The EGO® is delighted once again to be the main sponsor for the fantastic Gwobrau Cyntaf Aber First Awards which are being held on the 28th June 2019 in the Great Hall at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. The Awards, organised by Menter Aberystwyth, recognise the best practice and excellence displayed by organisations, businesses and individuals in the Menter Aberystwyth area.

So Rhys, tell me a bit about yourself.I was born in Blaenau Ffestiniog, and because my father was a young policeman we moved around a bit in my younger years. By the time I was 5 we had lived in Blaenau, Llandudno and Garndolbenmaen and then when I was 6, we settled in Tremadog where I attended the local Primary School and then Ysgol Eifionydd in Porthmadog. After 4 years in Trinity College Carmarthen I became a Primary School Teacher and then four years later in 1993 I became a very young Headteacher (one of the youngest, if not the youngest, ever in Wales and the UK). All that seems ages ago, as I have now been a Professional singer for 20 years, living in Pwllgals, near Rhuthun with my wife Nia, and a proud father of 3 children, Osian, Elan and Erin.

And you’re certainly no stranger to this part of the world?The area the EGO® covers is very close to my heart. I couldn’t hazard a guess of how many concerts I have sung in here over the years, but what I am very aware of is the warm welcome I receive on every occasion.

So what projects are you currently working on? I am in the middle of filming a new four part series for S4C called Corau Rhys Meirion, which will be broadcast in April and May. This is a follow up to the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the song Anfonaf Angel which was on S4C during the Christmas period of 2018, where we put a choir together of people who had experience of mental health problems, and explored the benefits of singing in a choir. I am also writing an English version of my book ‘Storis Grav’ (Grav Tales), full of tales and anecdotes about the legend Ray Gravell. I also have many concerts in the pipeline and will be recording a new album to celebrate 20 years in the business in June. So, plenty to do!!!
Talk me through the transition from full time education to being a professional singer. When I became a headteacher, my life changed. There was a lot of hard work and responsibility but “All work and no play….” This is when I took up singing as a bit of a relaxing hobby. After 2 years of singing lessons with Brian Hughes in Gresford, Wrexham, I won the Blue Riband at the 1996 National Eisteddfod in Llandeilo. That’s when I realised that there was an opportunity to take the plunge and become a professional classical singer. When I married Nia in April 1995, she was marrying a Headteacher with a steady wage and a pension but she was magnificent and so supportive. They say that “behind every good man is a better woman” and that’s certainly true in my case. It was a huge decision but with Nia’s full blessing, I tendered my resignation as the Headteacher of Pentercelyn Primary School, to start a two year Opera Course at The Guild Hall School of Music and Drama, London, in September 1997, and the rest as they say, is history.

Since then your career has gone from strength to strength. What have been the highlights? There have been so many highlights and so many memories and experiences. I have recorded 8 albums including a duets album with Sir Bryn Terfel and I’ve sung in some wonderful venues all over the world including the Sydney Opera House, the Royal Festival Hall, the Coliseum, the Royal Albert Hall in London, the Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto and some amazing cities like Honk Kong, Frankfurt, Buenos Aires, Melbourne and Los Angeles. But the highlight has to be singing as a soloist at the Carnegie Hall in New York, at the Karl Jenkins 70th birthday celebration concert in January 2014. That was unforgettable and a huge honour.

Have you got anything special planned for the twentieth anniversary? I can’t believe that August 2019 will mark the 20th anniversary of my first professional gig, when I sang Edmondo in the Opera Manon Lescaut by Puccini in Glyndebourne in August 1999. To mark the milestone, I am organising a Celebrational Tour throughout Wales. My daughter Elan will be touring with me, and we will be including a local choir in every concert. Keep a lookout as we’re bound to include one or two venues within the EGO® catchment area!

Performing with your daughter must be very special. Is the whole family musical? Elan is in the middle of a BA Performance Course in Cardiff and is hoping to pursue a career in singing. We’ve sung together a few times, and we are the only parent and child combo to have sung together in a National Eisteddfod of Wales Concert (Denbigh 2013). We are indeed a musical family - Nia sings with “Côr Rhuthun” and Osian and Erin have sung with many choirs and ensembles over the years and have had many successes at The Urdd and National Eisteddfods.

What do you have hoped to have achieved when you look back in another twenty years’ time? After 20 years of singing professionally I am as motivated as ever, even more so in a way because I thirst for more experiences and wonderful memories. As you go through life and experience highs and lows, you become more emotionally involved with your performances. The words become something you can genuinely identify with, rather than having to imagine the emotion and motivation of a song, as I had to as a young singer. Life gives you the bank of emotional experiences that make your performances real and believable, and as a result the engagement between performer and audience becomes sincere and heartfelt.

