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Elan Valley always has a surprise for you...

During the time I spent in Elan Valley I thought, learned, created, and discovered a lot… Life is totally different in Elan Valley. I was happy to participate in two different events while I was staying there and they both impacted me positively.

The first event was “An Evening with Alyn Wallace-Astro, Landscape and Timelapse Photographer” on 14 February in
Y Star Inn. Andy and I went to the event together and we had totally forgotten that it was Valentine's Day. The restaurant was nicely decorated for Valentine’s Day. Before the event started, I had a chance to talk to Alyn. His Turkish was amazing and he loves Turkey.

We had delicious bread and cheese, Cawl, and also a very special cake to celebrate… Everything I observed there was full of sincerity, simplicity and neutrality. It was interesting for me to see how people behave very differently to the English and the Welsh, to Cardiff and Valley people, to people from North, South and Mid Wales, even to village and town people…  I’m amazed to see that distinction very clearly.

Alyn Wallace's presentation was very inspirational and eye opening for me. I learned a lot of things from him about darkness and astrophotography. We learned what is involved in astrophotography, landscape, and time lapse photography. His story was amazing.

Sadly the weather was not good for the launch of Dark Sky Discovery. However, despite the bad weather we did it in a very primitive way and it was fun… It was a unique experience and I don’t believe I could find another event quite like this.  I’m so glad I was able to join in with this event, to meet Alyn and be welcomed by all in Y Star Inn...

The second event was the Rhayader YFC Drama Concert which I was invited to attend on 28th February at the CARAD Theatre. Before I went there I really didn’t think about it so I had no expectations. I only hoped it wouldn't be boring…  I’m so grateful to Cath for inviting me to go to this incredible event.

We watched six different performances. They were all good but I want to write especially about two of them. When the play “Fidelity Farce” started although I enjoyed it, by the middle I was thinking this is a bit of a well known story but nonetheless, I wanted to watch it to the end. First of all, the acting and production was very professional, I really forgot they are actors… Regardless of it being a classic story, I enjoyed it, and in the end it was amazing… I really admire Gary Diamond for the ending. I have to admit that I felt guilty because of my initial judgment. I wish more people were able to see this wonderful performance. I saw a couple of professional theatre plays in Cardiff and sadly their quality did not come close to this one.

“The Valley of Nantgwyllt” was spectacular. I hope this performance will be able to tour all around the UK at some point, even Europe. I know it’s difficult to achieve this but I really wish for it to happen. This was definitely one of the best theatre plays I have watched in Wales.

The stage design, costumes, music, make up, hair, lighting are all amazing. I’m quite a choosy person but believe me, I couldn’t find anything to criticise in this performance. The children, teenagers, young and old, everybody was amazing on the stage. It was a big production and I know how hard it is pulling everything together on such a large scale especially when the actors are not professionals. During the performance, so invested did I feel that I couldn’t stop my tears, as if it were my play, or my son there, or it’s about my village…

When the show finished, my first thought was I wish some people from Cardiff, particularly from Chapter, would watch this wonderful piece of theatre and think about putting it on in Chapter. This performance deserves to reach more audiences.

This is the backstory behind this theatre play:

'In 1990, professional Playwright, Peter Cox, was asked by the Rhayader Young Farmer’s Club to write a play for them to perform in their national drama competition in 1991. As a result, Peter wrote and directed ‘The Valley of Nantgwyllt’ which went on to win the all England and Wales Finals beating 850 other entries.

The effects of this transformational arts project are still being felt in the area today, nearly thirty years later. This project ignited a flame in the local community and kick-started an extraordinary series of cultural events and developments in the wake of its success. Key milestones are ‘The Lost Harp’ in 1994 - a large scale community play which in turn generated a major arts led consultation that led to the founding of the charity CARAD (Community Arts Rhayader and District) and the purchase and transformation of two buildings – one to house a studio theatre and the other to become Rhayader Museum and Gallery.

The years since then have seen CARAD deliver hundreds of thousands of hours of participatory arts and heritage events, workshops and community engagement activities promoting and encouraging creative activity in the area

In 2020 Peter was asked once again to direct The Valley of Nantgwyllt with Rhayader YFC by the younger generation who are the children of the original cast members. It was really touching to see parents helping their children in parts they once played and especially touching to see the passion and enjoyment they still had for the process. This new production of the play came 5th in the All Wales Drama Competition Finals and was given incredibly skilled creative support by the original cast members and helpers all of whom have benefited from participation in CARAD activities in the years in between. It will again lead on to new creative activity which will again give birth to and generate new creative projects locally.'

After that night I thought a lot about the performance I had seen and about community theatre. Can theatre or artwork change people's lives?... Obviously, it changed my life, so my answer would be yes,  but… That night I saw and felt how theatre changed people and their family’s lives. I saw young people's eyes shining. I saw how proud and involved their family members were. I felt how people support each other. And this play created a bridge between the generations showing how they learn from, but also depend upon each other.  For the first time, I experienced deeply how community projects touch people's hearts and I really want to be part of this kind of community artwork. I’m so glad to have been a part of this special night.


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