final series was initially released in its entirety on 7 January 2022 and airs weekly on Sky Max.   

Aberglasney Gardens’ Head Gardener, Joseph Atkin said, “We were delighted to have been chosen as a location for the series. The filming has taken place at Aberglasney over the last few years and those familiar with the Gardens will certainly recognise the piggeries lawn, the Pool Garden and the lower Cloister area when watching the drama unfold.” 

Aberglasney was made famous by the BBC television series “A Garden Lost in Time” which followed its restoration. The Gardens, Mansion house, Shop and Tearooms are open every day except Christmas Day. Visitors can explore 10 acres of over 20 different garden styles from formal to woodland, right through to exotic and modern along with the fully restored ground floor of Aberglasney’s grade II* listed mansion.

Further information on the Gardens is available online: www.aberglasney.org 

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Carmarthen

Movie ‘Save the Cinema’ to be shown at Carmarthen’s Lyric Theatre – the subject of the film

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Carmarthenshire County Council has secured a two-week showing of Sky Cinema original movie Save The Cinema at Carmarthen’s Lyric Theatre – the very subject of the film.

Welsh Government Covid-19 restrictions meant that plans to premiere the film at Carmarthen had to be called off, but the council has since brought specialist equipment in to allow people to see the film being screened in the very place it was filmed during 2021.

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The film is based on a true story inspired by the life of Carmarthen hairdresser Liz Evans who called on Hollywood to save her local cinema.

The film stars Golden Globe-winning Samantha Morton as the main character, supported by Oscar-nominated Jonathan Pryce, Harry Potter star Tom Felton and Keith Allen among others. Filming started last year and parts of the town were transformed to look like the early 1990s when the film is set.

Carmarthenshire County Council has been working closely with Sky Cinema throughout the production, supporting the filming of key scenes at The Lyric, in streets around Carmarthen, in council offices in Ammanford, and in other areas of the county such as Laugharne and Llandeilo.

The film has boosted the local econonmy by around £750,000 already, with more economic benefit expected in the coming months.

The council say that supporting filming in Carmarthenshire is one of the council’s key aims because of the money it brings into the county.

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Council leader, Cllr Emlyn Dole said: “We were delighted to host the production of this fantastic film earlier this year, with scenes filmed in Carmarthen, Ammanford, Laugharne and Llandeilo. And now to screen it in the place where it was filmed is just the icing on the cake. Carmarthenshire has proven itself again and again to be a desirable destination for the media and it’s enjoying a growing reputation as a filming location for major television dramas and movies, with several award-winning productions finding their home here in Carmarthenshire. Attracting national and international productions such as this has a major impact on the growth of our economy and ensures that our communities reap the benefits.”

Tickets for the screenings in The Lyric, from January 14-30, can be booked at www.theatrausirgar.co.uk. Bookings will only be allowed for maximum groups of six, and seating will be socially distanced. A Covid Pass will be required.

The film is also showing on Sky Cinema from Friday, January 14.

(Lead image: Sky / Ffilm Cymru)

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