Throughout your career fundraising for charity has been a large part of what you do hasn’t it? Being somewhat local // lleol well-known because of what you do carries some responsibility, but also offers opportunities. You can use your celebrity status to give something back to your community by supporting causes and charities. This has been very important to me over the years. I have supported many charities but the main two are the Wales Air Ambulance and Elen’s Fund. I was asked to be an ambassador for the former in 2011 and since then, with a number of friends, I have done three 200 mile walks across Wales, raising around £400,000 for what is such an important service in a mainly rural country like ours. We, as a family, set up Elen’s Fund in 2015, initially to raise awareness for the Organ Donation Discussion amongst families, because so many organ donation opportunities become possible if the discussion has taken place within the family of an individual who dies and has healthy organs. The fund is in memory of my sister Elen, who died tragically in 2012 aged 43. Her death saved or benefited five lives through organ donation, something we as a family, and Elen herself would be very proud of.

Finally, I get the impression that being Welsh is massively important to you? “Being born Welsh is to be born privileged. Not with a silver spoon in your mouth, but with music in your heart and poetry in you soul.” This quote is on a wall in my home in its original Welsh form
“Braint yw cael dy eni’n Gymro. Nid â llwy arian yn dy geg, ond â chân yn dy galon a cherdd yn dy waed” To me, it says it all, and I think of it every time I step on to a stage.

Located on the ‘Morris & Bates roundabout’ in Aberystwyth is a law firm that this year celebrates its 40th birthday. We caught up with director Annwen Jones to find out more.

When I got married, the last place I’d have expected to find myself visiting almost seven years later would have been a bridal boutique in Llanrhystud. However, after hearing about a new venture from a young entrepreneur by the name of Charley Miller I made the short drive from Aberystwyth to find out more.

The University is consulting members of the public on the latest designs for its ambitious plans to refurbish Old College, one of Wales’s most iconic buildings.
Detailed proposals for the multi-million pound project were unveiled on 11 December 2018 at an event held in the Old College, which also saw the launch of a 28 day public consultation which closes on 24 January 2019.

My name is Martienus Thomas and I am a proud former Penparcau Primary School pupil. I am a self-employed Independent Swimming Instructor and work weekends, weekdays, after school, and have done for a long time.

The last 7 years, with time available during mornings and times off work, I have become a walking geek; short walks, long walks, for fitness and a change of scenery. First a walk in the Cambrian Mountains with friends. Then Cader Idris. I then looked at a map: Ordnance Survey map 213. I would then take adventures, following the map walks, walking pathways around my home village of Penrhyncoch and beyond.

An epic walk from my house in Penrhyncoch to the summit of Plymlimon and back in the same day, would be crazy to some, but I loved the adventure, testing my fitness, enjoying the beautiful landscape. Then I got my hands on more maps with mountains and walkways in Wales, England, Scotland, Canada; pathways like Devil’s Bridge to Borth, Lampeter to Aberaeron have been achieved, sometimes alone and some walks are shared with my beautiful wife Nicola, which we both love.

For many years Leanne Michael was a regular on the Arts Centre stage but she has gone on to forge herself an extremely successful career on stage, screen and stadia all over the world. Huw caught up with her in the Grail café to find out more.

So Leanne, tell me a bit about yourself. I was born and raised in Aberystwyth. My Dad, John Michael, was a Print Manager at Cambrian News/Printers, and my Mum, Christine Michael, a Local Government Officer, who continues to work at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre Dance School. I attended Plascrug primary and Penglais secondary schools. I now live in London as a professional dancer and actress, with my husband and daughter.

It’s the welcome time of year when the wonderful Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival returns to Aberystwyth Arts Centre. This year is particularly special, as the festival now expands to two days of programming at the cinema, offering even more chances to see a diverse range of animated films from Japan, including the latest film from Mamoru Hosoda.

Cymraeg yn dilyn.

Wales celebrated the first Shwmae Su’mae day on October 15, 2013 ‘to promote the idea of starting every conversation with shwmae, su’mae or shwdi’!

The broader aim of the day was ‘to show that the Welsh language belongs to us all – fluent speakers, learners or those shy about their Welsh’. It’s also an opportunity to take your first steps towards being a Welsh speaker.

In our December 2016 edition we featured Alana Spencer on the front cover and during that month she was crowned the winner of BBC1’s The Apprentice, by Lord Sugar.

Almost two years later, Huw caught up with her to find out how life has changed since that moment and why she’s chosen to make Aberystwyth her permanent home.

Did you know that the Aberystwyth area is recognised by the United Nations as a site of excellence and innovation in sustainable development? ’Biosffer Dyfi Biosphere’ has had this accolade since 2009, and is the only such area in Wales. Since then businesses, academics and many others have started to work together to take advantage of the opportunities arising from this status. Now the locally-led Partnership responsible for the initiative is asking whether the area should be expanded.

From Tregaron to Tierra del Fuego – the global reach of Aberystwyth Geography and Earth Sciences

One hundred years ago this summer, the then University College of Wales admitted the first students to its new degree scheme in Geography. The students were amongst the very first in Britain to study Geography as a degree, only Glasgow and Liverpool universities having offered the subject before Aberystwyth. Among their number was the poet Iorwerth Peate, whose
later involvement in establishing the St Fagan’s Folk Museum reflected the enduring influence of Aberystwyth’s founding Professor of Geography, H.J. Fleure, a polymath whose interests ranged across human and physical geography, anthropology, archaeology and zoology.

Just before Christmas last year I was asked to don a Santa outfit by Red at The Grail café. With some trepidation I walked downstairs into a beautifully prepared ‘grotto’ where a room full of expectant children sat with their eyes agog. I’d never done this sort of thing before, so broke the ice with a question about what the kids were getting for Christmas. Quick as a flash a cross-legged boy at the front of crowd said “I’m getting a train. I love trains.”

In our August 2016 edition we caught up with Medina Rees on the  verge of her move to the site of the old Talbot Hotel on Market Street.
Eighteen months later Huw met up with her again to find out how life has been since the relocation.

Aberystwyth Rotary Club celebrates its 70th birthday next month. Huw has caught up with this year’s Club President, Martin Davies, to find out more.

Aberystwyth born Sophie Francis was schooled at Cwmpadarn and Penglais, is 23 years old and after working in hospitality since she was a Saturday girl seven years ago, her love of animals led her to open Aber’s 1st dog friendly café, Sophie Bach on Cambrian Place.

For over three decades Rachel’s Dairy and latterly, Rachel’s Organic, has been a source of great pride for the people of Dolybont, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion and Wales. We all love the yoghurt – but who is Rachel? We sent Huw to Brynllys Farm just outside Borth to find out.


So Rachel, thank you so much for speaking to us! To get the ball rolling, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself? I am 71 years old and except for 2 years (one year at school in Belfast and one year in Bracknell following my marriage to Gareth), I have lived all my life on the family organic farm, Brynllys. From a very early age I only ever wanted to be a farmer.

APPRENTICESHIPS are a popular choice amongst people who want to begin or perhaps change their career, gaining valuable skills that employers need alongside gaining an accredited qualification.
The Welsh Government pays for the apprentice’s training costs, meaning employers only need pay the wage, and more businesses are being encouraged to come on board to help build tomorrow’s highly skilled workforce.

For nearly five decades, Rhiannon Jewellery has been a focal point for tourists and locals alike in the town of Tregaron and, more recently, in Aberystwyth. But who is Rhiannon? We sent Huw to meet Rhiannon Evans herself to find out!

Just over 12 months ago, Huw went to see Modlen Osborne Jones, the manager of Glan Y Mor, to find out about what they had to offer to both holidaymakers and locals alike. A few weeks’ ago, with the stunning Clarach sunset as a backdrop, Huw visited Modlen once again to see how things have changed in one of the jewels in the Cardigan Bay crown.

So Modlen, last time we featured you was in April 2016. A lot seems to have changed round here since then?! Yes, yes there has!! I feel if the park never changed, then we wouldn’t move with the times! The main visible changes we have had is….black and gold bilingual park signage as we did say in our last interview that the next step was to promote welsh awareness. There has also been an extension on the soft play area (which has been very popular), a new steam room and whirlpool fitted inside the main indoor pool.

Only nine miles from Aberystwyth lies Penrhos Park. Probably best known for its golf course, this family owned and run leisure complex offers much, much more and Huw recently caught up with the one and only John Pugh-Evans to find out about Penrhos’ history, the family that run it and, of course, that iconic 17th hole!

So John, good to see you as always! Now I understand that Penrhos Park enjoyed a rather large birthday recently?

Yes, we’ve recently celebrated twenty-five years at the golf club. We held a golf day for our members and booked X-Factor star Joe Wheelan as entertainment. It was a great day. We also celebrated 50 years at the caravan site last year so I think we’re all partied out!

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